The Novodevichy (or New Maiden) Convent is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Russia. Founded by Tsar Vasily III in 1524, the Convent marked winning the city of Smolensk back from the Lithuanians in 1514. The new convent was consecrated in honor of the Mother of God Hodigidria which according to a legend was painted by St. Luke himself.
The Novodevichy Convent is reminiscent of the Moscow Kremlin in many respects. It is surrounded by fortified walls and the stately 5-domed Smolensky Cathedral built on its territory in 1525 looks much like the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin. During the reign of Boris Godunov the walls of the Cathedral were decorated with frescoes depicting major historic moments in the struggle for unification of Russia. In late 17th century a solid-gold multi-tiered iconostasis appeared which is believed to be the finest decorative work of the period in Russia.
The Convent served as a retirement home for the women of the royal and noble families. The "retirement" was either voluntary or forced, and having taken the veil the women stayed at the Convent for the rest of their lives. Perhaps the most famous dwellers of the Novodevichy Convent were Tsarina Godunova, widow of Tsar Fedor; Peter the Great's older sister Sophia and his first wife Evdokia.
The Novodevichy Convent went through tumultuous times during its history. The Convent was captured by the Polish and Swedish troops during the Times of Trouble in 1612, and was soon liberated by the militia army led by Minin and Prince Pozharsky whose monument decorate the Red Square. During their retreat from Moscow, the Napoleon army tried to burn the Convent but the nuns managed to extinguish the fire.
After the Revolution of 1917, the Convent was closed and the nuns evicted to make room for the Museum of Women's Emancipation. The Convent was later reopened as a museum and became the official residence of Metropolitan Kruitsky and Kolomensky of the Orthodox Church. The complex of Novodevichy Convent is now open for visitors.