Novodevichy Resurrection Convent

Novodevichy Resurrection Convent (Voskresénskij Novodévičij monastery) in St. Petersburg is an Orthodox nunnery of St. Petersburg Diocese of the Russian church.

In the 1840s an important event took place in the life of the capital eparchy. This was the renewal of the Novodevichy Resurrection Convent, situated not far from the Moscow Gate. Originally an attempt was made to found it on Vasilyevsky Island near the Church of the Annunciation, but the plot by the Tsarskoye Selo road was larger and more suitable for rasing convent buildings which prompted the Church authorities and the builders to choose it. Foundation of this convent and restoration of the Resurrection Smolny Convent were a son of tribute of Nicholas I to the memory of his mother, Empress Maria, who had contributed a lot to charity activities and education, especially' women’s education. This activity was continued by the daughter of Nicolas I, Grand Duchess Olga, the future queen of Wurttemberg.

Grand Duchess Olga

The Grand Duchess, after her mar­riage, moved to the native land of her honored grandmother. In 1843, Olga founded a school for girls of noble birth, which, despite its old name, accepted representatives of the petty bourgeois and other classes as well. Like the students at the school of this name of Ca­therine’s time, they studied Catechism, geo­graphy, mathematics, Russian, French and German, drawing and other subjects. The Grand Duchess helped her father to organize the new Resurrection Convent. As there had not been a convent in the capital before, many women wishing to take the veil, had had to leave their native place and enter convents in other towns. Olga who was a gifted painter, planned to open a center of Church art at the convent. It was thanks to Olga, that some nuns who were good icon-painters, were transferred from the Goritsy Convent here. Among them was Mother Theophania who had exceptional artis­tic gifts and rare spiritual virtues. After the tragic death of her husband, General Gotovtsev, she had become a nun and had entered the Goritsy Convent just a few years before. In the Go­ritsy Convent she had perfected her art and had painted many icons, which decorated many cells and churches of the convent. As a result of the common work on the organiza­tion of a convent in the capital the daughter of the Emperor and the future abbess became close friends. The funds for the construction were allocated by the Cabinet, but the larger part came from the donors — the family of merchants Vasily and Praskovya Gromov and the contractor, M. Konopov, who conducted the work on credit and did much at his own expense. The nuns also earned money paint­ing icons and embroidering in gold and selling their works. Many of them gave their herit­ages to the convent. 

In 1848 construction of its main buildings designed by N. Efimov began on the territory set aside for the convent. The architect arranged them with their central facades facing Tsarkoye Selo Highway. The five dome Resurrec­tion Cathedral was set in the center of an extensive two-storey building raised on a high base, with two home churches situated at both ends of it. Later on other structures were built between these churches and the churchyard. A small church dedicated to the Athos icon of the Mother of God, and the nuns cells were to be found in the main building to the right of the cathedral. In this wing there was also a hall where choir nuns were taught singing, a church hall where the Book of Psalms was read day and night, next to it a sacristy and a library were lo­cated. The second floor was occupied by differ­ent workshops: those of icon-painting, chasing, gilding and gold embroidery. Other workshops like those of canvas and slab putting, wreath and artificial flowers making, a small kitchen, a prosphora-bakery and small baths were in the basement. Next to them were premises for cooks and others. The second floor of the build­ing’s left wing comprised a smaller Church of Sts. Basil the Great, John the Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian, a hospital, a phar­macy, two sewing workshops for sewing nuns’ clothes and cells for nuns working at a hospital.

The first floor was occupied by a refectory equipped with a table with a lifting gear. The table was laid in the basement and then lifted to the upper apartments, where the hospital was, which should be very clean and so didn’t have household services. 

The Resurrection Cathedral

The Resurrection Cathedral had five altars, which made it one of the most important churches in the capital. The Dormition altar was in the right side-chapel, and the Archangel Michael altar in the left one. In the right part of the gallery there was the All Saints altar and in the left one the St. Nicholas altar. In the Dormition side-chapel they kept the greatly venerated Smolensk icon of the Mother of God the Hodegetria, painted by Abbess Theophania. After Theophania’s death the nuns made a gilded silver mount for the icon, which had a memorial inscription on a silver tablet: “This mount was made in 1866 by the nuns of the convent to commemorate its foundress Abbess Theophania who had painted the icon herself while still at the Goritsy Convent in the year of1824."  An inextinguishable icon lamp glimmered in front of the icon for a long lime.

The Church of the Athos (Vatopedi) Icon of the Mother of God 

The Church of the Athos (Vatopedi) Icon of the Mother of God (“Joy and Consolation") was dedicated to the highly revered icon on sent to the convent by hieromonk Seraphim from the St. Panteleimon Monastery in Athos as a  blessing for the convent's foundation. The hospital church named after Sts Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John the Chrysostom was founded owing to a generous offering of peasant Vasily Chizhov, who gave the convent 10 thousand roubles. The money assigned by the widow of colonel Andrei Karamzin, the son of a famous historian and the commander of the Alexander Hussar Regiment killed at Kalaphan were used for equipping the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “The Joy of All Who Sorrow.” She also paid all the expenses when the convent Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was enlarged. Karamzin’s grave had been in the basement of that church until a special vault was built for it m the neighboring cemetery. Another church, that of St. Elias, was put up in the Byzantine style according to the will made by merchant Iromov, it had five domes and was to be found in the convent’s churchyard.

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