Upon first glance St Basils Cathedral is colorful and whimsical, with vibrantly painted turrets, or chapels, featuring swirls and stripes, interesting angles and many intricate details that attract the eye to an unexpected visual discovery. Though the complete design of the Moscow cathedral isn’t discernible from street level, the eight fascinating chapels are set around a ninth one, the main and largest chapel, and complete a perfect eight-sided star. The number eight, by the old Jewish calender represents the day of Christ’s Resurrection. The Cathedral of St Basil holds deep religious and historical meaning and symbolism. Each of the nine chapels symbolizes a triumphant battle on the city of Kazan, while the architectural entirety represents the Heavenly Kingdom from the Book of Revelation of St John the Divine. The star carries several other religious meanings subject to interpretation.
When visiting St Basils Cathedral Moscow visitors benefit from knowing a little history behind the impressive attraction. Built over six years in the mid 16th century, commissioned by Ivan the Terrible and situated on the Red Square by the Moscow Kremlin, St Basils Cathedral was built as a monument to the successful attack and victory on the Mongols in 1552 in the city of Kazan. The true name of the Moscow cathedral is Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat, chosen because of the significance of the day that victory over Kazan was established, the day of the Intercession of the Virgin. St Basils is a nickname bestowed upon the Moscow cathedral after Basil The Blessed the “holy fool”. Basil the Blessed was extremely well-liked by the local majority at the time.
Though the exterior of the Cathedral of St Basil is spectacular in color and design, the interior is much more understated, which comes as a surprise to many visitors. The more modest interior design includes corridors which feel more like mazes and chapels dimly lit by existing light. The interior walls of St Basils Cathedral are adorned with finespun floral patterns in soft hues, all dating back to the 17th century. During the 17th century the staircases and gallery were concealed with an arched roofing and the bell tower was included in the cathedral. Adorned domes replaced the older, capped ones and later in 1860, when much of the Cathedral of St Basil was reconstructed, the more intricate and complicated design was painted on the exterior.
The original conceptualization of St Basils Cathedral Moscow is concealed under many blankets of additions and renovations, creating a controversy among architectural masterminds as to what the true significance really is. Torn between two ideas, one of the representation of the medieval star and the other paying praise and respect to Jerusalem churches, the fact stands that no matter what the cathedral truly represents, it is indeed magnificent. Originally, St Basils Cathedral Moscow builders created it entirely out of white stone, perfectly pairing it with the white-hued Kremlin, and the domes then topping the cathedral were austere and gold.
At St Basils Cathedral Moscow tourists can explore a spiral staircase made of wood and tucked away behind one of the interior walls. The staircase, completely unknown to anyone, was discovered during renovations in the let 20th century. Though the exterior is so grand, the interior actually lacks the space many might think there is inside. Though it seems the church is constantly being worked on, the continuous renovations won’t impede on a visit.
During a visit don’t miss a tour of the grounds
where a small but impressive garden houses a lovely bronze
effigy of Pozharsky and Minin, two prominent figures in
Russia’s army when the Time of Troubles hit. Visitors
can explore St Basils Cathedral from Wednesday through
Monday between 11am and 5pm. At one time under threat
of destruction by Stalin for interfering on his Red Square
parades, visitors can still see and explore one of the
most beautiful holy houses found in Russia today.