Church of the Intercession in Fili in Naryshkin Baroque

Church of Intercession in Fili (Moscow)

Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Fili (Moscow)

Church of the Intercession in Filyakh is an outstanding monument of Russian architecture, an integrated ensemble including architecture, decorative art and painting. This is one of the most beautiful Moscow churches built at the end of the XVII century, a striking example of the so-called Moscow or “Naryshkin baroque”.


History [ edit ]

The present building of the church (“an octagon on the square”) was erected in 1690-1694 at the expense of L.K. Naryshkin (brother of tsarina Natalia Kirillovna). Earlier the wooden church of the same name was built in 1619, when the village belonged to the Miloslavsky family, to commemorate the victory over the troops of Polish Prince Vladislav and hetman Sagaidachny at the walls of White City.

Some art historians believe the author of the church architect James Bukhvostov, although its stylistic features markedly different from the reliable works Bukhvostov[1], but found a striking similarity with the documented works of architect Peter Potapov[1] – creator of the ensemble of Novodevichy monastery in Moscow and the Church of the Assumption on Pokrovka.

In the very center of Moscow, between Manezhnaya Square and Romanov lane, where the courtyard of Leonid Naryshkin was, stands the Church of the Sign on Sheremetev (Naryshkin) court, very similar to the Church of the Intercession in Fili and certainly created by the same architect – for the same client.

The Church of the Intercession in Fili is a five-tiered central church built in the Naryshkin baroque style. The building of the church with a four-petal plan of the two lower tiers is belted, at the level of the podklet, with an arcade of a gully. Three wide open porches lead to it from three sides. One building combines winter and summer churches and a belltower. The bells hang in the bays of the upper, fifth tier.

Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Fili (Moscow)

On the first floor (podklet) there was a winter (heated) church of the Protection of the Holy Mary, and above it the church of the Savior Not Made by hands, which was named in gratitude for saving L. K. Naryshkin from death during the riot of strelets (he prayed before the icon during the riot). Peter I granted four hundred chervonets for decoration of the temple. In 1703 Peter I after the capture of Narva brought his uncle colored stained glass windows as a gift for his church. The central and western chapters of the temple were decorated with a crown and a two-headed eagle as a sign of closeness of the master to the tsar. According to the legend, tsar Peter I visited this temple more than once.

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Later near the church a regular park was laid out.

The author of the carved decoration of the temple and the iconostasis was Karp Ivanovich Zolotarev. In the face of Archdeacon Stephen, written on the altar gates, some researchers see the features of the young Peter I.

The original interior of the lower church has not been preserved: many things perished during the War of 1812, when Napoleon’s soldiers set up stables there; in the upper floor there was a servant’s hall (regimental tailor’s workshop).

The village Fili was called Pokrovsky after the church. The Zvenigorod highway (now Bolshaya Filiovskaya Street) passed by the church, along which the pilgrims went to Zvenigorod and to the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery.

In July 1941, the church was closed, with the last service held on July 12. At the same time the domes were removed, and the upper octagon was dismantled to prevent German gunners from using the church for pointing guns. In order to camouflage from air raids, the heads and the upper tier were also dismantled, but incendiary bombs still hit it.

Until 1943 the lower church was used as an infirmary, then, until 1963, as a warehouse for paper products. In 1955, began the restoration of the church, which ended in the mid-80s of the XX century.

The restorers E.V. Mikhailovsky and I.V. Ilyenko had a big role in saving the monument.

In 1971 the church was given to the museum of Andrei Rublev. The church was handed over to the Andrei Rublev Museum and a branch of the museum was created in it. The Museum was opened in 1980 for the Olympics.

Since 1990 the community of believers achieved the opening of the church for divine services,[2] the first divine service (a prayer service) in the lower Church of the Intercession, which is not of any particular artistic value, was made on October 14, 1992. In the upper temple, on the pretext of preserving a historical monument, the museum was left. On September 26, 1994 was appointed rector of the parish priest Boris Mikhailov,[2] but regular services have not been resumed.

After many years, including many court disputes, on March 28, 2000, the government issued a decree № 464-r on the joint use of the church[2]; in the lower church regular (on holidays) divine services were resumed.

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Currently, the iconostasis, many icons, and wall paintings date back to the 19th century. The original iconostasis of the lower church has not been preserved; it has been changed three times at different times.

Of the original, the following icons have survived: the temple icon of the “Protection of the Virgin”, the icon of “The Three Joys” and others. The oak altar is one of the oldest preserved altars.

Church of the Intercession of the Theotokos in Fili – luxury and elegance of the Naryshkin baroque

The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin

The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Fili is one of the most beautiful Moscow churches of the end of the XVII century, an Orthodox temple of Moscow city diocese. Built during the reign of Peter the Great, the church is a symbol of Moscow culture, a model of Naryshkin baroque.

The Church of the Intercession in Fili – a diamond in the crown of Russian architecture

The church was founded in 1694 by the boyar Lev Kirillovich Naryshkin, the nephew of Peter the Great, on his estate near Moscow, by the serf architect Yakov Bukhvostov.

History of construction

The foundation of the church is connected with the tragic events of the Streltsy uprising of 1682. At that time in Russia the question of the succession to the throne was being decided: two boyar clans related to two wives of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich were struggling for power. The outcome of the struggle decided whether Ivan, the heir of the first wife Miloslavskaya, or Peter, son of Naryshkina, would reign.

In May 1682 at the instigation of the Miloslavskys, a streltsy uprising broke out against the Naryshkins. An enraged mob of streltsys mauled two elder Naryshkin brothers – Ivan and Athanasius. The younger, 15-year-old Lev Naryshkin, scared to death, hid in the women’s quarters of the imperial palace. Having thrown himself on his knees, he prayed before the image of the Savior Not Made by hands and vowed to build a temple if the Most High would deliver him from death.

Creation of a temple on the high bank of the Moskva River

Lev Naryshkin became a close associate of Peter. A relative and contemporary of the czar, he enjoyed his patronage, and in 1689 the czar gives Lev Kirillovich the estate near Moscow in Fili. Here, on the right high bank of the Moskva River, where the Khvilka or Filka River was running into it, the boyar dismantled the old wooden church and built a stone church, having fulfilled his promise to the image of the Savior.

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The place where the river flows into the river is low and marshy, i.e. hviloy. Hence the name of the fiefdom appeared – Fili. The estate, where Leo Naryshkin erected a stone church, was arranged in the European style.


The boyar moved the peasants away from the estate, and built a palace with a tower topped by a clock in the center. The elegant estate was surrounded by a park with clean ponds and an orchard.

The gem of the estate was the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin, designed to emphasize the power and wealth of its owner, his special merits and the position of a relative of the reigning sovereign, who often came here to visit.

Money for the construction was granted by Tsarina Natalia Kirillovna, the mother of Peter I. She gave the church an embroidered towel with her own hand. Peter gave 400 gold ducats from the treasury for the decoration of the church.

The church shook contemporaries by its elegance and orderliness and aroused a desire to have a similar miracle. The Pokrovsky church in Fili laid the foundation of a new style of Russian architecture, called the Naryshkin baroque.

Church in Filiys – a light lace fairy tale

The church at the Naryshkin estate is a house church for the owners of the estate and their guests. The rich exterior decoration with white-stone lace, charming elegance, tiered structure – evidence of the nobility of the owner and his virtue.

Church Arrangement

The Church of the Intercession in Fili is of two tiers: the lower tier is a heated winter church in honor of the Intercession of the Theotokos, the upper tier contains the main temple in honor of the Savior Not Made by hands. Contrary to canonical tradition, the altars are arranged vertically one above the other, the lower altar does not protrude to the east, as was the custom.

Lower tier

The five-tiered church looks like a pyramid striving upward. Tiers are separated from each other by patterned belts. Through the big windows of each tier a stream of light flows in the building.

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To the main body of the temple four lateral heads oriented on the directions of light are added. The central chapter stands far and rises upwards. The eastern and western chapters are crowned with the two-headed eagles under the crosses and the central chapter is also crowned.

Four side heads are oriented towards the cardinal points

The church is surrounded on both sides by an open gully where wide sprawling stairs lead to. The bell tower and church are combined, the tier of the bell is located above the temple: the bells hang in the aisles of the middle tier. Inside the walls is a staircase leading to the bell tower.

Exterior decoration

The stone church built by Lev Kirillovich appeared new in forms in comparison with usual churches. In the corners of the building the columns supporting eaves above which the graceful carved scallops are established.

The author of the carved decoration is Karl Ivanovich Zolotarev, master of the Armory Chamber, who introduced white stone details into the architecture of the church: spires, scalloped tops of windows and doors.

Bell tower

The white-stone window platbands of unequal shapes with thin columns are complemented by delicate crosses, which shine with golden faceted cupolas, their decorateness increases vertically.

The Church of the Intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God is magnificently decorated with carved white stone. Exquisite white lace looks smartly against the red walls, creating a festive feeling. Even on cloudy days, the airy, intricate slender church in Fili looks solemn and joyful.

“Here everything is easily built and at the same time set in motion, reminiscent of a light lace fairy tale, pure Moscow beauty,” is how the architects characterized the Naryshkin Baroque.


In the interior of the Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin sounds the theme of royal grandeur: the internal arrangement testifies to the mountainous: “The Church is earthly heaven!”

In the center of the iconostasis is a temple icon of the Savior Not Made by hands, in front of which the young Naryshkin prayed for salvation. The boyar honored the image: the icon was covered with a gold riza, decorated with emeralds, diamonds and rubies.

The church is small, and inside – a separate box, nicknamed “royal”: a narrow two-tiered balcony in front of the iconostasis, where the master of the estate and his crowned nephew had to stand during the service. Incidentally, visiting the church at Fili, Peter I never went up to the royal box. The tsar stayed in the choir together with the singers during the divine service and sang with them.

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Inside the church

In the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Fili there are no mural paintings, it was replaced by a 9-tier iconostasis, decorated with a wooden carving and crowned with a crucifix. The Savior and the Mother of God are depicted in royal vestment.

9-tier iconostasis

Above the carved crucifixion is the image of the Life-Giving Trinity surrounded by angelic powers. The carving of the iconostasis, sparkling with gilt, is a symbol of the Garden of Eden, lush and beautiful. The main symbol of Christ, his sufferings and Holy Communion is a vine, surrounded by symbols of paradisiacal abundance: flowers, berries and shells with pearls, carved baskets.

Icons of the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin

To the left of the royal gate is the image of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The lower tier of the iconostasis is dedicated to the house of the Romanovs and the Naryshkins – icons associated with the masters of the house and their august relatives:

  1. The image “Apostles Peter and Paul” is dedicated to the namesake of Peter the Great.
  2. John the Forerunner and Alexis the Man of God” is dedicated to the names of the master’s brother Ivan Naryshkin, who was killed by Streltsy soldiers, and to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.
  3. An icon of the martyrs Adrian and Natalia in honor of Tsarina Natalia Kirillovna.
  4. Images of St. Leo, Bishop of Catania and Great Martyr Paraskeva, dedicated to Leo Naryshkin and his wife Praskovya.

A look back through the years

During the Patriotic War of 1812, Napoleon’s soldiers stabled stables in the Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Cathedral was restored at the expense of generous donations from the parish elder I.P. Gladilin.

The church is decorated with a carved white stone

In 1937, the rector Alex Gladilin was shot, but the church worked, closed it in July 1941, broke the head and dismantled the upper part of the building. During the Great Patriotic War there was an infirmary, and after – a paper warehouse.

Restoration work began in 1952. October 14, 1992 took place the first service, now church of the Intercession of the Theotokos in Fili is a working church.

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