The Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed, or simply, Saint Basil's Cathedral, stuns and amazes with its color, grandiosity, and quirkiness. The Church of the Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat, as it is formally called, was built to commemorate the capture of the Tartar city of Kazan on October 1, 1552.
The cathedral comprises nine churches, eight tower-chapels, plus one central chapel built on a single foundation. The main tower soars to a height of 107 feet. Each chapel is topped with an onion dome and has its own distinct design. The Russian army won eight battles against the Tatars, and each chapel is dedicated to a saint on whose feast day the victory happened.
The cathedral is named after the holy fool Basil the Blessed, whose tomb is housed in one chapel. Basil roamed the streets of Moscow, proclaiming that there would be a fire. He turned out to be correct. He also made an enemy of Ivan the Terrible as he was publicly reprimanding the tsar. The church protected basil because of his designation as the holy fool. What is ironic is that the cathedral (which is Ivan's greatest work) was named after Basil.
ArchitectureThe chapel was designed by the architects Barma and Postnik. Its design is inspired by contemporary tented churches, such as the St. John the Baptist's Decapitation (Dyakovo). Rumor also has it that the tsar had Barma blinded after completing the chapel so that the chapel will be the architect's last and greatest magnum opus. But most insist that this is just a rumor – entirely untrue. Construction of the chapel began in 1555 but was completed only 5 years later.
The exterior is very eye-catching, with its wildly colored onion domes and distinct patterns.
You get the feeling that you are in some kind of fantasy land because of its whimsical design. . Inside, you get to stare at frescos and wall paintings, plus museum exhibits. The same colors and elaborate patterns are contained in the chapels and inner churches.
Visiting the cathedral
No visit to Moscow is ever complete without taking advantage of a photo opportunity in front of St. Basil's Cathedral. The designs are so unique, and there is nothing like it anywhere in the world. It is an architectural icon and is instantly recognizable because of its colorful and whimsical colors and designs. It stands at the southeast end of the popular Red Square, overlooking the Moskva River and just across the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin.
The cathedral now houses icons and relics from the 16th to 18th century, plus exhibits covering Kazan's conquest, including the weaponry used. There are also exhibits of the construction of the cathedral.
At present, tours inside the cathedral are allowed every day except Tuesdays. The hours are from 11 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Services are held every Sunday at 10 in the morning. However, the cathedral is closed during restoration work. There is also an extra fee if you want to take videos or photographs inside the chapel.