The Archangel Cathedral

      At the very edge of Borovitsky Hill there  rises  one  of  the  finest
edifices of the Moscow Kremlin. This is the Archangel Cathedral.  As  legend
goes, back in the 13th century a wooden  church  stood  in  its  place,  one
dedicated to the Archangel Michael, the recognized  patron  of  the  Russian
princes in their military affairs. In 1333, a whitestone church was  erected
on its site to become the main princely cathedral. In 1340, Grand Prince  of
Moscow Ivan Kalita was buried here. From that time on, the cathedral  served
as a necropolis.
      In the late 15th century,  Moscow,  now  the  capital  of  a  powerful
centralized  state,  underwent   another   round   of   reconstruction   and
embellishment. In 1505-1508, a new  Archangel  Cathedral  replaced  the  old
one. Its erection  marked  the  completion  of  the  ambitious  construction
project in the late 15th-early 16th century Moscow  Kremlin.  Built  to  the
design of Alevisio Novy of Italy, the Archangel Cathedral  combines  typical
features of the architecture of Venice of the Renaissance period,  Byzantium
and Early Russia.
      The Archangel Cathedral, a five-domed six-pillared edifice,  is  built
in brick, while its sockle and splendid decor are laid in  white  stone.  It
was for the first time in Russia that elements of the classical system  were
employed so extensively and consistently in the design of the  facades.  The
intricately shaped cornices produce the effect of a two-storeyed  structure,
while double-tiered pilasters topped with  carved  capitals  articulate  the
facades vertically,  each  articulation  ending  in  a  traditional  Russian
zakomara enclosing a carved whorl  typical  of  Venetian  architecture.  The
architect paid  special  attention  to  the  western  wall,  accenting  with
whitestone portals the main cathedral entrance which  recedes  into  a  deep
loggia. The portals were decorated with carved ornament running over a  blue
painted ground. In 1980, the carved ornament was cleaned  and  the  original
colour was restored.
      The cathedral interior is austere and simple.  Six  cruciform  pillars
divide the space into three naves  illuminated  by  two  rows  of  slit-like
windows and magnificent brass chandeliers made by Moscow  masters  specially
for the Archangel Cathedral in the late  17th-early  18th  centuries.  Built
into the western wall are additional four-storey  premises,  a  chapel  with
wide windows looking out into the cathedral interior.
      The Archangel Cathedral had  a  considerable  impact  on  the  further
development of Russia architecture. Many buildings were modelled  on  it  in
the 16th and 17th centuries.
      The Cathedral was first decorated with  frescoes  in  1564-1565.  Some
fragments of those painting have survived  in  the  loggia  of  the  western
portal and in the chancel. In 1652, Tsar  Alexei  Mikhailovich  gave  orders
that the Church of the Archangel Michael be painted up  anew  and  the  old
paintings be scraped off. The work was completed in 1666.  Taking  part  in
it were nearly a hundred artists from Moscow, Yaroslavl, Kastroma and  other
cities, supervised  by  the  renowned  masters  Stepan  Rezanets  and  Simon
Ushakov. For many years the frescoes of the   Archangel  Cathedral  remained
obscured by the 18th-19th century overpaint and a thick layer  of  dust  and
soot. It was only in the 1950s that restorers happened to uncover the  well-
preserved 17th century paintings. One can mow see that the vaults and  upper
tiers of the southern and northern walls of the cathedral are  traditionally
decorated  with  frescoes  illustrating  episodes  from   the   Gospel.   An
appreciable part of the frescoes feature miracles worked  be  the  Archangel
Michael who helped people in their  efforts  to  establish  and  consolidate
Christian faith and in their strivings towards  goodness  and  justice.  The
composition are majestic and monumental, while the  radiant  festive  colour
gamut gives one a feeling of jubilation. Particularly vivid are  the  battle
scenes reminding one  of  the  nations  long  and  hard  struggle  for  the
liberation and unification of the Russian lands. A  distinctive  feature  of
the Archangel Cathedral collection is a vast gallery of idealized images  of
historical personalities comprising over  sixty  conventionalized  portraits
of Russian princes. Painted on  the  pillars  are  the  images  of  Vladimir
Kievsky (died  in  1015),  Andrei  Bogolyubky  (apr.  1111-1174),  Alexander
Nevsky (apr. 1220-1263) and  other  princes  included  in  the  pantheon  of
Russian saints. The images of  the  princes  buried  in  the  Cathedral  are
places directly over the tombstones.
The Cathedrals four-row carved wood iconostasis dates back 1680-1682. The
icons of the upper three rows and several icons of the bottom row were
painted by Armoury artists under the supervision of the favoured icon-
painter Fyodor Zubov. They are done in the ehiaroscuro manner typical of
the late 17th century with certain elements of perspective arrangement. A
vast amount of restoration and research work carried out here in 1979-1980.
      The oldest and most noteworthy fresco in the  Archangel  Cathedral  is
The Archangel Michael and His Acts painted in the late 14th or early  15th
century. The unknown artist show the Archangel clad in armour with a  raised
sword in his hand. The dynamic swing of the figure, the powerful  wings  and
the stern visage create the image of a  warrior  prepared  for  battle.  The
ideas  of  eternal  struggle  between  the  good  and  the  evil,  spiritual
perfection and the defence of the native land, so popular in  Early  Russian
art, have found expression here.
      For several centuries the Archangel Cathedral  was  one  of  the  most
revered churches in Moscow. The princes and tsars came here  to  play  their
respects to the ancestors before starting  out  on  military  campaign.  The
Cathedral holds forty-six tombs of members of the families  of  the  Russian
grand princes and tsars, covering the period from the 14th  century  to  the
first third of the 18th century.  Crucial  stages  in  the  history  of  the
Russian state are associated with the names of many of those entombed  here,
such as the unification of the Russian  lands  under  the  aegis  of  Moscow
undertaken by Ivan  Kalita  in  the  14th  century;  the  stubborn  struggle
against the Tartar-Mongols and the victory  won  over  them  in  the  Dmitry
Donskoy and Vladimir Khrabry; the consolidation of  the  Russian  state  and
the growth of its international prestige in  the  15th  and  16th  centuries
under Ivan the Third and Ivan the Terrible, and also  the  Russian  peoples
heroic liberation struggle in the 17th century in which the  name  of  troop
commander Mikhail Skopin-Shuysky figures  prominently.  The  interments  are
under the cathedral floor. On the surface are the  burial  monuments,  white
tombstones engraved with fine ornament and  memorial  inscriptions.  In  the
beginning of this century they were enclosed in glazed metal casing.
      Resting by the south-eastern pillar under a carved white-stone  canopy
is Tsarevich Dmitry, Ivan the Terribles  son  who  perished  in  Uglich  in
1591. After routing Pseudo-Dmitry the Firsts troops in 1606,the remains  of
Tsarevich Dmitry were moved to the Archangel  Cathedral.  The  tombstone  is
surrounded with an openwork grating, a remarkable monument  of  the  casting
art of the first third of the 17th century. Preserved in the altar  are  the
relics of the holy martyrs Prince Michail of Chernigov and Boyar Fyodor  who
perished in the in the Golden Horde in 1245.
      In 1963-64, on the decision of a special  commission,  the  graves  of
Ivan the Terrible and his  sons  Ivan  and  Fyodor  buried  in  the  chancel
section of the Cathedral were  opened,  and  anthropologist  M.M.  Gerasimov
created sculptural portraits of Tsar Ivan the Terrible and Fyodor  Ivanovich
on the basis of the skeleton remains.
      At present the unique monument of Russian history  and  culture  is  a
museum  where  optimum  conditions  are  provided  for  keeping  the  icons,
frescoes and diverse  church  attributes  in  a  good  state.  The  museums
research personnel are studying both the history  of  its  construction  and
the works of art preserved here. At the same time, the  Archangel  Cathedral
continues to be one of the  most  revered  sanctuaries  are  help  regularly
several times a year.
      The Archangel Cathedral will remain forever a living  witness  of  the
history of the Kremlin, Moscow and the Russian state and  immortal  evidence
of the talent of its builders and  artists  who  were  able  to  express  in
architectural forms and painted images the peoples boundless love of  their
mother country.

"The Archangel Cathedral "