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Patriarch's Palace and Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, Russia

Experienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyager Joshua Brook
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The Patriarch's Palace and the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles form a single structure, decorated with an arched covered balcony, frilled gables and topped with five small domes. Situated near the Cathedral of the Assumption and just before you enter the Kremlin's Cathedral Square, the current Palace was begun in 1640 but developed from the Metropolitan's Estate that was founded on the same site in the early 14th century. In 1589 the estate was turned into the Patriarch's Court when Patriarch Iov, the first Patriarch of Moscow and the newly formed Russian state, took up residence there. Subsequent residents included Patriarch Filaret, the father of Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov, but the palace is chiefly associated with Patriarch Nikon, whose ecclesiastical reforms during the mid-17th century caused an irreparable schism in the Russian Orthodox Church.

During his period at the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (1628-1658), Patriarch Nikon, in an effort to restore the church to its Byzantium purity, introduced various reforms of Orthodox rituals that were rejected by thousands of Russians, who accused him of being a heretic and trying to impose foreign ways on the traditional Russian church. These people broke off into a sect known as the Old Believers and fled into Siberia to avoid persecution and forced conversions. With unhinged ambition, Patriarch Nikon went on to try and assert the authority of the church over the state and angered Tsar Alexei to such an extent that he refused to reinstate the Patriarch after he resigned in a dramatic huff! It was on the orders of Nikon that the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, which also served as the grand entrance to the Patriarch's Palace, was built between 1652 and 1656.

The Patriarch's 3-story palace rivaled the Tsar's Terem Palace in luxury, and similarly consisted of numerous chambers and churches interlinked by staircases and passageways. Much of the palace's interior has been carefully preserved and restored and visitors are now free to visit the Museum of 17th Century Life and Applied Art, which is housed in the palace's impressive Cross Chamber. With a floor area of 280 square meters and walls 2.35 meters thick, the chamber is a magnificent architectural feature and was the first hall of such a size to be built in Russia without a central supporting column. The walls and vaulted ceiling are adorned with gilt stucco, the floor laid in multi-colored tiles and the mica windows decorated with fantastically realistic flowers.

The Museum of 17th Century Life and Applied Art features an extensive collection of ecclesiastical regalia, period furniture, domestic utensils and contemporary fabrics, woven over 300 years ago. Particularly worthy of note are a box made to hold wine bottles in the shape of an evangelistry and a wine ladle with an impressive capacity of 100 liters. The exhibition concludes in the largely restored Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, which was built above the archway leading to Cathedral Square, as it was considered sacrilegious to place an altar above ordinary living quarters. The cathedral's iconostasis was originally brought from the now demolished Convent of the Ascension and the two arched gates through which processions once entered the Patriarch's Court from Cathedral Square, which were walled up in the 18th century, have been opened. High on the west wall visitors can see a small window from which Patriarch Nikon watched services from his private chapel on the floor above. More info on: www.moscow-taxi.com

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