The headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church stands behind white fortress walls. On holy days this place seethes with worshippers murmuring prayers, lighting candles and ladling holy water into jugs at the tiny chapel inside the gates. The Danilov Monastery was built in the late 13th century by Daniil, the first Prince of Moscow, as an outer city defence.
The monastery was repeatedly altered over the next several hundred years, and served as a factory and a detention centre during the Soviet period. It was restored in time to replace Sergiev Posad as the Church’s spiritual and administrative centre, and became the official residence of the Patriarch during the Russian Orthodoxy’s millennium celebrations in 1988.
Enter beneath the pink St Simeon Stylite Gate-Church on the north wall. The oldest and busiest church is the Church of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, where worship is held continuously from 10am to 5pm daily. Founded in the 17th century and rebuilt repeatedly, the church contains several chapels on two floors: the main one upstairs is flanked by side chapels to St Daniil (on the northern side) and Sts Boris and Gleb (south). On the ground level, the small main chapel is dedicated to the Protecting Veil, and the northern one to the prophet Daniil.
The yellow neoclassical Trinity Cathedral, built in the 1830s, is an austere counterpart to the other buildings. West of the cathedral are the patriarchate’s External Affairs Department and, at the far end of the grounds, the Patriarch’s official residence. Against the north wall, to the east of the residence, there’s a 13th-century Armenian carved-stone cross, or khachkar, a gift from the Armenian Church. The church guesthouse, in the southern part of the monastery grounds, has been turned into the elegant Danilovskaya Hotel.