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Cathedral of the Archangel


The Cathedral of the Archangel Mikhail, in the Moscow Kremlin, served as the mausoleum of the Muscovite grand princes and tsars until the end of the seventeenth century. The present building (built 15051509) was commissioned by Tsar Ivan III (reigned 14621505) to replace a fourteenth-century church. The architect was Alvise Lamberti de Montagnano, an Italian sculptor from Venice, known in Russia as Alevizo the New. His design combined a traditional Russian Orthodox five-domed structure with Renaissance decorative features such as pilasters with Corinthian capitals and scallop-shell motifs, which influenced later Russian architects. The cathedral contains the tombs of most of the Muscovite grand princes and tsars from Ivan I (reigned 13251341) to Ivan V (reigned 16821696), forty-six in all. In addition, shrines contain the relics of St. Dmitry (son of Ivan IV, died 1591) and St. Mikhail of Chernigov (d. 1246). Ivan IV (r. 15331584) is buried behind the iconostasis. The present bronze casings were added to the seventeenth-century sarcophagi in 1906. The frescoes on walls, ceilings, and pillars, mainly dating from the mid-seventeenth century, include iconic images of Russian princes and tsars and relate the military exploits of the warrior Archangel Mikhail, keeper of the gates of heaven. His icon was commissioned to celebrate the Russian victory at Kulikovo Pole in 1380. The cycle celebrates Moscow's rulers as successors to the kings of Israel, as God's representatives fighting evil on earth, and as patrons of Russia's ruling dynasty in heaven.

From the 1720s onward, Peter I's Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg became the new imperial mausoleum. Of the later Romanovs, only Peter II (r. 17271730) was buried in the Cathedral of the Archangel. However, the imperial family continued to pay their respects at their ancestors' tombs after coronations and on other major state occasions.

See also: architecture; cathedral of st. basil; cathedral of the dormition; kremlin.


Brumfield, William. (1993). A History of Russian Architecture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lindsey Hughes

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