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On July 22, 1613, Mikhail Romanov begrudgingly took the crown under the vaulted ceiling of Moscow’s Cathedral of the Assumption. The 16-year-old ended Russia’s political instability and launched its final imperial dynasty.

It’s the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov (and 95th year since the murder of its last monarch, Nicholas II), and the family’s legacy remains indelible. As now former Moscow Times reporter Jonathan Earle puts it, the Romanovs “represent a lost authenticity, one of centuries-old traditions and sophisticated elites that produced Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.”

That bygone era can be traced around Moscow. At the Palace of the Romanov Boyars (Mikhail’s probable birthplace), painted leather walls and carved furniture shed light on 17th-century aristocracy. Within the Kremlin walls, Mikhail I commissioned the Cathedral of the Assumption’s gilded icons and is entombed at the Cathedral of the Archangel. And, not far away, Icon House shows relics such as a Winter Palace gala ticket for the tricentenary.

This piece, written by Robin Cherry, appeared in the June/July 2013 issue of Traveler magazine.