The Ipatievsky Monastery was founded almost seven centuries ago. Its location at the confluence of the Kostroma and the Volga rivers on the eastern borders of the ancient Russia and the protection it received from the Godunovs, big Kostroma landowners, and later the Romanov, were the two decisive factors in its origins.

The genealogy of the Godunovs and 16th-century legends ascribe the foundation of the monastery to the Tatar murza (chieftain) Chet who was believe to accept Christian faith (c.1330) under the name of Zakhari and enter service oa Moscow's Grand Duke Ivan Kalita. Academician S.B.Veselovsky, after examining numerous written sources and sifting facts from legend, established that the monastery was founded in the 13th century. Veselovsky's findings were based on events that took place in the history of the town of Kostroma. In the 13th century it was ruled by Vasily Yaroslavich, the brother of Alexander Nevsky. After acceding to the throne of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir in 1272, he remained in Kostroma till the end of his days (1276). Local legends mention the Duke's victory over a Tatar detachment, the foundation of the Monastery of the Saviour in Zaprudnya on the other side of the Kostroma River and the bolding of churches by him in the Kostroma area.

The Ipatievsky Monastery, located on an important trade rout, was an impregnable fortress. Initially, the monastery had sturdy oaken walls, but nothing has survived of its early structures. And only a fairly eloquent picture of the monastery's history may be had from the monuments architecture, literature and art of the second half of the 16th century.

The layout of its grounds reflects the two principal stages in the development of the Ipatievsky Monastery : the building of an architectural ensemble, later known as the Old Town, by the Godunovs in the 1560-1605 and the New Town in the mid-17th century. The Godunovs also constructed stone cathedrals - the summer Cathedral of the Trinity and the winter (heated) Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin - the belfry, the prior's residence, the monks' cells and other domestic buildings as well as the monastery's impregnable walls with towers protecting it. The churches and cathedrals of that period had not survived, many other buildings were rebuilt and the walls and towers around the monastery was made taller. Today, some of the buildings dating from the Godunov period a being restored to their original appearance.

The structure of that period have sparsely decorated walls, small windows vaulted ceilings. They all have that wonderfully unique look of early Russia architecture. The monastery's belfry in the form of a multi-arched arcade in one of the most remarkable examples of ancient Russia's architecture.

The monastery's prosperity was largely based on the lavish donations by the Godunovs in the form of land, villages and money. The Ipatievsky Monastery became the owner of a priceless collection of icons, plate, embroidery and manuscripts, richly decorated with miniatures, thanks to the gracious patronage of Boris Godunov's uncle D.I. Godunov. Many valuable manuscripts and chronicles have been preserved intact in the monastery's library including one of the most ancient chronicles - the Ipatievsky Chronicle - which is kept in the Library of the Russia Academy of Sciences.

During the Polish-Swedish intervention in the early 17th century a detachment of Polish soldiers, driven out of Kostroma by voyevoda Velyaminov in May 1609, took refuge behind the monastery's walls. But the monastery did not save the Poles, when the heroic defenders of Kostroma stormed it on September 25 of that same year.

Later, the Romanovs were granted possession of monastery and its lands as a reward for being exiled there by the Godunovs after falling into the disfavour of the latter. It also served as a place of protection for them during the Time of Troubles, and this why the ceremony of electing Mikhail Romanov as Russia's tsar took place in the monastery's Trinity Cathedral in March 1613. The Ipatievsky Monastery enjoyed the royal patronage for the following three hundred years.

It became the important ecclesiastical administrative body managing the Kostroma diocese. On the orders of Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich, the remains of Ivan Susanin were transferred to the monastery. The second stage in the monastery's development began during the second quarter of the 17th century when its grounds were doubled by the construction of the New Town in 1642-1645.

The walls and towers of the New Town were erected by a Kostroma master, Andrei Andreyev Kuznets. This part of the monastery is more symmetrical in its layout which made it easier to defend it from the enemy. The special lower row of portholes in the walls enhances the monastery's defence capacity. The New Town reflects the general trend in fortress building in early Russia. In line with the tastes of the period the decor of the edifices becomes more elaborate, adding an elegance and beauty all of its own. Over the main gate in the central part of the west wall facing the Moscow road is the Green Tower deriving its name from the green tiling of its roof and erected in 1642-1645 to commemorate the coronation of Mikhail Romanov. It was through this gate that the procession with the newly-elected monarch passed to be crowned in Moscow in 1613.

The new Trinity Cathedral constucted in 1652, is of the posad type of churches found in the Volga area; it has five cupolas and porches on three sides, is lavishly decorated outside and is wonderfully spacious inside. A tall bell-tower with a dent-shaped roof has been added to the old belfry of the Godunov period.

By the mid-17th century the architectural complex of monastry was in the main completed, although consructon work continued for several centuries.

One of the main attractions at the Ipatievsky Monastery a the frescoes in the Trinity Cathedral painted by the famous Kostroma master, Guri Nikitin and his teem of icon-painters. The frescoes are executed in the loftiest traditions of early Russian art combining epic spirit with a new, deeply humanistic interpretation of the biblical stories. The frescoes and the cathedral's majestic interior are perceived by the viewer as an integral whole. They are a veritable suite in colour combining golden, blue, emerald green, pink and white shades in perfect harmony. They are remarcable for he expressive quality if their individial compositions and their almost melodically flowing lines. The masters who decorated the cathedral made an inscription on one of its walls which testifies to their appreciation of art's lofty goals. Its concluding words say : "We have wrought this isographic creation for the spiritual enjoyment of all people for all time."

In 1958, the Kostroma History and Architecture Museum Complex was set up in the monastery grounds. The museum includes the nearby Church of St. John the Theologian (1681-1686) and the chapel from the Village of Nekrasovo (the first quarter of the 18th century), decorated with frescoes depicting events from the history of Kostroma. It also comprises the Open-Air Museum of Folk Architechture with sections in the monastery grounds and in the vicinity. The Open-Air Museum exhibits the most valuable speciments of civil and ecclesiastical architechture collected from all over Kostroma Region.

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