Religious Places

Church of Archangel Gabriel

The Clean Ponds area’s jewel is the masterpiece of Russian architecture – the Church of the Archangel Gabriel built in the 18th century by the favorite of Peter I Prince Alexander Danilovich Menshikov. That’s why it was later called Menshikov Tower. The indeed looks like a tower. The history of this monument dates back to the 17th century, when the Church of Archangel Gabriel was erected. In 1704 Prince Alexander Menshikov was a parishioner of the church. Having returned from a trip, he brought an ancient icon of Our Lady from Polotsk. According to the legend, the icon was painted by Luke the Evangelist. The Prince wished to build a new church on the site of the old one with a tower that would exceed the height of the bell tower of Ivan the Great for the icon. The construction works began in 1704 and three years later the 6-level tower was ready. It was built in Baroque style and adorned with a gilded figure of an angel on 30-meter spire. Its height was more than 80 meters, 3 meters higher than bell tower of Ivan the Great. It was a light, lacy, airy structure the likes of which Moscow had not yet seen. The needle-like spire was used for the first time in Russian architecture. The Muscovites liked the tower a lot. “The Sukharev Tower is the bride of Ivan the Great and Menshikov’s is her sister”, – they used to say. The residents of the capital were proud of the three Moscow giants. The tower was crowned with a tall spire with a weather vane in the form of a soaring angel holding a cross on top of it. The three upper levels were open-ended to show 50 bells in them. On the upper level of the temple the chiming clock, made in England, was installed. The tower was embellished with an unprecedented abundance of stone sculptures. The garlands of flowers and fruits, vases, and cornices adorned the tower and gave her lightness. However, the tower did not last in its original form for long. In the summer of 1723 during the thunderstorm the fire started and burned down the wooden floors making all 50 fall down destroying almost the entire the interior. The building remained like that for over fifty years. The people forgot that it had been a church and called the dilapidated building simply: Menshikov tower. Only in 1773-1787 the Church of the Archangel Gabriel has been restored. They did not restore its burned-out upper level. Instead, the dome looking like a golden spruce cone was installed to crown the tower. It significantly decreased the height of it. In the 1920s the Church of the Archangel Gabriel was closed. After World War II it was reconstructed. At present, the existing church houses the Patriarchate of Antioch. The Church of the Archangel Gabriel is one of the most original works of Russian architecture of the beginning of the 18th century.

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