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Moscow Legends: The Menshikov Tower

Церковь Архангела Гавриила (the church of the Archangel Gabriel), better know as Меньшикова Башня (the Menshikov Tower), stands not far from the metro station Чистые Пруды (Chistye Prudy). Its history started in 1551. In those days, it was built in wood.

The church acquired its actual form by a decree of the Earl Alexander Danilovich Menshikov (a companion of Peter the first). The temple was erected in 1704, while at the same moment the old filthy ponds were been cleaned, and got their names of Чистые Пруды (Clean ponds). In 1706, the Earl of Menshikov привёз в храм икону Полоцкой Божьей Матери (brought to the church the icon the the Mother of God). According to the legend, this icon was made by the Evangelist Luke.

The church of the Archangel Gabriel was the highest building in Moscow at the time of its construction, it was actually на три метра выше колокольни Ивана Великого в Кремле (three meters taller than the bell tower of Ivan the Great in the Kremlin). The upper storey held 50 bells and a floating figure of the archangel with a cross in his hands. In 1708, chimes made in London were added to the tower.

В 1723 году случилось необъяснимое событие (an inexplicable event happened in 1723): on June 13, immediately after the service, one of the priests fell dead on the porch. During the funeral service (a special church service had been held for the death of the priest), clouds concentrated over the church, thunder rumbled and lightning struck the cross in the hand of the angel.

It took several hours to extinguish the terrible that started then. As a final strike, the bell tower broke off and the fifty bells fell, killing many people who were trying at that time to get the relics out of the temple. Драгоценную икону спасли и перевезли в Петербург, где Меньшиков был губернатором (the precious icon was saved and send to St Petersburg, where Menshikov was governor).

The church was rebuilt in 1787 according to the plans of the architect Gabriel Izmailov. He designed the dome in the form of a candle. Гавриил принадлежал к масонам (Gabriel belonged to the fraternity of the freemasons), therefore, both outside and inside the church were decorated with Masonic symbols, emblems and Latin inscriptions. Some of them have survived to this day.

The church is one of the most interesting in Moscow.

Елена Коновалова

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