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There is an empty space of ground near the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, on the corner of Prechistenka Embankment and Vsekhsvyatsky Proezd Street, or All-Saint's Street. Until the 1930s this empty space was the location of the Church of the Blessed Virgin's Praise in Bootmaker's Lane.
There isn't a trace to be seen of the church nowadays – it was torn down at the same time as the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. So why mention it here? Because archaeologists have confirmed that the location can be certainly linked to one of the bloodiest episodes in Russia's history – Maliuta Skuratov, the sadistic hatchetman of Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
The Church of the Blessed Virgin's Praise in Bootmaker's Lane was the only church in Moscow consecrated in honour of the feast-day of The Virgin's Praise. It picked up the soubriquet “in Bootmaker's Lane” not due to any shoemakers nearby, but because a landowner named Bashmakov, or Bootmaker, rebuilt the church on his property in the late C17th. There had been a previous wooden Church of the Virgin's Praise here from the C15th – meaning that it had stood here long before even the St.Alexei Convent which was rased to make way for the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This C15th church had housed the Ikon of St.Nicholas the Wondrous – an ikon with miraculous healing attributes. The ikon gave rise to one of the old nicknames for the church, “Old Forgiver”, suggesting that those whose sins were given would be healed.
There were two other wonder-working ikons to be found in Moscow's medieval churches, in addition to the Ikon of St.Nicholas the Wondrous at the Church of the Virgin's Praise. These were at the Church of Nicholas the Revealed on Arbat – known as such because wonders were revealed to St Nicholas – and the Church of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa in Zamoskvorechie.
The wooden church of the Blessed Virgin's Praise was engulfed by fire in 1629, and was later rebuilt in stone. At the end of the C17th the landowner Bashmakov, or Bootmaker, rebuilt the church once again at his own private cost, and it lasted until it was demolished in 1930. It was a handsome five-domed church in the gothic style. The ikon-screen of the altar unusually had six rows, instead of the usual five. The church's founder – who had paid for its construction – Dementy Bashmakov was buried in this parish church alongside his mother and his daughter.
With this story of burials in the churchyard of the Church of the Blessed Virgin's Praise in Bootmaker's Lane we pass to the unveiling of a mysterious tale in Russia's history. The story concerns Maliuta Skuratov, the infamous henchman of Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
After the church was demolished in 1930s, and before attempts began to build the Palace of the Soviets, archaeologists were working in the area. Among their finds was a tombstone reading “Here lies buried Maliuta Skuratov, a veteran of the Livonian Wars”. It had earlier been supposed that Skuratov had been buried at the Volotsky Monastery, which is located 90 kilometres to the North-West of Moscow.
Maliuta Skuratov had been a parishioner of the Church of the Blessed Virgin's Praise, implying that he must have lived nearby. Speculation about the silver coins and skulls found in the basement of the house of Averky Kirillov had been correct. It's most probable that Skuratov took Kirillov's house as his own 'residence”. These chambers can be seen from here – an attractive old mansion on this side of the river, like an kind of palace with a tower. Here Skuratov undertook his bloody deeds of torture. There is even an under-river tunnel leading from the chambers, although it has collapsed. Perhaps it once led here to the Church of the Blessed Virgin's Praise?
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a cathedral on the northern bank of the Moskva River, a few blocks southwest of the Kremlin. With an overall height of 103 metres it is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world.
The current church is the second to stand on this site. The original church, built during the 19th century, took more than 40 years to build. It was destroyed in 1931 during the Communist rule of Joseph Stalin. The demolition was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets that was never built, so the church was reconstructed in the 1990s on the same site.
The Cathedral is located on Volkhonka Street, which starts from Borovitskaya Square. The name of the street appeared at the end of the XVIII century when on the lands of the Volkonskis, a famous noble family was a popular tavern "Volkhonka". The street is one of the most ancient in Moscow. It was famous as a district for the rich.
This district is going to become Moscow Museum District. During the tour you will see and have the opportunity to visit a number of art museums: The Tsvetkovsky Gallery, The Ilya Glazunov Art Gallery, The Lopukhin Family Mansion (aka the Roerich Museum), Gallery of European and American Art of the C19th and C20th, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of Private Collections. While walking here you will understand why Moscow used to be accepted as a beautiful jewelry box. In the lanes you will discover old mansions and fall in love with stories of Russian noble families. Such are The Golitsyn Mansion, The Lopukhin Family Mansion, Obolonsky's Mansion, Sergey Tretyakov's Mansion etc. The Chambers of Averky Kirillov - a unique example of a large urban homestead. Chambers, Church of St. Nicholas and outbuildings along the waterfront are a single architectural complex.
Another bright example of Moscow architecture is Pertsova's Rental Apartment Mansions. The house was an apartment house, located on the corner of Soymonovsky passage and Prechistenskaya embankment, built in 1905-1907 by architects N. Zhukov and B.N. Shnaubert on sketches of the artist S.V. Malyutin, author of Russian nesting dolls. The house includes apartments and artists' studios in the upper attic of the building.