CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS OF GOSTUN

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The reason to build the stone church dedicated to St Nicholas, highly revered saint in Old Rus’, was his wonderworking icon found near the town Belev by the river Gostun’, which gave its name to the church. At the sough side of the Ivanovskaya Square there used to be an old wooden church of St Nicholas the Linen, where canvases and linen had been consecrated. Upon the order of Tsar Vasily III, it took only 9 weeks to build a new brick church for the icon instead of the old one. Aloisio the New, Italian architect, who had arrived in Moscow in 1504, became the author of the building. The church was consecrated on 1 October 1506, and probably at the same time it was established a cathedral.

Under Ivan the Terrible, the icon revealed another miracle of healing and, after returning from the Kazan campaign, the Tsar ordered to paint frescoes and decorate the cathedral. In 1560, a side chapel in the name of theEntry into the Church of the Most Holy Virgin Mary was erected as a separate small church at the north wall of the cathedral. It served as a family chapel on the new court of tsar’s brother. The time, when another side chapel in the name of St Anne’s Conception appeared on the south side of the cathedral remains unknown.

The first image of the cathedral was depicted on plan ‘Kremlenagrad’ of the early 1600s, where it is shown from the East. Tree apsidioles occupy the middle part of the façade. The wall of the quadrangle (chetverik) finishes with three arched gables, covered by curvilinear roofing which is crowned by one dome on the drum. The arched gables are cut from the wall by the expanded cornice. The middle arched gable, bigger in size, places a round window, similar to the one on the west façade of the Archangel Cathedral and depicted on the mentioned plan on the east façade of the Ascension Cathedral. The one-dome side chapel with similar architectural features was added to the temple from the north side. A single-storey site links on to the church from the south.

The temple had many times suffered from fire, after which it fell into disrepair, but, as time passed, it was renovated and revered both by the tsar court and the churchmen. In 1714, a part of St Nicholas the Wonderworker’s relics was donated to the temple. Tsars had many times visited it on holidays. It was also here that Peter III and Catherine II took an oath before the enthronement.

During one of the repairs in 1754, the complex roof slab with arched gables of the church and side chapel was substituted by a simple helm roof. New refectory was also built instead of the dilapidated one.

After French invasion, the temple’s interior was devastated, but the building itself remained. In 1816, the priestinformed the metropolitan about the necessity to reconstruct the ancient church, since its exterior ‘does not correspond to the beauty of the place it occupies’. The reconstruction of the cathedral had already started, but Prince Yusupov, Head of the Kremlin Expedition, opposed to the fashionable Gothic style the church was transformed to. He thought that it was necessary to preserve old forms of ancient monument. The works were suspended till Emperor Alexander I’s decision.

In 1817, the Moscow waited for the visit of Prussian King Frederick William III, partner of Alexander I in the Holy Alliance. He was famously fond of military parades and, for this reason, the Ivanovskaya Square was extended and made a parade ground. The ramshackle Church of St Nicholas of Gostun was dismantled with the permission of His Imperial Majesty.

Taking into consideration the popularity among many common and high-ranking people, the Synod confirmed the transfer of altar and all relics of the destroyed church into the new one in the Assumption Belfry. The new altar of St Nicholas of Gostun was consecrated in June 1817.

To avoid public discontent, the old church was dismantled at night on 7 August 1817 by the regiment of soldiers headed by engineer A. Betancourt, who was one of the ‘Manezh’ builders.

It is worth noticing that in the 16th century Ivan Fedorov served as a deacon in the Church of St Nicholas of Gostun. He was the first person to introduce a printing press into Russia and the one, who published the first book ‘Apostle’ in Russia in 1564.

Church of St Nicholas of Gostun on the Ivanovskaya Square 
Drawing of the late 19th – early 20th ccFragment of the plan ‘Kremlenagrad’ with theChurch of St Nicholas of Gostun 
Fragment of the plan ‘Kremlenagrad’ of the early 1600s.Panorama of the Ivanovskaya Square with the Church of St Nicholas of Gostun (in the foreground, centre), view from the south F. Alexeev, early 1800s

Church of St Nicholas of Gostun(in the right foreground), view from the north-west
F. Alexeev, early 1800sView of the south-east part of the Kremlin with the Church of St Nicholas of Gostun (in the centre)View of the parade ground and panorama of the Ivanovskaya Square after the Church of St Nicholas of Gostun was dismantled  
Drawing, 1850s.