Varvarka Street in Moscow

Varvarka is one of the oldest streets in Moscow. If you are going to spend just a few days in the Russian capital, then you definitely need to walk along this street. 

Varvarka Street is located in Kitay-gorod and embraces many historical aspects. It is a part of the trading quarter near the Kremlin which is surrounded by the Kitay-gorod defensive wall. Varvarka Street is rich in cathedrals that were visited by the Russian tsars on their way from the Kremlin. This street welcomed the victorious army and became the battlefield in several wars.

Varvarka Street

Varvarka Street 

Where does Varvarka Street begin?

Varvarka Street begins right behind the Pokrovsky Cathedral situated on Red Square near the Spasskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin which is better known as Saint Basil’s Cathedral.

Pokrovsky Cathedral

The Pokrovsky Cathedral 

Varvarka Street is quite short and can be walked through in ten minutes. Or more precisely, it could have been walked through. The sites located on Varvarka Street deserve special attention and can be beheld for hours.

The building of Kitay-gorod and Varvarka Street

In 1493, trades people caused several fires and it was decided to banish them from the Moscow Kremlin. Merchants and craftsmen settled outside the Kremlin wall and built their rows of shopping stalls on the territory of Red Square and Kitay-gorod.

The name “Kitay-gorod” derives from a dialect form of the word “wall”. Merchants and craftsmen were not trading in an open field, they were protected by the defensive walls that were smaller than the ones of the Moscow Kremlin.

Near the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin a street begins which leads to Vladimir and divides Kitay-gorod into two parts.

Perhaps, it was the place where people brewed (“varili” in Russian) mead (traditional alcoholic beverage made of honey). Another suggestion is that the street was named after Saint Barbara whose wooden church had been built at the head of the street many years ago (nowadays it is the stone cathedral).

Apollinary Vasnetsov. The market near the Kremlin

Apollinary Vasnetsov. The market near the Kremlin (1930)

The right side of Varvarka Street

When travelers finally entered the Russian capital, Kitay-gorod was the first thing they saw. There they could pray for a successful end of their journey in one of the churches located on Varvarka Street.

Those who were about to leave Moscow and set off on a journey to some distant lands asked for Saints’ protection.

Varvarka Street runs along the top of the hill above the Moscow River. Some churches and buildings located on its right side are one level lower than Varvarka Street itself.

The first building is the Church of the Martyr Barbara belonging to classic style (1804). According to some sources, there had been a similar wooden church for at least three centuries.

The second building is the Church of Maxim the Blessed (1699). Later the church got its bell tower (1829). In the 19th century, bell towers were usually attached to ancient churches so that they would be seen in urban areas.

Down the street you can find the so-called Old English Court. Ivan the Terrible invited the English trading company to Russia and the Englishmen built their residence in Moscow. For almost a century they had monopoly in selling certain goods.

While walking further on Varvarka Street you will see several buildings which form the architectural ensemble of the Znamensky Monastery (since 1631). In the past some of these buildings belonged to the Romanov boyars who then became the monarch dynasty and had been ruling Russia for three centuries. Thus, this place is often called the Old Tsar’s Court in contrast to the New Tsar’s Court situated in the Moscow Kremlin.

There you will also see the Chambers of the Romanov boyars (since the 16th century). It is believed that the first Romanov tsar spent there his early years.

Then you will come across the beautiful Church of Saint George on Pskov Hill (1626). A bell tower was built-on near the church later (we have already mentioned this tradition).

The territory behind these buildings up to the Moscow River had been known as the old city district Zaryadye. In the Soviet times all the historical buildings were destroyed and the hotel “Russia” was constructed there. Nowadays there is no hotel and the territory is being transformed into a new park. However, the building process is going very slow because workers often find ancient artifacts and ask archeologists and historians for consultation.

 

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