Mercy and tragedy of St. Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow

Victoria Derzhavina | Live the World

November 23, 2022

If you walk along Bolshaya Ordynka street in Zamoskvorechye in Moscow, you pass by a simple, unassuming gate with a small door in it. But if you enter this door, you will find one of the most interesting Moscow convents, see brilliant works of well-known architects and painters, and in a small museum, learn about its touching history full of mercy and tragedy. This is St. Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy in Moscow, founded by a German Princess of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England - the Grand Duchess of Russia Elisabeth.

Photo © credits to Dimych

Becoming Elizaveta Feodorovna

A small museum on the territory of St. Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy tells about the life of its founder - Elisabeth. When she was 19, she married the Grand Duke of Russia - Sergei Aleksandrovich. After seven years, she converted to Orthodoxy by her own will and got the name Elizaveta Feodorovna. After her husband died in a bomb blast organized by the revolutionaries, she sold out her jewelry, founded a convent and became its abbess. She said, “I am leaving the high world,** **where I had a high position, but together with you, I go up to the greater world, to the world of the poor and suffering”.

The White Angel of Moscow

In the convent virtues of St. Mary and St. Martha, the prayer and service were combined. Sisters in this Abode of Mercy had to take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, but unlike the nuns, after a few years, they could leave the convent and get married. This place was for all women who wanted to help those in need. In the convent, they received spiritual and medical training. They worked tirelessly among the poor and the sick. Elizaveta Feodorovna was called the White Angel of Moscow.

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Father, release them, they know not what they do

In the museum, you can see a meeting-room where Elizaveta Feodorovna met the last Russian emperor and his family, the icons embroidered by her hands, and her glove that she lost when she was arrested in 1918. Together with other Romanovs, she was murdered in Alapaevsk. “Father, release them, they don't know what they do”, the last words of Elisabeth are written at the bottom of her statue in the convent.

Photo © credits to Rasfocus/Natalia Slyadneva

Great artworks

Elizaveta Feodorovna invited talented artists and architects to create the convent. Here, we can see some great artworks. The Church of the Intercession was built by Alexei Shchusev, who later became a well-known architect and built some Moscow landmarks such as the Kazansky Railway Station and Lenin’s Mausoleum. The church was inspired by the oldest Russian churches in Novgorod and Pskov, and it was built in the popular at that time Russian art-nouveau style.

Photo © credits to
Photo © credits to

A famous Russian painter Mikhail Nesterov frescoed the church in white and blue colours. You can see heavenly birds, angels, lilies as symbols of purity and innocence, and the roses as symbols of love. Also, there are the scenes from the Bible and the main picture "The Holy Rus", where the nurses help people to come to Christ and get relief from their sufferings. The crypt was frescoed by a well-known Russian artist Pavel Korin.

Photo © credits to

St. Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow founded by a German Princess, as a memorial to her husband, also became a memorial to this wonderful woman, her soul, her deep faith and mercy and tragedy of her life. The Russian Orthodox Church canonized her. In Russia, there are several convents and churches devoted to St. Elizaveta. The convent of St. Martha and Mary continue its service. There is an orphanage, a hospital for seriously ill children here. And in summer, the convent is full of flowers, as it was in the time of Elizaveta Feodorovna.

Photo © credits to

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