26th Anniversary of the Church of the Ascension inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage List

On 17 December 2020 the Moscow State Integrated Museum-Reserve celebrates the 26th anniversary of the Church of the Ascension inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage List. This important UNESCO document includes 30 architectural and natural sites within the Russian Federation, notably such unique places as Solovetsky Islands historical and cultural complex, Lake Baikal, Moscow Kremlin and Red Square as well as Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius architectural ensemble.

The Church of the Ascension at Kolomenskoye has been officially regarded as a world architectural masterpiece since 1994, being one of the first (№7) Russian sites that were granted such high status with UNESCO.

The church construction in 1532 was an incarnate prayer of ageing Grand Duke of Moscow Vasily III and his young spouse Yelena Glinskaya for an heir to the throne. The ancient Kolomenskoye village was a frequent point of the Grand Duke’s pilgrimages. The church built here by an Italian architect Pietro Annibale to celebrate the birth of the Russian Tsar-to-be Ivan the Terrible became the first Russian example of stone tent-roof architecture.

The Church of the Ascension architecture presents a unique intertwining of world schools and styles and a masterful combination of different nations’ and peoples’ artistic traditions. Besides, this site is unique thanks to its unusual architectural and engineering conception that speaks of the architect’s great skills. 62 metres high, the church remained the highest building in Russia up to the end of the XVII century. For centuries it has been the architectural dominant of all the former royal residence ensembles of Kolomenskoye, now Kolomenskoye Museum-Reserve complex. We should note that unlike other UNESCO sites, the Church of the Ascension ground floor is available for the visitors all the year round.

It is on the church ground floor that a miraculous icon of the Mother of God receiving the name of Our Lady of the Sovereign was discovered on 2 (N.S. 15) March 1917. The discovery took place on the day when Emperor Nicholas II signed an instrument of abdication for himself and his son Cesarevich Alexis. For many Christian believers the coincidence of the two events meant that the Mother of God took under Her protection the nation deprived of its monarch.

Today, the church ground floor houses the ‘Church of the Ascension Secrecy’ exhibition. Tours around the exhibition as well as audio guides in Russian, English and French are available for the visitors. A newly published ‘Church of the Ascension – a World Architecture Masterpiece’ booklet (author Leonid Belyaev) available at the museum information points at Kolomenskoye also tells about this site’s history.

For a quarter of a century the museum has been closely working with UNESCO. The unique world heritage site gives a particular status to the entire museum.