I am going to break this post up into several as there are just too many photos!
The Novodevichy Convent was founded in 1524 to celebrate the taking of Smolensk from Lithuania, an important step in Moscow’s conquest of the old Kyivan Rus lands. From early on, noblewomen would retire to the convent, some more willingly than others. Novodevichy was rebuilt by Peter the Great’s half-sister Sofia, who used it as a second residence when she ruled Russia as regent in the 1680s. By this time the convent was a major landowner: it had 36 villages and about 10,000 serfs around Russia. When Peter was 17, he deposed Sofia and confined her to Novodevichy; in 1698 she was imprisoned here for life after being implicated in the Streltsy rebellion. (Legend has it that Peter had some of her supporters hanged outside her window to remind her not to meddle.) Sofia was joined in her enforced retirement by Yevdokia Lopukhina, Peter’s first wife, whom he considered a nag.
You enter the convent through the red-and-white Moscow-baroque Transfiguration Gate-Church, built in the north wall between 1687 and 1689.
The oldest and most dominant building in the grounds is the white Smolensk Cathedral, modelled in 1524–25 on the Kremlin’s Assumption Cathedral.
Other churches on the grounds include the red-and-white Assumption Church, dating from 1685 to 1687, and the 16th-century St Ambrose’s Church. Boris Godunov’s sister, Irina, lived in the building adjoining the latter church. Today, Irina’s Chambers hold a permanent exhibit of 16th- and 17th-century religious artwork such as icons and embroidery.