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In 1591, on the site of the present monastery was "baggage " - a military camp of the Russian troops who were preparing for the defend of Moscow from the Crimean Kazi Giray Khan. The swift victory over them was seen as a miracle. The camp was Don icon of the Mother of God, and it is in her honor and in memory of the victory over the Crimean in 1593 the monastery was established . In the Time of Troubles, the monastery was looted and fell into decline in the late XVII century and was revived .
First Cathedral of the Don Mother of God was built in 1593. Its configuration as a single-domed apse of a cube with a slide kokoshniks later became a model for the Church of the Intercession in Rubtsov , Kazan Cathedral on Red Square and other church buildings . Presumably the author of the project was Fyodor Kon - the creator of the White city walls and fortifications in Moscow, Smolensk Kremlin . In 1679 the cathedral was added to the refectory and the belfry .
In the years 1684-98 the votive sister of Peter I, the princess Catherine , erected a second cathedral . Delivered on a high podklete, it is created four-petalled in plan, and each ledge is crowned with its head. This is a rare case for Moscow, when the heads of the cathedral are placed on the sides of the world. Fully preserved decoration: eight-tier iconostasis, created by the masters of the Armory, and the brush painting Claudio. At the same time, a stone fence with twelve towers was created for the donations of the Kirillov family.
Over the northern gateway to the years 1713-14 the widow of Tsar Ivan V erected Tikhvin Church , over the West in the years 1750-53 - the bell tower with the church of San Zaccaria and Elizabeth, in the south- western part of the built hospital and other buildings . Later, family church-tombs were created: the princes Golitsyna in 1809 built the temple of the Archangel Michael at the hospital, over the graves of the Zubovs in 1796-98 a rotunda church appeared in the name of Alexander Svirsky, in 1888-1891 in the pseudo-Byzantine style the Church of St. John Chrysostom with the tomb was erected Pervushin, in 1898 Major-General Tereshchenko created the family church of John Climacus.
In 1920 the monastery continued to worship, but some buildings were transferred under Soviet institutions and housing. In the years 1922-25 are contained Patriarch Tikhon . In 1934, the whole area was taken over by the Museum of Architecture . It is possible to preserve the unique ensemble and create on its basis an architectural reserve . Along the northern and eastern walls placed fragments of destroyed in 1920 's and 30 's monuments : the part of the marble reliefs of Christ the Savior, window casings Sukharev Tower , the portal of the church of the Assumption in Pokrovka window of the submerged Kalyazinsky monastery on the Volga , etc.
Cemetery of the Donskoy Monastery was the only monastery necropolis of Moscow, not destroyed after the revolution. Some gravestones were brought here from other churches and monasteries. Since 1946, only acted Small Cathedral . In the Great was a museum exhibit , a small church was used as a library , archive and depository. Church of St. John Chrysostom thus completely lost its interior.
The revival of the monastery began in 1991 , shortly after its opening relics of Patriarch Tikhon. Services are held permanently in the Great Cathedral , other churches are open regularly. At the site of the former fraternal gardens two new small churches were built: in honor of Patriarch Tikhon and in the name of George Victorious.