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Home > 14 Cathedral of the Archangel in Moscow Kremlin

Cathedral of the Archangel in Moscow Kremlin: History, Cupolas, Tombs. Tour of the Kremlin in Moscow with an English speaking guide

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Cathedral of the Archangel

5 cupolas of the cathedral symbolize Christ and 4 evangelists. Instead of the traditional image of Jesus Christ Pantocrator the central cupola is decorated with the composition “Motherland” that symbolizes the main concept of the Divine Trinity. It depicts God the Father with God the Son sitting in his lap and a white dove between them in a blue medallion that symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

Western domes have waist images of Archangel Michael and Archangel Gabriel. It was considered that it is them who come to guide the soul of the deceased righteous person.

Middle of XIIIth century — wooden church dedicated to Archangel Michael. In 1333 Ivan Kalita built a new stone cathedral to replace the old one. Walls of the cathedral were painted red. He used this very cathedral as a burial vault, and he became the first ruler to be buried there.

In 1505-1508 Italian architect Aleviz the New started constructing a new cathedral upon the order of Ivan the Third. In 1565 upon the order of Ivan the Terrible the cathedral was decorated with paintings.

In Christianity Archangel Michael guards the gates of Heaven, and the souls of the deceased people go past him on the way to the afterlife. He is considered the patron of the warriors and the guardian of the Gates of Heaven.


Archangel cathedral was used as a burial vault for 400 hundred years till 1730. All the grand dukes and tzars who died between 1340 and 1696 were buried there, as well as the emperor Peter the Second who died from smallpox at the age of 14. He was the grandson of Peter the First.

Now there are 53 graves under the floor, while on top of them there are 46 tall tombstones. Some tombs have 2-3 graves. Paintings on the walls and columns show the rulers who were buried here. Opposite the tombs there are full height paintings of almost all the grand dukes buried here. Each person on the paintings has distinct features, although they are not life-like portraits as there were no descriptions of their appearances in the chronicles. All figures on the paintings are facing the altar, their hands are folded for prayer and their headgear is off. They look like they are attending a mess at a church. All of them have glorioles above their heads, and over them there are depictions of their patron saints in small blue circles.

The most ancient burials are near the Southern wall, they are arranged three in a row. Near the Northern and Western walls there are 12 burials of rulers of small principalities and of grand dukes.

Western wall has burials of those who vowed to serve the grand duke of Moscow during their lives. Northern wall has burials of those who were not favored by the ruler.

Feretory of prince Dmitry.

Dmitry was the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible who died in Uglitch in 1591 just before he turned 9. Until now it is not known whether if he fell on a knife during an epileptic fit, or he was stabbed by people sent by courtier Boris Godunov. Boris was brother of the tzarine and wife of Fedor. Fedor was the last tzar of the Rurikovich dynasty and the second son of Ivan the Terrible. A canopy of white carved stone is installed above the feretory and decorated with a cast iron grid with stylized vines and figures of unicorns. In Christianity unicorn symbolizes purity and innocence, and also it is the emblem of the nobility of the clan. Saint prince Dimitry is worshipped as defender and patron of the Romanov dynasty and entire Russian state.

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