Mikhail Lomonosov, a Short Biography
The Origin of Moscow Street Names (part 1)

Moscow Legend: Novodevichy Convent

You can also read the legends of Novodevichy Convent in Russian.

Vasily III vowed to build a monastery if he was victorious at the battle of Smolensk at the time of his fight against Lithuanians. Smolensk was taken, and in 1523, the Tsar gave 230 kilograms of silver to built the monastery.

The chosen site was very beautiful, on a slope over the city of Luzhniki. The main cathedral of the monastery was built in 1525 in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God in Smolensk.

Only women of royal or aristocratic families could take their vows in this monastery which thus became their prison. Under the reign of Sofia (daughter of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich), the entire ensemble of the monastery was built in the Moscow baroque style. The tsarine Sofia was imprisoned in the convent and tonsured as a nun in 1689 on the orders of his brother, Peter I. In the struggle for power, she lost the game; the Streltsy Uprising (1698) ended up in dreadful terror.

The beautiful pond in front of the monastery since that time has a ill fame reputation because Peter I himself cut the head of the Strelets on the icy pond. It is said that the souls of the dead persons still wander on the shore of the pond.

There is another legend related to the name of the disgraced princess. If you touch the white stone tower of “Софьина башня” (Sofia’s tower) and make a romantic wish, then your wish will come true.


During the 1812 war, the monastery was almost destroyed. During the withdrawal of the French troops from Moscow, the soldiers tried to blow up Novodevichy Convent, but the nuns managed to extinguish the wicks. According to the legend, Napoleon departing from Moscow, intended to destroy all the most beautiful buildings, including Novodevichy Convent.

In 1922, the monastery was closed, and it became a “museum of emancipation of woman”. The site housed a laundry, a dormitory and a nursery…

In the 1930s, the monastery was reconstructed: as a result, more than 2000 graves were demolished from the old cemetery. Over the time, the excavation of the graves created small craters on the ground. Among the old residents of the monastery, there are rumors that the location of the ancient graves can be seen only at night, by the faint glow from the earth.

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The 20th century saw the apparition of a “new” cemetery on Novodevichy territory, which has also very interesting stories that I will tell you soon.

Елена Коновалова