Rublev's attainments were all associated with the Moscow region. Art, architecture and liturgy combined at their most impressive in the Moscow Kremlin, where local cults gave way to a national expression of the supreme role of Moscow's princes, supported by the hierarchs of the church. The Muscovite church and state presented themselves as defenders of Orthodoxy not only in Russia but also throughout the Orthodox world, an aspiration which historians often distil into the shorthand expression 'Moscow the Third Rome'. In 1480 Ivan III (1462-1505) formally renounced the payment of tribute to the Mongols. His adoption of the Byzantine (and Habsburg) double-headed eagle, his marriage to the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, and the sporadic addition of the title 'Tsar' (Caesar) to his other titles indicated imperial aspirations that also found visual expression in the reconstruction and refurbishment of the Kremlin towards the end of the fifteenth century. These were not simply 'prestige' projects for outward show. The Kremlin cathedrals lay at Moscow's sacred epicentre and its buildings and their contents formed a sacred landscape. The familiar cycle of the liturgical year was celebrated there with particular pomp and ceremony, reaching a height of splendour during Easter week, with the tsar, his male relatives, the boyars and church hierarchs in attendance. There were also special services to mark national victories and dynastic rites of passage: name days, baptisms and weddings (usually held in the Annunciation cathedral), coronations and funerals (later held in the Dormition and Archangel cathedrals respectively). In addition, the tsar's residence contained private chapels, including those for the use of wives and daughters, the tsaritsy and tsarevny, who were major commissioners of cult objects. The Kremlin icons were painted by the best masters or collected from elsewhere for their miraculous properties or special associations.

In 1475 Ivan III invited the Italian architect Aristotile Fioravanti to build a new Dormition cathedral after a replacement erected by Russian masters collapsed. Fioravanti was instructed to take the thirteenth-century Dormition cathedral in Vladimir as his model, not, as modern historians sometimes anachronistically assume, to ensure that the new church was 'national' in spirit or to avoid 'heretical' Catholic motifs, but to adhere to a mystical, miraculous tradition allegedly initiated by the Mother of God herself.65 Completed in 1479, the five-domed cathedral combined Russo-Byzantine forms with Renaissance

64 See N. Abramowa et al. (eds.), Der Kreml: Gottesruhm und Zarenpracht (Munich: Hirmer, 2004).

65 S. Eliseev 'Rozhdenie sobora', Vstrechi s istoriei 2 (Moscow, 1988), 90.

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