The Church of the Ascension was built by Prince Vasili III in 1532 to commemorate the birth of the Prince. Apparently, this prince was to become the Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible. The church was consecrated with a lot of pomp and color with the Grand Prince Vasili, Grand Princess Yelena and Tsars Tsarevich Ioann who was the brother to the tsar. The consecration was officiated by the Bishops of Kolomenskoye and Zaraisk with the whole of Synod in attendance.
The church occupies a pedestal spot in the Russian architecture in that it is one of the earliest tent roofed churches in Russia. It would serve as a reference point for subsequent similar architectural designs.
The church is located in the Kolomenskoye Estate. It got its first documentary evidence in 1339 when it was still under the ownership of Ivan Kalita, the Grand Prince of Moscow. The church was so strategically positioned such that by 16th century, it had become a stronghold. The palace complex seen here was added much later in the 17th century. The palace would continue serving as an imperial residence until the Revolution in 1917.
The church’s ground plan is imported from the Greek equal-armed cross that features small protrusions on the facades on either side. Notable is the absence of an apse unlike other churches from the time. It is constructed upon a high basement, giving it a majestic look. Take note of the open gallery that surrounds the staircase.
The church’s interior is small due to the thick walls that measure 3 to 4 meters thick. However, the fact that it has an opening on the roof (41 meters above) makes the inside so refreshing. On the exterior, it is decorated with repeat pilasters as well as some variations. About 8 arches arise from the pilasters. The arches support an octagonal drum that allows for smooth transition to the tented roof.
A small brick that is said to have come from Italy was used to build the church. It was introduced here by the Italian architects at the waning years of the 15th century. The carved details of white limestone from the Moscow suburb of Myachkovo are still visible on the church’s exterior walls.
Trust me; there is no better way to see Russian religious edifices than visiting a church where the Ivan the Terrible birth was celebrated by everybody that mattered in the Russian society then.
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