In 1591, Boris Godunov caused the building of a [[cathedral]] and a small monastery honoring Theophan the Greek’s [[icon]] Our Lady of the Don that had inspired his army in defending Moscow from attacks by the Khan Kazy-Girey led Crimean Tatars. By tradition the icon had received its name from its use to inspire the forces of Grand Prince of Vladimir, who was also the Prince of Moscow, Dmitri Ivanovich, in his defeat of the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380, a victory for which he received the surname of Donskoy.
The cathedral, now referred to as the Old Cathedral, was completed in 1593. At first the monastery numbered only a few [[monk]]s and was an appendage of the Andronikov Monastery. The monastery was overrun by Polish forces during the Time of Troubles and abandoned temporarily in the early seventeenth century . By mid-seventeenth century restoration of the monastery was underway. It was later in the century that it was enlarged and strengthen by the Regent Sophia when the monastery was needed to fend off marauding Tatars. In 1683, the [[abbot]] of the monastery was elevated to the rank of [[archimandrite]]. Construction of the New (Great) Cathedral, in a style reminiscent of that used in the Ukraine, was begun 1684 by masons and artisans from Ukraine. A sixteenth century, a copy of the Lady of the Don icon became the center piece of the eight tiered carved [[iconostasis]]. Between 1782 and 1785, the frescos in the cathedral were painted by the Italian, Antonio Claudio, the first frescos in Moscow painted by a foreigner.
Between 1686 and 1711, during the time of construction of the new cathedral, the walls around the monastery were also rebuilt, in the Moscow Baroque style. The high crenellated red walls that were erected around the Donskoy Monastery resemble the walls of [[Novodevichy Monastery (Moscow)|Novodevichy Monastery]] that also incorporated twelve towers and a gate-church dedicated to the Tikhvin Virgin.