Although this famous cathedral is known worldwide as “Saint Basil’, its official name is “Cathedral of the Intercession of the Mother of God”. The alternative name linked to Saint Basil refers to the fact that the holy relics of Blessed Basil, who is highly revered in Russia, are buried inside the church. Saint Basil “the Fool” lived between 1468 and 1552 and had been buried in Holy Trinity Cathedral, which at that time was located on the current site of the famous edifice, a few years before the current cathedral was going to be built.
The raising of St. Basil Cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in 1552 to mark and celebrate the capture of Kazan from the hands of the Mongols. It was completed in 1560 and although there isn’t any evidence known about its construction, the place is “haunted” by a lot of legends. For example, we do not know anything about the actual builders of the cathedral besides their names – Barma and Postnik Yakovlev – and the legend that after the construction was finished, Ivan blinded them so that they can no longer see anything and never make any comparisons. Historians have established, however, that this is nothing but folklore. Another legend has it that Napoleon love this cathedral so much that he wanted to bring it to Paris. Since this could not be done in that time, he was angry and ordered to be set on fire. A rain saved it in the last minute.
The architects of today cannot agree with the idea that has governed the plan behind the building. There is the hypothesis that the builders wanted to dedicate a tribute to the churches in Jerusalem, building eight churches around the ninth, representing the medieval symbol of the star with eight corners (reminiscent of the Lord’s resurrection day). On the other hand, the eight domes symbolize the eight attacks triggered by tsar against the Tatars of Kazan. The original concept of the Cathedral St. Basil remained hidden under layers of additional styles that have been added to the main building. Originally, the cathedral was completely white to match the white walls of the Kremlin. Regarding the towers, they were golden and not as colored as they are today.
In the 17th century a bell tower was added and the domes were replaced and decorated. In 1860, the cathedral was rebuilt, gaining a new paint and a new integrated and complex design, which has been kept until now. During the time of the Soviet Union was called into question the demolition of the church because it stood in the way of Stalin’s plans of organizing parades on the Red Square. The cathedral was saved only because of the courage of the architect Piotr Baralovski who refused orders to begin preparing demolition, sending the Kremlin a telegram of refusal, saying he will cut his throat in front of the cathedral if it will be destroyed; the telegram was going to cost him five years in prison.
Today, St. Basil Cathedral is a museum. During the restoration works of the 70s, in one of the walls was discovered a wooden spiral staircase. Visitors use this scale to enter the main church, which is an architectural masterpiece. Once a year, in October in the cathedral the priests hold the service for the Intercession Day.
Saint Basil Cathedral is open every day of the week, except Tuesday, between 11 to 17o’clock.
It is probably the best known symbol of Moscow and it represents the peak of human creativity and mastery.
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