Kolomna is the biggest and well-appointed town of the Moscow Region. Besides, it is one of the oldest in Russia: it was first mentioned in the Laurentian Chronicle (14th century) for 1177 as a border outpost of the Ryazan Principality and as a trade and artisan center.
The most ancient archaeological findings discovered in this area (near the confluence of the Moskva and the Oka) are dated back to the 7th-6th millennia B.C., while the first permanent settlement dates back to the 5th-3rd centuries B.C. This territory was originally inhabited by representatives of Finno-Ugric tribes; first Slavs began to settle down there starting approximately from the 7th century.
In the early 13th century, Kolomna (already a town) made up a part of the Moscow Principality. As Kolomna was located in the southeastern border areas, it suffered a lot from Tatar-Mongol raids: in 1238 the town was devastated by Khan Batu, in 1293—by Tudan. But in less than 100 years
Kolomna turned out to be in the center of events critical for the whole country: Grand Duke of Moscow Dmitry Ivanovich took a decision to repulse the enemy headed by the temnik Mamai and formed squads from all parts of Russia there. According to chronicles, our country had never before witnessed such a powerful attack.
Dmitry Ivanovich had visited Kolomna even before. In 1366, he married Princess Yevdokiya of Suzdal there (as the chronicler wrote about the capital "that time wholesale deaths were raging in Moscow" and "the town and its trading quarters burnt to the ashes"). In 1379, Dmitry Ivanovich laid the foundation of the Dormition Cathedral in the local Kremlin in honor of the victory over the Golden Horde army in the battle of the Vozha. Then, in August 1380, on the eve of a battle against the old enemy, the Prince with his relative (who married his sister Anna) and friend Dmitry Bobrok-Volynsky made a vow to construct a monastery in the Kolomna lands if they won.
In the battle of Kulikovo against Mongol-Tatars that took place near the Don (at present, Kurkino District, Tula Region), Bobrok-Volynsky headed an ambush regiment that defeated the main forces of the enemy. As a
result, the enemy horsemen had been forced to the river, where they were killed. When Mamai heard about that, he escaped. But the victory was not easy: hundreds of Russian warriors gave their lives for it. As legend has it, they were buried near the place of the battle, in the settlement of Monastyrshchina. In 2005, a monument to commemorate warriors from a glorious town on the Oka River was solemnly opened: according to Zadonshchina (a monument of the 14th-century Russian literature), there were killed "twenty Kolomna boyars and Kolomna voivode Mikula Vasilyevich Velyaminov with his force", who fought in the front regiment and first faced the enemy attack.
That glorious defeat of the Golden Horde in the battle of Kulikovo, in honor of which Grand Duke Dmitry got an honorable nickname "Donskoi" (of the Don), was the first sign of liberation of Russia from the foreign yoke and fell on September 8 that is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Thus, a monastery established in 1381 by Dmitry Ivanovich and Bobrok-Volynsky (in compliance with the vow) was called the Bobrenev Monastery of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Up to the present day, there have preserved two churches that were constructed well after. One of them is the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, erected in 1790. The other one dedicated to the Feodorovskaya icon of the Holy Mother (with the chapels of the Holy Mother of Kazan and Reverend David of Solun) and a two-storey stone cell block with a refectory (all facilities built in 1861) appeared thanks to David Khludov, a famous Russian benefector and negotiant of those times, who did a lot to revive Orthodox churches and monasteries.
Unfortunately, scientists have no material evidence of the time of establishment of the Bobrenev Monastery of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. But its antiquity is proved by archeological discoveries made in 1969-1970, when scientists found fragments of the basement of an ancient monastery that, according to experts, date back to the second half of the 14th century (it is likely the monastery founded by Dmitry Donskoi). But some scientists refer this discovery (based on the limestone processing peculiarities) to a later period—early 15th century. Nevertheless, we cannot discard the hypothesis that the monastery was established by Grand Duke of Moscow— originally, there could be a wooden church in place of a stone one.
In 1385, following the advice of Sergius of Rhado-nezh*, who had blessed the Russian prince to defeat Mamai, Dmitry Donskoi laid a foundation of one more monastery near the confluence of the Moskva-River and the Oka, a second "guard" of Kolomna, which at the present moment is called the Old Golutvin Monastery of the Epiphany. Fortunately, it was never ravaged, but the time itself is not always gracious: none of the stone constructions of the 15th—16th centuries have remained. The old-
* Sergius of Rhadonezh is one of the most famous Russian religious and political figures, founder and the first senior priest of St. Trinity Monastery (at present, it is located in the town of Sergiev Posad, Moscow Region); see: B. Kloss, "The Hegumen of Rus", Science in Russia, No. 1, 1993; K. Averyanov, "St. Sergius of Rhadonezh Puzzle", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2008.-Ed.
est building there—the Monastery of the Epiphany (the main cathedral) belongs to the early 18th century, while all other buildings were erected only in the next century.
Two monasteries established by Dmitry Donskoi made a part of a chain of powerful fortresses located along the Oka, which served as a water border of the Russian state at that time (Tikhon's Monastery, Kazan Monastery, St. Trinity Monastery, Bunyrevsky Monastery, Vvedensky Monastery, St. Kazan Monastery and many others). These monasteries represented well protected spiritual centers surrounded by ditches and high fences. People called that defensive line, which protected south-eastern approaches to the center (or the "heart" of the country), the Belt of the Blessed Virgin*, and Kolomna—Moscow's guardian angel.
Despite of the victory in the battle of Kulikovo, it took a lot of time for the Russian land to get rid of the sworn enemy. In 1382 and 1408, Kolomna, the second richest town of the Moscow Principality after the capital, was raided by Golden Horde troops headed by Tokhtamysh and Yedygei, in 1440 it was ravaged by the army of the Kazan khan Ulu-Muhammed, in 1521 and 1571 the town was burnt by Crimean Tatars headed by Mehmed I Giray and Devlet I Giray. That is why in 1525 the tsar Vasily III decided to construct there a stone Kremlin, like the one in Moscow, and invited Italian architects to implement such an ambitious project.
It took six years to erect a big fortification structure, one of the largest fortresses in Muscovy. To make it impregnable, builders added egg white to the mortar to clamp the bricks. This measure was worth it: the enemies never took the Kremlin by assault. Its wall is 18-21 m high, 3-4.5 m thick and about 2 km long. Originally there were 17 towers (including 4 drive-through towers), 7 of them we can see even today. Although the construction has not been preserved in full, it is still the main decoration of the town.
The main entrance to the Kolomna Kremlin—the Parasceva Gates—is 29 m high crowned with a small
* See: O. Borisova. "Tretyakovka Outside Moscow", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2008.-Ed.
tower—strelnitsa. In ancient times there was an alarm bell, which was used in case of fire or an enemy attack.
From the eastern side, the fortress is "guarded" by 24 m high "twin towers": Spasskaya, Semyonovskaya, Yamskaya and Pogorelaya. Thickness of tower walls at the foot is around 3 m, there are 5 floors inside, one of which is underground. The 22 m high Faceted (Granovitaya) Tower has an unusual shape: it is hexagonal on the outside and rectangular on the inside. It has five tiers, each tier has three or four embrasures. At the present day, the tower hosts the Museum of Ancient Russian Weapons and Military Gear.
From the west, the 31 m high Kolomenskaya corner tower "is on patrol". At the top it has a white stone ornament and inside 8 levels linked by spiral stairs; 27 embrasures arranged in a staggered order made it possible to put up an all-round defense. The powerful 20-faceted watch tower has a cylindrical shape from a distance; that is why it is also called "Round" and "Marinka's" (Marinkina) Tower. The fact is that in the early 17th century, in the Time of Troubles*, there lived Polish adventuress Marina Mniszek, wife of the self-proclaimed tsar False Dmitry I and then of False Dmitry II. She ordered to open the Gates and let the invaders in. When they were banished from the Russian land, the offender was incarcerated in this tower.
The Dormition Cathedral (1672-1682, architect, Me-lety Alexeyev), a snow-white austere building with two tiers of windows, decorated with a narrow strip of kokoshniks and crowned with five domes, is the heart of the ancient Kremlin. There was kept the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, a priceless monument of national history and art in this cathedral. The icon is painted on both sides: on the front side it represents the Virgin and the Child and on the reverse side—the Dormition (righteous death) of the Mother of God.
According to the documents kept in the Donskoi Monastery, the object of worship was brought by Don Cossacks, who made a part of the army formed by Dmitry Donskoi for the battle of Kulikovo. They put it on the shaft as a banner and fought with it against the Golden Horde. After victory they presented it to the Grand Duke, who later on took it to his favorite town Kolomna. At present, the relic is kept at the State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow).
Although the icon is widely known, practically no reliable information about it is available. According to researchers, it might be attributed to 1382-1395; representation of the face of the Virgin on the front side was made by a great Byzantine and Russian icon painter, miniaturist, master of monumental mural paintings Theophanes the Greek (1340?-1410?)** or another painter of his circle; the Dormition of the Mother of God was most likely painted by a master from Novgorod.
Near the Dormition Cathedral, there is a 40 m high bell-tower constructed in 1692 on the cubic foundation of an old church; it is the biggest hipped roof bell-tower in Russia with 5 ringing tiers and 32 dormer windows. In the 1990s, the bell "Pimen" weighing 6,400 kg named in honor of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia in 1971-1990 (Sergey Izvekov) was placed in the bell-tower.
* See: A. Bogdanov, "All of Us Should Be in Chime and Union...", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2007.-Ed.
** See: I. Pishchuk, "Enigmas of an Iconostasis", Science in Russia, No. 2, 1997.-Ed.
The Word Resurrection Cathedral (1360 at the latest), the first stone church erected in the territory of the Kremlin, where Dmitry Donskoi married Yevdokiya of Suzdal, survived through the times. The church is the only preserved fragment of the palace of the Grand Duke. In 1786, the church was reconstructed, inner pillars were knocked down, windows were made wider, and façades—plastered and reconstructed in the baroque style*. Two valuable icons kept there—the Descent into the Hell of the 14th century and the Trinity (one of the first copies of the icon of the same name created by the famous icon-painter Andrei Rublev** in the first quarter of the same century) made a part of the treasure-house of the State Tretyakov Gallery.
Not far from Kolomna, there is the Church of the Conception of John the Forerunner in the Town (1307-1308), the oldest in the Moscow Region. The only remaining structure of the 14th century is a white stone arched ground floor made of rough hewn timber (the upper part was built two centuries later); the iconostasis with the 14th century icon "John the Forerunner-Angel of the Desert" is kept today at the State Tretyakov Gallery.
One more sign of "ancient times" is an image of an imaginary animal (unicorn or basilisk) on the fragment of the church wall of the 14th century, which has much in common with church decorations in Vladimir of the 12th century***. The original of this unique masterpiece of folk art is now kept at the Museum of Local History of Kolomna, while it was replaced by its plaster copy on the façade of the building.
There is a legend explaining the existence of this mysterious relief. In 1238, Prince Roman of Ryazan heroically died there, defending Kolomna from Mongol-Tatars. Their leader Khan Batu, who esteemed steadfast warriors, even his enemies, ordered to bury him with honors and left
* See: I. Terekhova, "Russian Baroque", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2009.-Ed.
** See: G. Popov, "Treasures of the St. Andronicus Monastery", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1998.-Ed.
*** See: O. Bazanova, "Sacred Sites of the Land of Vladimir", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2005.-Ed.
this sign as a guardian of the grave and the church, which lately got a nickname "Kolomna Beast". By the way, the a similar image—most probably the first symbol of the town—was used on coins minted there in the 15th century.
In 1778, the Empress Catherine II, who wanted Kolomna to become a beautiful town, sent a group of architects headed by Matvei Kazakov there. Compared with the Moscow style of this famous architect characterized by stretched out buildings with big colonnades, in Kolomna, a cosy provincial town, he often resorted to the Pseudo-Gothic style*. Among rare examples of this style one can mention the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God in the local Kremlin, reconstructed by the master in the 1680s, and the fences of the Bobrenev Monastery of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the Old Golutvin Monastery of the Epiphany, Novo-Golutvin Holy Trinity and Brusensky monasteries with tall cylindrical towers and crowned with high spires (some of them with figurines of angels).
Certainly, at the end of the 18th century, when the great architect worked, these fences were intended only to separate a "spiritual town, a source of religious inspiration for those that hunger and thirst" from the worldly territory. It is not by chance that the new towers differ so drastically from the powerful bastions of the ancient Kremlin constructed for defense purposes. According to the historian of arts Georgy Varner and architect Sergei Chugu-nov in the book Along the Oka from Kolomna to Murom (M.; 1980), "Monastery fences of Kolomna enliven not
* Pseudo-Gothic style—a combination of Gothic elements, laying special emphasis on vertical lines (arches with pointed tops, narrow tall towers and columns, richly decorated façades with carved details, etc.) and the Moscow or Naryshkin Baroque; T. Geidor, "Masterpieces That Endure", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2009.-Ed.
only ordinary wooden and stone buildings, but also classical houses of the town. Elegant two- and three-tiered cylindrical towers with spires directed upwards resemble minarets... Kolomna should be grateful to M. Kazakov for almost all this". By the way, in 1776-1787, concurrently with Gothic buildings, the master constructed one more structure in an absolutely different style—the Senate building in the Moscow Kremlin ("Russian Pantheon", as it was called at that time), the apotheosis of national classicism*.
The town on the Oka keeps decorating itself with remarkable monuments. In 2007, when Kolomna was chosen to host All-Russia Days of Slavonic Writing and Culture, in the Cathedral Square of the Kremlin, there were put up bronze figures of the Saints Cyril and Methodius (sculptor, Alexander Rozhnikov), preachers of Christianity, who lived in the 9th century and created a Slavonic alphabet. Cyril holds in his arms a roll with the alphabet, Methodius—the Bible. In addition, in the course of celebrations, one more monument located between Marinka's Tower and the Faceted Tower from outside the ancient fortress—a grand bronze statue of Dmitry Donskoi (height including pedestal is about 12m), designed by the architect Alexander Rukavishnikov—was opened in Kolomna. The Grand Duke on horseback, fully armed, guarding his favorite town.
* See: Z. Zolotnitskaya. "Lofty Simplicity and Dignity", Science in Russia, No. 3. 2009.-Ed.
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