Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye
Church Of The Ascension, Kolomenskoye
Cultural Russian Federation Europe And North America Moscow, The South District

The Church of the Ascension is of great town-planning importance. It dominates the surrounding architectural and natural structures and unites all the elements of the estate. It is also a unique architectural and artistic monument as one of the earliest tent-roofed churches in Russia and as such the progenitor of subsequent architecture.

The church was built in 1532 by Prince Vasili III to commemorate the birth of the prince who was to become Tsar Ivan IV 'the Terrible'. It was consecrated with great pomp on 3 September 1532 by the Metropolitan Dionissi, the Bishops of Kolomenskoye and Zaraisk, and the whole of the synod in the presence of Grand Prince Vasili, Grand Princess Yelena, Tsarevich Ioann and the brothers of the tsar.

The church is situated in the Kolomenskoye estate, first recorded in 1339, when it belonged to Ivan KaIita, Grand Prince of Moscow. By the 16th century it had become a fortified stronghold. The palace complex was added later, in the 17th century, and it continued in use as an imperial residence and estate until the 1917 Revolution.

The ground plan of the church is in the form of a Greek equal-armed cross, with raskrepovkas (small protrusions) in the facade on either side. It is unusual in that it has no apse. It is constructed on a high basement podklet , the second gallery of which is an open gallery surrounding the staircase.

Three wide stairways with porches lead to the gallery from the north, west, and south;they are covered with vaulted roofs. There are small chambers under the north and south porches, two of which have fluted columns of brick and white limestone. Under the west porch there is the entrance to the main room of the basement;the semi-circular portal preserves the original white limestone decor of half-columns on fluted bases. The massive vertical pillar rising from the basement is in three sections. The lower part is a cube (chetvik ) with several protruding entrances (pritvors );it serves as the base of an octagon (vosmerik ) with wails that carry smoothly up to the octagonal tent roof, which is crowned by a cupola on a drum. The principal element of the facades - the pointed pediments above the arches of the basement, the strong comer lopatki (flat vertical protrusions on the walls) with decorative arrows between the carved network of faceted beads over the tent roof - were intended to lead the eye upwards to the cupola and its cross.

The interior of the church is small, as the walls are 3-4 m thick, but it is open to the top of the roof, 41 m above. The comers are decorated with pilasters which repeat, with some variations, the decoration of the exterior. Eight arches spring from the pilasters, and the octagonal drum that they support make a smooth transition to the soft outline of the tent.

The sloping of the tent is achieved through corbelling of the courses of brick. The tent is 20 m high;this is the first use of the traditional wooden tented roof for a stone structure. With its overall height of 62 m and the very thick walls, the whole structure retains the elegance of its silhouette and the dynamics of its composition.

The original iconostasis has not survived. It was replaced at the beginning of the 19th century by that from the Monastery of the Ascension of the Moscow Kremlin. The 16th-century 'Tsar's Gates', all that survives of the original iconostasis, are now in the Kolomenskoye Museum.

The so-called Italian (Alevisovsky) small brick, introduced by Italian architects at the end of the 15th century, was used for building the church. Carved details are in white limestone from the Moscow suburb of Myachkovo.