Sacred Spaces: The Church of the Ascension (Kolomenskoye)

Photo by Marina Lystseva. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Situated in the picturesque Kolomenskoye estate is the Church of the Ascension, a 16th century holy landmark.  “Beginning from the 15th century, Kolomenskoye served as a summer country residence for the Grand Dukes of Moscow and Russian Tsars. Due to this fact, a rich architectural heritage was formed in the area.”

The Church was constructed under the reign of Basil III as an appeal to God.  In erecting a wondrous place of worship, Basil hoped that he would be rewarded with the birth of a male heir. In 1530, two years before the Church was consecrated, Basil’s prayers were answered when a son, Ivan (later known as “the terrible”) was born.

Standing more than 200 feet tall, the Church certainly earned its name of “Ascension.”  It “[…] was among the tallest buildings in medieval Muscovy.”  Reaching towards the heavens is the Church of Ascension’s most recognizable feature: a distinct “[…] steeply-pitched tower known as shatior, from a Turkic word meaning “tent”.”  “The remarkable tent roof rises from an octagonal base crowned by small kokoshniks; the base itself also rises from a larger base formed by a series of tiered kokoshniks.”

This architectural detail differs the Church of Ascension from other places of worship built around the same time.  Instead of the popular Byzantine domed structure, the Church “[…] was formed on the basis of harmonious combination of construction engineering of Russian principalities and achievements of West-Europeancraftsmen.”  This tent-like style grew in popularity and became a beacon of Russian architectural tradition.

Despite many renovations over the years, the structure of the Church remains somewhat untouched (the exception being the walls being whitewashed before the 1980 Olympic Games).

Inside the Church, in the eastern altar, is the royal pew which faces the scenic Moscow River.  It is interesting to note that, with regard to the art within the Church, there were six different iconstases featured between it’s consecration in 1532 and 1920.  Luckily, for modern visitors, the original 16th iconostasis was restored during a 21st century complete reconstruction.

Today, the Church of Ascension is a UNESCO World Heritage site and “[…] a pearl of one of the largest museums in Moscow — MSUMR (The Moscow State United Art Historical-Architectural and Nature-Landscape Museum-Reserve).”  MSUMR oversees the protection and restoration of the church (which is still used for traditional church services and functions).

View the Church of Ascension

Want to visit the Church of Ascension but can’t make it to Russia? Check out the wonderful video below for a tour of the Kolomenskoye estate and beautiful views of the Church.

Main photo via
Kolomenskoye: Monument to the grandeur of medieval Muscovy –
The Kolomenskoye Estate –
The Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye – a world architecture masterpiece and a UNESCO site –
Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye –
The Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye –
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