CHURCH OF ST SERGIUS OF RADONEZH AT THE METOCHION OF THE HOLY TRINITY MONASTERY

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Church of St Sergius of Radonezh of 1565 on the Holy Trinity Monastery’s metochion in the Kremlin

Main view. Church of St Sergius of Radonezh of 1565 on the Holy Trinity Monastery’s metochion in the Kremlin.

The Church in the name of St Sergius was built on the metochion of the Holy Trinity - St Sergius Monastery. According to the monastery's donation book for 1673, the monastery was founded already during the lifetime of St Sergius, on the territory donated to him by Dmitry Donskoy. The metochion was situated northwards of the Grand Prince’s court, in front of the Kremlin Gates, also called Troitskie (the Holy Trinity Gates).

There is an opinion that the first church, dedicated to St Sergius of Radonezh, was erected shortly after he had been canonized, namely circa 1452. The stone temple with tented roof, the images of which reached our days, dates back to the late 1550s – early 1560s, i.e. almost the same time, when St Basil’s Cathedral was constructed. Some similar features in their architecture prove it. The stone church might have repeated the forms of the wooden predecessor. This is the only ecclesiastical object with a tented roof on the territory of the Kremlin, known to us.

The memorial character of St Basil’s Cathedral allows supposing that the aim of the church in the name of St Sergius was to perpetuate the memory of the saint ascetic of the Russian State. In the 16th century, the construction of tent-shaped churches became widespread in Old Rus.

The preserved iconography does not allow for judging the configuration of the church’s plan with certainty. The first graphical images of Moscow and the Kremlin show a multi-faceted pillar-like construction with a tented roof and cupola with a cross. A belfry, refectory and, supposedly, altar link to the temple. The miniature of the 17th century is the most illustrative in regard to the exterior aspect of the church, however, it does not provide a clear picture of the cubic content of the building. One can interpret it both as an octagon, quadrangle or crosswise in plan. Nevertheless, the rich architectural forms and decorations of the tent-shaped church are pictured thoroughly. The profiled panels, pilasters, figured cornices and belts disarticulate the content of the temple, which walls are topped by arched gables with a heap of corbel arches above them. A high, multi-faceted tent, crowned by a sculptural cupola on a drum and a cross, has figured ribs and coloured tile panels. A low belfry is depicted from the south, and a two-storeyed refectory with a ground floor is adjacent from the west. The temple might have had its ground floor either.

The Church of St Sergius of Radonezh was revered by sovereigns, who visited it on feast days. For this purpose, the passages were constructed to connect the temple to the palace.

Under the rule of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, a side chapel in the name of St Theodore Stratelates, patron saint of Prince Fyodor Alexeevich, was constructed supposedly on the metochion of the n 1661. The bricklayers Ivan Apsin and Emelka Semyonov with friends were its builders.

There is a piece of information, though not enough sound, that, in 1722, the St Sergius Church “...made of stone with a complete mastery, with warm refectory, porch and belfry” was dismantled upon a self-willed decision of the archimandrite of the Holy Trinity Monastery.

After the fire of 1737, the burnt Trinity metochion was reconstructed, and, in March 1738 according to the record, the Church of St Sergius of Radonezh with a side chapel of St Theodore Stratelates was consecrated. The temple might have been built anew, which is proved by the watercolour of the early 1800s. It depicts a three-tier tower-like construction, the high quadrangle of which is crowned with an octahedral or round, elongated in height lantern drum, disarticulated pilasters or semi-columns and a dome. Over the dome, there is the second drum of a smaller size, crowned by a concave baroque tent with a ball and a cross. The walls of the quadrangle with high windows end with semicircular gables with round window apertures. The refectory adjoins the temple from the west. Strongly pronounced baroque features in the architecture of the church allow attributing it to the first half of the 18th century.  

In 1764, Catherine II arranged the secularization of the church lands, as a result of which the Trinity metochion was moved out and the whole territory was annexed to the Kremlin palace. Soon, the metochion buildings became subject to the Senate office and were occupied by the Sudny Prikaz (Court Office). Later, the house of the commandant partially used them.

Starting from the 19th century, the reconstruction of the Moscow Kremlin began on the initiative of the Head of the Palace Office P. S. Valuev. It presumed the de-installation of ancient ramshackle buildings. This action touched upon the part of the former Trinity metochion, on the place of which a new Armoury Chamber was to be erected. In 1807-1808, all the buildings on the territory of the metochion, including the Church of St Sergius of Radonezh, were demolished.