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I(Chris) visited Moscow for a few days in March 2016.  Never been to Russia before – so these posts will sound a bit touristy. Please bear with me.

St. Basil’s Cathedral is a very iconic building of Moscow, if not the entire Russia (to non-Russians). Much of what I have included here came from Wikipedia.


The building located at the southern end of Red Square is, now a museum, officially known as the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat (Собор Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы, что на Рву).


It was built from 1555–1561 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and commemorates the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan from the Tartars. The building is shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, a design that has nothing comparable in Russian architecture.


The theory is that Italian craftsman at the time contributed to a design based on early Muscovite wooden and stone buildings, as well as elements of the Kazan Qolsharif mosque which had been the symbol of the khanate captured by Ivan the Terrible.


The original building, known as Trinity Church contained eight small chapels arranged around the ninth, central church of Intercession; a tenth church was erected in 1588 over the grave of the local saint Vasily (Basil).


Basil the Blessed (Василий Блаженный, Vasily Blazhenny) is a Russian Orthodox saint born in 1468. Originally an apprentice shoemaker in Moscow, he adopted an eccentric lifestyle of shoplifting and giving to the poor to shame the miserly and help those in need. He went naked and weighed himself down with chains. His reputation quickly grew, and people saw him as a holy fool, a man of God, and a denouncer of wrong. His body is kept inside the cathedral (photo below). For more info, click here.


Inside the church is a labyrinth of narrow vaulted corridors and low arches, marked by the heights of the chapels.





An urban legend says that Ivan the Terrible blinded the architect(s) so that he (possibly two people) could not re-create the masterpiece elsewhere. Not true.


The interior walls are painted in floral and geometric patterns.


There are two floors inside the cathedral.


Although the building looks rather large from afar, it seemed small inside.


In the 1950’s, Stalin wanted to demolish the church because it blocked the parade of soldiers en masse in Red Square. The architect Baranovsky protested, the church was saved but he was sent to jail for five years.


This is the view from inside the cathedral looking out onto Red Square. On the right is GUM (ГУМ), the former state-owned department store now a shopping mall which faces the Kremelin (not shown here). At the other end of the square is the State Historical Museum.

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