Lantern detail at Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Archangel Cathedral


The Archangel Cathedral at the southeastern corner of Sobornaya pl was for centuries the coronation, wedding and burial church of tsars. It was built by Ivan Kalita in 1333 to commemorate the end of the great famine, and dedicated to Archangel Michael, guardian of the Moscow princes. It contains the tombs of almost all of Muscovy's rulers from the 14th to the 17th century.

By the early 16th century the Archangel Cathedral fell into disrepair and was rebuilt between 1505 and 1508 by the Italian architect Alevisio Novi. Like the nearby Assumption Cathedral, it has five domes and is essentially Byzantine-Russian in style. However, the exterior has many Venetian Renaissance features, notably the distinctive scallop-shell gables and porticoes.

The tombs of all Muscovy's rulers from the 1320s to the 1690s are here. The only absentee is Boris Godunov, whose body was taken out of the grave on the order of a False Dmitry and buried at Sergiev Posad in 1606. The bodies are buried underground, beneath the 17th-century sarcophagi and 19th-century copper covers. Tsarevich Dmitry, a son of Ivan the Terrible who died mysteriously in 1591, lies beneath a painted stone canopy.

It was Dmitry's death that sparked the appearance of a string of impersonators, known as False Dmitrys, during the Time of Troubles. Ivan's own tomb is out of sight behind the iconostasis, along with those of his other sons: Ivan (whom he killed) and Fyodor (who succeeded him). From Peter the Great onwards, emperors and empresses were buried in St Petersburg; the exception was Peter II, who died in Moscow in 1730 and is here.

The 17th-century murals were uncovered during restorations in the 1950s. The south wall depicts many of those buried here; on the pillars are some of their predecessors, including Andrei Bogolyubsky, Prince Daniil and his father, Alexander Nevsky.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Moscow attractions

1. Annunciation Cathedral

0.04 MILES

The Annunciation Cathedral, at the southwest corner of Sobornaya pl, contains impressive murals in the gallery and an archaeology exhibit in the basement…

2. Tsar Bell

0.04 MILES

Beside (not inside) the Ivan the Great Bell Tower stands the world’s biggest bell, a 202-tonne monster that has never rung. Bas-reliefs of Empress Anna…

3. Hall of Facets

0.05 MILES

Named for its Italian Renaissance stone facing, the Hall of Facets was designed and built by Marco Ruffo and Pietro Solario between 1487 and 1491, during…

4. Ivan the Great Bell Tower

0.05 MILES

With its two golden domes rising above the eastern side of Sobornaya pl, the Ivan the Great Bell Tower is the Kremlin's tallest structure – a landmark…

5. Assumption Cathedral

0.06 MILES

On the northern side of Sobornaya pl, with five golden helmet domes and four semicircular gables, the Assumption Cathedral is the focal church of pre…

6. Church of the Deposition of the Robe

0.06 MILES

This delicate single-domed church was built between 1484 and 1486 in exclusively Russian style. It was the private chapel of the heads of the Church, who…

7. Great Kremlin Palace

0.08 MILES

The 700-room Great Kremlin Palace, built as an imperial residence between 1838 and 1849, is now an official residence of the Russian president, used for…

8. Patriarch’s Palace

0.08 MILES

Built for Patriarch Nikon mostly in the mid-17th century, the highlight of the Patriarch’s Palace is perhaps the ceremonial Cross Hall (Крестовая палата),…