Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda Museum and Reserve
20 Museyny proezd, Aleksandrov, Vladimir Region
Web site: http://kreml-aleksandrov.ru/
These walls hold memories of secrets from the time of Ivan the TerribleThe Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda Museum and Reserve is located in the territory of the Aleksandrovsky Kremlin – the oldest country residence of Moscow’s sovereigns. The best Russian and Italian masters constructed here a grandiose palace and temple ensemble, no less beautiful or grandiose than the Moscow Kremlin, where the country’s history was forged over two centuries. Today, visitors can visit the exhibits located in the white-stone interiors and marvel at the unsurpassed architecture.
The Museum has 19 permanent exhibits and exhibitions located within its historical interiors. In the royal chambers of the 16th-century Pokrovskaya Church, on the site of the great Throne Hall of Ivan the Terrible, lies the exhibition “The Sovereign’s Court in the Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda”, which covers the history of the Aleksandrovsky Kremlin as the center of the formation of Russian statehood. Visitors can learn about royal wedding ceremonies at the exhibition “The Barn Bed”. In the small palace chambers, there are expositions titled “Dining Room from the 16th century” and “Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible in Paintings”. The exhibition “Medieval Cellars of the 16th century” includes a gloomy dungeon, wax figures, and medieval instruments of torture. The viewing platform of the Crucifixion Bell Tower offers a beautiful panorama of the palace and temple ensemble. This complex was created by Italian architects and the best Russian craftsmen, who also built the Moscow Kremlin. It is considered the rarest monument of medieval palace architecture and includes three majestic cathedrals – the Trinity, Intercession and Dormition Cathedrals – along with the territory of the Sovereign’s court with its former gardens and a preserved earthen rampart.
In 1513, by order of Tsar Basil III, a magnificent palace was built on this site. It became the regular residence of the sovereign, his family and court. But Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda played a special role in the history of the country under Ivan the Terrible, when it became the de facto capital of Russia. It was here that the oprichnina was established, and from here that the campaign to free Novgorod was launched. The Aleksandrovsky Kremlin hosted the embassies of the European states, and the most important political and trade agreements were signed here. By order of Ivan the Terrible, the Sloboda became the largest cultural center in Russia, where the best architects, icon painters, and musicians lived and worked. A book-writing workshop was established at the Sovereign’s court, as was the first Russian conservatory and the first provincial printing house. Many events in the personal life of Ivan IV took place within these walls, such as the royal bride shows, weddings, and even the drama that led to the death of his son, Ivan. During the Time of Troubles, a fortified camp of Russian troops under the command of Skopin-Shuisky was situated here. During the Polish intervention, the palace ensemble was significantly damaged. Over time, the settlement lost its former greatness and became an ordinary palace village. In the mid 17th century, the Maiden Monastery of the Dormition was founded on this historical site. The buildings from the 16th century became the core of the new monastery complex. Some of the unique structures were dismantled and rebuilt for the needs of the monastery. The monastery has also witnessed many historical events. During the Streltsy riot in Moscow in 1689, Peter Alekseyevich, waiting out the stormy events in the capital, took refuge within the walls of the monastery. Soon after the suppression of the rebellion, the Tsar dealt with his political opponents in brutal fashion. On his orders, chambers were added to the Crucifixion Bell Tower Church, where he imprisoned his half-sister Marfa. She lived in the monastery as a prisoner for almost 10 years. From the 18th century, Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda remained the patrimonial palace of House Romanov. In 1778, with the formation of the Vladimir province, the Sloboda was transformed into the city of Aleksandrov.
The term “oprichnina” referred to the allotment of the Grand Dukes’ widows, which they could dispose of at their discretion. Aleksandrov’s Sloboda was the oprichnina of Ivan the Terrible’s mother, Elena Glinskaya. Ivan the Terrible was married twice following bride shows in Sloboda. Marfa Sobakina died two weeks after the wedding under mysterious circumstances. Anna Vasilchikova was tonsured in the Suzdal Pokrovsky Monastery. During the Soviet era, the Monastery of the Dormition was closed, and the territory of the former royal residence was called the village of Zarya. The temples housed museum exhibits, and people started to live in the cells and outbuildings. Inside the monastery walls, they planted vegetable gardens and even kept a pigsty. Under the Trinity Church, for a long time, there was a vegetable store, and cows were milked inside the Candlemas Church.