Church of Beheading of St. John the Baptist

1560s - 1570s

Church of Beheading of St. John the Baptist


The Church of Beheading of St. John the Baptist at Dyakovo (historically, a village neighboring Kolomenskoe) stands on the right cusp of the Golosov Ravine, on a high terrace over the Moskva River floodplain. It was erected at the site where Moscow Grand Duke Vasily III learned about the conception of his son, Tsar-to-be Ivan IV the Terrible, and was intended for the monarch and his court. In the XVI century, the royal residence was also situated on this upland.

The church architects are supposed to be Barma and Postnik, the masters who created St. Basil’s Cathedral in the Red Square in Moscow as the planning and other architectural features of both churches are alike. 

The church consists of five pillar-shaped volumes symmetrically arranged and each having a separate entrance and an altar. The central ‘pillar’, dedicated to the beheading of St. John the Baptist, is twice as large as the rest ones and is highlighted in the east with an altar apse. The other four ‘pillars’, that actually are side chapels, are connected to one another with galleries and by one facet each adjoin the central tower. The ‘pillar’ tiers are decorated with sunk panels while rows of semicircular and triangular corbel arches (in the Russian architecture a.k.a. ‘kokoshniks’, as they look like a well-known married women’s national headdress) strive upwards to the helm-shaped domes. Thanks to the uniting function of the galleries and the integral décor style the many-tiered church looks like a powerful centrally planned monolith.

In 1923, the church was closed by the Soviet government and handed over to the Museum Department of the Chief Bureau for Science and Culture. For a short while, the restoration of the church was taken on by our museum’s first director Peter Baranovsky, but then the monument was abandoned at great length. It is only in 1992 that the church was re-consecrated and services resumed. At the same time the side chapel of the Conception of the Virgin Mary by Righteous Anne was consecrated. 

Nowadays, the church services are regular.

Did you know that...

  • Tradition has it that Tsar Ivan the Terrible liked to come to the church on his name day.
  • As art historians suppose, this church may be the first in Russian architecture to have pillar structure and several side chapels.

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