The Dormition Cathedral is the oldest and probably the most significant cathedral of the Kremlin and the city of Moscow. This cathedral locates at the Cathedral Square inside the Kremlin Complex and designed after the Dormition Cathedral in the city of Vladimir which was the capital city of Russia throughout the 12th and 13th centuries.
While the cathedral was constructing in the 14th century, a medieval graveyard was found on its site that suggests the possibility of the existence of a wooden church in the 13th century which replaced by a limestone structure in the mid-14th century. Metropolitan Peter asked Ivan the first to build a cathedral in Moscow just like the one in the city of Vladimir, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The construction of the Dormition Cathedral that Myshkin and Kryvtsov were constructing was at its final stages when an earthquake destroyed the building in 1474.
After some analyses, it turned out that even if the earthquake didn’t destroy the building, it wouldn’t stand much longer than a decade because of the weak foundation and the cheap materials that used to build the structure. Following that event, Ivan the third invited Aristotele Fioravanti, one of the famous Italian architects to build the new cathedral. He received the same command as the previous architects, to construct the cathedral by imitating the one in the capital city Vladimir.
Therefore, Fioravanti took a trip to the capital to observe the Dormition Cathedral's architecture and only then design and build his version of the cathedral in Moscow. He merged the Russian Traditional architecture with the Italian Renaissance architecture to create a masterpiece on the cathedral square inside the Kremlin. He also requested several artists and painters to decorate the interior of the cathedral with icons and frescos, which made it more magnificent. Fioravanti designed the exterior with five domes which are the symbol of Jesus and four Evangelist in Orthodox Church traditions.
Following the coronation ceremony of Ivan the Terrible that was held inside the Dormition cathedral at the end of the 15th century, the cathedral’s status and fame got on a much higher level. After that, all coronation ceremonies of Russian Emperors took place in that cathedral. The patriarchs and metropolitans’ ritual installation were also held in that place as well. The Dormition Cathedral was so essential to people and the Imperial Family that even after the relocation of the capital of Russia from Moscow to St. Petersburg, it didn’t lose any of its values.
Unfortunately, the cathedral went through several natural or artificial disaster throughout its existence. The exterior and interior of the cathedral were got damaged during the serial of fires in Moscow from the 16th to 18th century and went under restorations several times throughout that time. It was also looted and damaged during both invasions of the city, first when Polish army attacked Moscow at the beginning of the 17th century and the second one was when Napoleon attacked Moscow at the beginning of the 19th century. The cathedral also went under complete reconstruction twice in the final years of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
Following the 1917 revolution, the Cathedral of Assumption caught in the line of fire between the Red and White army during the Russian Civil war alongside the other structures in Kremlin including the Annunciation Cathedral, the Terem Palace, the Cathedral of Archangel, and the Kremlin Palace. Following the anti-religious plans of the Soviet Union, all the cathedrals in Moscow including the Dormition Cathedral were closed and transferred. The Dormition Cathedral included in the branches of the Kremlin Museum. All of the cathedral valuable items and treasures were either moved to the Kremlin Museum or sold abroad. The building of the cathedral renewed three times during the Soviet Union era which the last one was in 1987. The cathedral was given back to the Orthodox Church shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
One of the major attractions of this cathedral for the art-loving tourists is the frescos on the walls, pillars, and the ceiling of the cathedral, as well as several famous and old icons and iconostasis which singly might be an immense attraction for tourists and people who cherish the spiritual art. These two facts are the main reason why Dormition Cathedral is the favorite cathedral among other cathedrals inside Kremlin. Though most of the wall-paintings and frescos were painted in the 17th century when several artists were invited to Moscow to work on the interior of the cathedral since the paintings were almost destroyed during the fires and other disasters, there are several icons from the 13th and the 14th centuries inside the cathedral.
One of the most well-known icons of the Orthodox Church had been kept inside the Dormition Cathedral from 1395 to the time when the Soviet Union closed the cathedral. The icon of Our Lady from Vladimir which was rumored to have wonderwork abilities is now held at the Tretyakov Gallery.
Since the Red Square and Kremlin are the major attraction sights of the city of Moscow, we recommend you to check out this cathedral in your tour of Moscow programs while you travel to Russia.