St. Basil's Cathedral

Moscow, Russia

St. Basil's Cathedral was built to commemorate the capture of the Tatar stronghold of Kazan in 1552, which occured on the Feast of the Intercession of the Virgin. It is named after St. Basil the Blessed. Basil impressed Ivan in 1547 when he foretold a fire that swept through Moscow that year. Upon his death, Basil was buried in the Trinity Cathedral that stood on this site at the time. The cathedral was constructed from 1555 to 1560. In 1588, Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich added a ninth chapel added on the eastern side to house the grave of St. Basil.

St. Basil"s Cathedral consists of nine chapels built on a single foundation. The riot of color and shapes that is St. Basil"s Cathedral is unmatched anywhere else in the world. The powerfully eastern design of St. Basil"s reflects both its location between Europe and Asia and its historical origins. Since the Kazan Qolsharif mosque had been the principal symbol of the Khanate captured by Ivan the Terrible, some elements from the mosque were incorporated into the cathedral to symbolize the victory.

Although the towers and domes appear chaotic, there is symmetry and symbolism in its design. There are eight domed chapels symbolizing the eight assaults on Kazan: four large and octagonal and four small and square. In the center is a tent-roofed spire topped with a small golden dome. The ninth chapel on the east side added in 1588 for Basil"s tomb interrupts the symmetery of design somewhat. It can be recognized on the outside by its green-and-gold dome studded with with golden pyramids.

The interior is a maze of galleries winding from chapel to chapel and level to level via narrow stairways and low arches. The walls are painted in floral and geometric patterns.

St. Basil the Blessed can be visited in his chapel on the lower floor, where he lies in a silver casket in gaudy splendor. Upstairs, the Chapel of the Intercession contains the equally splendid blue and gold iconostasis. Other chapels, such as that of St. Nicholas, are more restrained and even austere in their decor.

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Details

Founded: 1555-1560
Category: Religious sites in Russia

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Nathan Jalowiec (20 months ago)
Absolutely beautiful architecture, however, upon arrival, soviet soldiers took my food and clothes and dressed me and my family in potato sacks. I tried to explain to the guy that I am a small, but he insisted on giving me a large. Those things are itchy, might I add! Wonderful guides, and the service was impeccable. Loved the culture, loved the people, but I still don't understand why we had to bring our own toilet paper.
Edhie Rahmat (20 months ago)
This is a must visit in Moscow. It is beautiful cathedral that was recently renovated after a big destroy during early communist era in XX century. You have to take picture from outside as them inside is still full of rubble, dust, smelly as the renovation is on going.
Jean Michel Mallet (20 months ago)
Big Boss (21 months ago)
The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed (Храм Василия Блаженного) is an Orthodox church on Red Square in Moscow, a monument of Russian architecture. It was built from 1555–1561 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and commemorates the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan. It was the city's tallest building until the completion of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in 1600.
Sherila Valiente (2 years ago)
Amazing place and cathedral. It’s better do tourism in June or August to catch a good weather. Otherwise, you will feel so tired to walk around the place with the sun. It’s difficult to take a photo without people around you but you can go maybe early in the morning around 9 am for photos outside and in the afternoon when you finish to do tourism around the city, try to buy tickets to see the cathedral inside (it’s so beautiful). You can rent audio guides or maybe in the information point sometimes are local volunteers who can be your guides and it’s free.
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The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.

The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.

There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).

The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.