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Kolomenskoe.

The Kolomenskoye estate, a unique historic place, sits in the most scenic corner of Moscow. Two and a half thousand years ago the place was home to the oldest settlement on Moscow`s territory, Dyakovo Gorodishche. The first mention of the village of Kolomenskoye, which dates back to 1339, is found in the testament of the Moscow Prince Ivan Kalita. Initially, it belonged to Moscow`s grand princes.

For many centuries, relics venerated by the Russian people were created, accumulated and treasured at the estate. The exceptional Ascension Church (1532) is one of the oldest architectural monuments of the 16th century. The church was commissioned by Vasily III to commemorate the birth of his son, the future Ivan the Terrible, to Italian architect Little Petrok (Petrok Maly, or Pietro Annibale), who was also responsible for the construction of the Kitai-gorod fortress.

The Ascension Church in Kolomenskoye is the first stone hipped-roof cathedral in Russia. Most likely, the Ascension Church was also used as a watchtower against Tatar raids: an alarm was signaled with smoke during the day and with fire at night; and if the watchmen saw the signal from the cathedral`s belfry, they duplicated it for those on guard on the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Kremlin.

Kolomenskoye`s heyday fell on the reign of Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov, when it served the tsar`s favourite summer residence. In 1667, a wooden palace with 270 rooms was erected on the estate, complete with a garden and a fence, surrounded by office buildings and a gate crowned with a tower clock.It was truly a masterpiece of wooden architecture of the epoch, held for the eighth wonder of the world.

Around the same time, the cathedral of the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan — the tsar family chapel where the coffers and the most valuable effects were kept — was erected. The church is still operating. Peter I used to stay here quite often, and here, near Kolomenskoye — at the Kozhukhovo field — is where he staged his famous mock battles.

The death of Alexei Mikhailovich brought desolation to Kolomenskoye, and the palace soon fell into disrepair. None of the buildings that were erected afterwards survived.

During the Soviet era, Kolomenskoye saw the creation of the first open air museum of wooden architecture in Russia. Wooden architectural monuments of the 17th — 18th centuries were brought here from all across Russia.

The museum also features a collection of Old Russian paintings from the 15th — 17th centuries (over 2,000 pieces), a fine collection of stone carvings and fragments of the decorations of Moscow`s lost temples, as well as one of the best selections of tiles from the period between the 10th century and the beginning of the 20th century in Russia, and monumental decorative woodcarvings from the 16th — 20th centuries.

The museum also offers very memorable tours: all the guides are dressed up in costumes from the era. Furthermore, some programs offer the estate`s guests the chance to try costumes on as well. The grounds also accommodate the Falcon Yard — a building enclosed by a genuine country fence, with hunting birds sitting on special perches. Falconers garbed in ancient robes will be happy to let the guests in on all the subtleties of old falconry. Incidentally, falcons which used to nest here in the old days have recently returned to Kolomenskoye.

Kolomenskoye is one of the most favoured parks of Muscovites. It hosts various celebrations and events commemorating different public and traditional national holidays, as well as concerts and festivals, for instance the annual festival of bard songs in late June. The estate`s guests can purchase a horse ride around its grounds, or even order a family celebration — especially during the summer months, when a variety of Russian-style taverns are open here alongside sidewalk cafes.