Cathedral of the Archangel

Moscow, Russia | C.1505

Photo Credit: Valentina Jacks

A grand cathedral in Moscow, Russia was erected to honor the Archangel Michael who lead divine armies and is the guardian of paradise. The Cathedral of the Archangel is a Russian Orthodox church located in Cathedral Square in Moscow between the Great Kremlin Palace and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. It was the main necropolis of the Tsars of Russia until the relocation of the capital to St. Petersburg.

Ivan the Great commissioned the striking cathedral that was constructed between 1505 and 1508 under the supervision of an Italian architect Aloisio. The plans for the new structure were built over the site of a previous cathedral that was built in 1333.

Elements of both Russian and Venetian architectural styles are found within the edifice as the Grand Prince Ivan III demanded that Aloisio take inspiration from Russian design. Within the interiors of the cathedral are frescoes that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Gilded Baroque iconostasis rise and impressive 13 meters high and depict icons from the 17th to 19th centuries.

The 1737 Kremlin Fire damaged the cathedral and the structure was further threatened by the construction of the predecessor of the Grand Kremlin Palace. The construction led to soil subsidence causing a slight tilt in the orientation of the walls.

The cathedral contains 54 burial sites, with 46 ornamented white stone tombstones with glazed cases made of bronze. Of note is the tomb of Tsarevich Demetrius, the son of Ivan the Terrible, who was buried in the early 17th century and later canonized. Sacred relics of the Russian Orthodox Church can also be discovered within the walls of the cathedral, such as the remains of St. Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy.

During the 1917 Russian Revolution, the cathedral sustained damages during the turmoil. Afterwards, it was ordered to close by the Bolshevik regime. The cathedral then was preserved as a museum in the 1950s along with the other surviving churches in the Moscow Kremlin. A large portion of the church’s treasures were either transferred to the Kremlin Armory Museum or sold overseas. After 1992, the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and occasional religious services resumed.

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