It was founded in 1600 by Boris Godunov. At first called "Saviour the Old", the cloister gradually acquired its present quaint name which alludes to its location and means "the Saviour behind the icon shops".
Between the late 17th - early 19th centuries, the Zaikonospassky monastery was one of the enlightenment centers of Russia. Between 1687 and 1814, it was home to the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, Russia's first secondary education establishment.
Today's architectural ensemble includes the Saviour Cathedral (originally constructed in 1660-1661; rebuilt in 1717–1720 and 1742) and several 17th-century chambers as well former school building which date to 1822.
The Zaikonospassky monastery was closed after the October Revolution and later reopened as an institute of archives. There is a memorial plaque in honor of Mikhail Lomonosov, who was once a student at this cloister.