The Novodevichy Convent is located in the south-west of Moscow, at the curve of Moscow-River. The Novodevichy Convent ensemble is an outstanding monument of architecture of the 16th-17th centuries.
The most attractive construction of the Novodevichy Convent ensemble is the Smolensky Cathedral, or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Smolensk Icon. It was built at the same time when the convent was founded. The monumental five-domed cathedral features the paintings of the 16th-17th centuries, rare icons of the 17th century, and a five-tiered carved icon-stand. The Refectory with the Assumption Church, the belfries, Mariinskie and Lopukhinskie chambers are perfect examples of Moscow Baroque style.
The convent was founded by Vasily III in 1524 to commemorate the fact that Smolensk was returned as a part of Russia. Hence the second name of the convent — Bogoroditse-Smolensky.
In the 16th-17th centuries the convent became the place where the women of the Tsar family took the veil. In the convent the widow of the elder son of Ivan the Terrible lived. After death of Tsar Fyodor Ioannovitch his widow Irina Godunova chose the Novodevichy Convent as a place of dwelling. Her brother, future tsar Boris Godunov, stayed with her for some time. The sister of Peter the Great, tsarevna Sofia, spent her last days in the Novodevichy Convent. She was forced to take the veil, as well as the first wife of Peter the Great, Evdokia Lopukhina was.
The Novodevichy Convent was always under the patronage of Russian rulers and possessed vast chapter-lands. The nuns living in the convent were the representatives of higher classes and nobility. In 1724 part of the convent was given to the hospital for solders and officers of Russian army, and orphanage for girls-foundlings.
During the war of 1812 the Novodevichy Convent was occupied by French troops. When they were forced to retreat, they wanted to blow the convent up. However, the nuns managed to put the fuses out and save the Novodevichy convent.
Since the end of the 18th century till 1868 the Novodevichy Convent was used as a reformatory for Moscow and Moscow region women condemned for impiety.
At the beginning of the 20th century the fate of the Novodevichy Convent changed dramatically. In 1922 the convent was closed and turned into museum that later became the part of the State Historical Museum. Since 1980 the Novodevichy Convent houses the residence of Krutitsky and Kolomensky metropolitan. In 1994 the convent was re-established. Since 1995 religious services take place in the Smolensky Cathedral on high days.
In the 16th century on the territory of the Novodevichy Convent the cemetery intended for church and secular elite representatives was established. In the 19th century the heroes of the war of 1812 were buried in the cemetery. Among them was the poet and hussar Denis Davidov, decembrists S. Trubetskoi and M. Muraviev-Apostol, famous cultural workers, including historian S. Soloviev and philosopher V. Soloviev.
The Novodevichy Convent is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It ranges among the oldest and the most beautiful convents in Russia.
On August 10, 2004 the Novodevichy Convent celebrated its 480th birthday.