Story of the Chudov Monastery where royal children were baptised

November 7, 2020

The Chudov Monastery in the Kremlin was one of Moscow’s most revered holy places. The documents stored in the city’s Main Archive Directorate tell its story and describe the cultural and historical relics it held.

In the late 19th century, the Moscow Archaeological Society compiled a detailed register of the monastery’s churches, church plate and icons. This document is especially valuable now that the Chudov Monastery has ceased to exist.

The register of the Chudov Monastery with descriptions of its churches (including their interior decorations), church plate and icons. Late 19th century, Moscow Main Archive Directorate

The monastery was founded by Metropolitan Alexius of Moscow in the second half of the 14th century, after he returned from a trip to the Golden Horde where he cured Khan Jani Beg’s mother, Taidula Khatun, of blindness. The grateful khan gave the metropolitan the place in the Moscow Kremlin where khans’ deputies lived. This is how Alexius founded the Chudov Monastery (chudo means miracle). The monastery grew, with its new churches dedicated to St Alexius and the Annunciation, and a family chapel to St Andrew. The churches were built to last for ages: the walls were made of bricks and covered with rough stone cemented by limestone mortar. From their construction and until the early 20th century, the churches were not repaired even once, and yet they remained in pristine order, according to the documents stored in Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate.

The monastery’s sacristy, a room where sacred vessels and vestments are kept, contained numerous treasures, for example, a panagia (pectoral icon) studded with gems, which Empress Catherine II awarded to Archbishop Platon of Moscow. The monastery also had the altar cross made on orders from Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in the 17th century, and many other treasures.

Letter from Georgy Mengden, acting chancellor of Grand Prince Sergei Alexandrovich, to chief Moscow province engineer Mikhail Grudistov regarding the establishment of a church and a sepulchre for Grand Prince Sergei Alexandrovich, the governor general of Moscow. 1905, Moscow Main Archive Directorate

The children of grand princes and tsars were baptised in the Chudov Monastery starting in the 16th century, including future tsars Alexei I, Peter the Great and Alexander II.

The monastery’s rich collection of books was seriously damaged during the French invasion of Russia and the great fire of 1812. However, many ancient manuscripts have survived, including a Gospel Book written on parchment by Metropolitan Alexius himself.

The monastery was closed soon after the 1917 revolution, and all of its buildings, including churches, were requisitioned and dismantled some 10 years later.


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