Church of St. John the Baptist | 1531-1534

The Church of St. John the Baptist with a side-chapel dedicated to St. Kirill Belozersky was the main church of the Small Ivanovsky (Ivan’s) monastery. It was built in 1531-1534 with the donation of the Grand Prince Basil III. Dedication of the altars to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Ivan the Terrible, and to St. Kirill connected the construction of this edifice with the following fact: in 1528 Basil III visited the monastery to pray for the birth of an heir, and in 1530 his son, Ivan IV, was born. This church was erected almost simultaneously with the church of Archangel Gabriel. Most probably both of them were built by one group of stonemasons, supposedly from Rostov.

The initial look of this monument and its building history can be reconstructed with the help of written sources (first of all, the monastery inventories of the 17th-18th centuries) and iconographic material. The inventory of 1601 mentions a church with two domes and a belfry on six piers. The inventory of 1668 says that the crosses and cupolas are soldered with iron and covered with boards. Two wooden porches adjoin the church from the western and southern facades. In the icon of 1741 the church is depicted with two domes, and a roof with four sloping surfaces covered with wood. The inventory of 1773 mentions wooden porches of the southern and northern doors and a stone one of the western door; buttresses supporting the south-eastern and south-western corners of the church roof; two domes with wooden crosses soldered with tin. The inventory of 1773 describes the decay of the monument - dilapidated roof and window openings, cracks in the walls and foundation. This document shows that the windows openings in the western and southern walls have already been made by that time.

Grave conditions of the monument forced the church authorities to undertake considerable repair works which were finished in 1809. The drum of the small dome above the side-chapel and upper rows of ogee-arches were destroyed, lower parts of the windows in the central drum were bricked in and the top of the church acquired its existing look. It was shown on a water-colour from the album of 1809 made by N.M. Borozdin. Engineering works were probably carried out as well – all cracks were filled in, buttresses were strengthened.

Few things are know from the posterior history of the church. In the mid 19th century lower parts of the southern and northern doorways were bricked in and turned into windows, interior walls were plastered and painted with iron-grey oil-paint. In the opinion of N. Nikolskiy, that iconostasis which we can see in the church now was moved from the church of St. Kirill instead of the old one. The stone wall separating the sanctuary from the nave of the church and the elevated place shown on the draft of M. Prave (1830) were probably destroyed as well as the later porches. The facades were painted in red and all details – whitewashed.

This church belongs to the functional monastery now.

Restoration works of this monument have not actually been carried out. Field observation made by S.S. Podiapolskiy helped to work out graphical reconstruction of the church and, first of all, the top of it which didn’t survive.

The interior was whitewashed; the cross which had fallen in 1978 was returned on the dome; minimal necessary works were made for the museumfication of the monument. The restoration project which was worked out by S.S. Podiapolskiy and N.V. Kamenev considered it desirable to discover original architectural forms of the monument in future. The All-Russian scientific and research institute for restoration started to restore the iconostasis of the church of St. John the Baptist (led by O.V. Lelekova).

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