Church of the Robe

Church of the Robe Deposition 1484-1485. Southeast view
Church of the Robe Deposition 1484-1485. Southeast view

Church of the Robe
A small one-domed brick church of the Deposition of the Robe in the Metropolitan’s courtyard was built by masons from Pskov, invited to Moscow by the Grand Duke Ivan III. The temple, raised to a high basement, was built in the traditions of early Moscow architecture, and its decoration contains both Moscow and Pskov features. In 1643-1645 a low two-story gallery with a porch was added to it from the north and west. From the south, a small porch has also survived, which was previously part of a wider passage to the chapel located at the western wall of the church, where the especially revered Pechersk image of the Mother of God has been located since the 17th century.

The dedication of the temple is associated with the house church that preceded it, located in the chambers of Metropolitan Jonah. According to one version, it was founded by him in connection with a miraculous event that took place in the summer of 1451, when Moscow, in the absence of the Grand Duke, was unexpectedly besieged by the Tatars, led by Tsarevich Mazovsha. By the evening of the same day, the Metropolitan walked around the walls of the Kremlin with a procession of the cross, “with tears to the prayers of God and the Most Pure Mother of God – the helper of the Christian race” about salvation. The night passed in agonizing anticipation, and in the morning it turned out that the Tatars had left. This day fell on the Feast of the Laying of the Robe of the Virgin.

In 1655, after the construction of new patriarchal chambers, the Church of the Robe was transferred to the palace royal churches. Soon after the 1917 revolution, the temple was closed. In 1965 a museum exposition was arranged in it. Since 1993, after a long break, a divine service has been held annually on the day of the temple feast (July 15).

Sidor Pospeev (before 1628 – after 1652), Ivan Borisov (before 1628 – after 1644), Semyon Abramov (before 1628 – after 1654) Flight to Egypt 1644. Fresco on the north wall

The existing painting of the Church of the Robe was executed in 1644 by order of Patriarch Joseph by the favored tsarist icon painters – Sidor Pospeev, Ivan Borisov and Semyon Abramov, who had recently taken part in the decoration of the Kremlin’s Assumption Cathedral. The fresco painting of the temple, perhaps, repeats the original, about which nothing is known. The Almighty Savior is written in the dome, the Old Testament prophets are in the drum, and a little lower there are four evangelists, on the vaults and in the lunettes (the semicircular ends of the walls) – the most important episodes of the Gospel history, in the conch (half-dome) of the central apse – the composition “The Great Entrance” with the image Heavenly Liturgy, and below the entire width of the apse is the “Cathedral of All Saints” On the two western pillars, uncovered by the iconostasis, are painted the saints of Moscow metropolitans and holy princes.

An important place in the painting of the temple is occupied by two cycles associated with the dedication of the temple of the Mother of God: “The Life of the Most Holy Theotokos” and “The Great Akathist”. The first, occupying the two upper tiers on the southern, western and northern walls, is dedicated to the history of Joachim and Anna, parents of the Virgin Mary, her childhood, and betrothal to Saint Joseph. The second (two lower tiers) illustrates the solemn hymn in honor of the Mother of God. Among the plots of the last cycle is the composition “Flight into Egypt”. Here is a scene with the Virgin Mary riding a horse with the Infant Jesus on her knees and Joseph half-turned to her, walking beside her. The image is filled with quiet sadness, which is facilitated by the light, harmonious color scheme of the fresco.

Nazariy Istomin Savin (before 1620 – after 1632) Iconostasis of the Church of the Deposition of the Robe 1627. View from the south-west

The original iconostasis of the Church of the Deposition of the Robe has not survived. Most of the icons for the existing five-tiered iconostasis were painted by order of Patriarch Filaret (in the world boyar Fyodor Nikitich is the father of Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov). The works were completed in 1627 by an artel of icon painters under the guidance of one of the best royal iconographers – Nazariy Istomin Savin. He owns the general design and icons of the main Deesis order, as well as some of the prophetic, festive and local ranks. At the same time, all images were decorated with a gilded frame made of silver basma (plates with an embossed relief pattern).

Among those icons that are located in the local row, the temple image “Position of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos in Blachernae”, written by Nazariy Istomin “The Mother of God with the Child” and “Trinity”, as well as decorating the doors of the altar (“Prudent robber Rach”) and the deacon ( “Calvary cross”). In the 19th century, during the reconstruction of the iconostasis, its original royal gates were replaced with new ones, made in the style of classicism. In the 1950s, the frame was restored, which was close in shape to the original tyablovy (consisting of horizontal beams – the table on which the icons stand) iconostasis. And the royal gates dating back to the 16th century, and some icons placed in the local row, were taken from the Kremlin collection. At the same time, a pyadnichny row, which did not exist here before, was added, consisting of small (“a span” in size) icons of the 17th – early 18th centuries.

The position of the Robe of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Blachernae. Icon First half of the 17th century. Tree; levkas, tempera. 88×52

The main temple icon of the Church of the Deposition is located according to the old tradition to the right of the royal gates. After the reform of Patriarch Nikon, an icon of the Savior was usually placed in this place, followed by a corresponding dedication of the temple. Apparently, an exception was made for the patriarchal house church, which soon became part of the royal palace churches.

The icon depicts the solemn laying on of the throne of the church in Blachernae (a suburb of Constantinople) dedicated to the Mother of God of the precious Robe (clothing, more precisely, a long piece of cloth, with which the women of Palestine covered themselves from head to toe). According to legend, this maforium (as the Greeks called the robe of the Mother of God) was taken away by two noble Constantinople dignitaries from Jerusalem, who were making a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, where it was kept by a pious maiden.
The relic came to her after many years, through the same virgins like her. The first one was owned by a certain widow who served the Virgin Mary herself and received a maforium from her as a gift. After his transfer to Constantinople, the Feast of the Position of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos was established there, which is celebrated by the church on July 2 (July 15 in the new style). More than once, this sacred relic, as the Byzantine chronicles testify, saved the city during its siege by the enemy, which was reflected in the painting of the Kremlin church.

Church of the Robe
Nazariy Istomin Savin (before 1620-after 1632) Old Testament Trinity. Icon 1627. Wood; levkas, tempera. 132×105

The Old Testament Trinity icon, which is part of the local rite of the iconostasis of the Church of the Deposition of the Robe, was painted by one of the best royal iconographers, hereditary icon painter Nazariy Istomin Savin, who worked in the first third of the 17th century. He, his father Istoma Savin and brother Nikifor Istomin Savin were not only prominent sovereign icon painters, but also worked for the eminent people of the Stroganovs, carried out patriarchal orders. The latter include the icon “Trinity”, created for the patriarchal church, which at that time was the Church of the Robe. The customer was Patriarch Filaret, the father of the first tsar from the Romanov dynasty, which left a certain imprint on the work of the master.

The icon, one of the best in the work of Nazariy Istomin, which depicts a scene from the Old Testament, representing the appearance of the Triune God to the forefather Abraham in the form of three angels, in general repeats the composition of the well-known work of the famous icon painter Andrei Rublev. But, created in a different era, it is distinguished by a narrative, materiality, which is absent in Rublev, colorful and corresponding to the spirit of the times “liveliness”. At the same time, a master who flawlessly owns a brush strives for sophistication of forms and sophistication of images.

Church of the Robe
Elder Ippolit (?) Nikola Mozhaisky. Icon Mid-17th century. Tree; carving, levkas, carving and stamping on levkas, tempera. 151X100

In the northern and western galleries of the Church of the Deposition of the Robe, there is a small permanent exhibition “Russian wooden sculpture of the 15th – 19th centuries”. The wooden icons presented here testify to the sufficient prevalence in Russian churches of sculptural images made in the technique of both low and high relief.
The collection is based on works created by carvers who worked in the Moscow Kremlin and intended for the churches and monasteries located here – this is a high relief “Crucifixion with robbers” from the Chudov Monastery, a carved image on the lid of Metropolitan Jonah’s shrine, possibly made for his tomb in the Assumption Cathedral. as well as a carved image of the Passionate Icon of the Mother of God and a wooden, almost round figure of St. George (dating back to the end of the XIV – beginning of the 15th century, the oldest in the collection) intended for placement in icon cases.

A carved volumetric figure of a saint from the Church of Nikola Gostunsky in the Kremlin can be placed in the same row. This image belongs to the iconographic type “Nikola Mozhaisky”. The saint is presented in priestly vestments with a model of a temple (symbolizing the whole city) in his left hand. In the right one was the sword, now lost. The image vividly recalls the legend that tells how St. Nicholas the Wonderworker appeared in a similar image as a formidable defender during the siege of the city by the Mongol-Tatars.