Friday, June 12, 2009

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia is one of the most exquisite buildings ever built. The Russian Orthodox cathedral was commissioned by Ivan IV (the Terrible) to commemorate the capture of the Tatar stronghold of Kazan in 1552. Since this victory occures on the Feast of the Intercession of the Virgin, the cathedral was officially named The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat (at that time there was a moat running beside the Kremlin.) It's been almost always been known as St. Basil's though. St. Basil the Blessed (1468-1552) impressed Ivan when he predicted in 1547 that a fire would sweep through Moscow. St. Basil was buried in the Trinity Cathedral that stood on the spot where St. Basil's is now.
The Cathedral was built between 1555- 1560. The architect was Postnik Yakovlev. Legend has it that Ivan had him blinded so he would never build a building more beautiful than St. Basil's. But, in fact, Yakovlev went on to design several churches in Russia .
St. Basil Cathedral is located at the south-east end of Red Square just across from the Spasskaya tower of the Kremlin. It is not very large and consists of nine chapels built on a single foundation. Each chapel is filled with icons, medieval painted walls, and varying artwork on the top inside the domes. Unlike Western cathedrals which are massive naves, senses of grandeur,and one design, St. Basil's is more intimate with varying styles.

It originally had eight chapels but in 1588 Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich added the ninth to house the grave of St. Basil.

Outside in the garden stands a bronze statue commemorating Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin who rallied Russia's Volunteer army against Polish invaders during the "Time of Troubles' in the late 16th and early 17th centuries

St. Basil's came close to being destroyed by Stalin. He wanted the cathedral razed so that his soldiers could leave Red Square en masse. But the architect Baranovsky stood on the steps of the cathedral and threatened to cut his own throat if the cathedral was destroyed. Stalin relented - but put Baranovsky in prison for 5 years.
In recent years, St. Basil's has suffer from weather damage and neglect. it wasn't until the Millenium that the funds were available to repair it.

all photos by Brian McMorrow

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