Russia - Table of Contents ............... Architecture Around the World

St. Basil's Russian Orthodox Cathedral
Formal name: Cathedral of Intercession of Theotokos on the Moat

Red Square, Moscow, Russia



St. Basil's was built [on the order of Ivan IV]  to commemorate the capture of the Tatar stronghold of Kazan in 1552, which occurred on the Feast of the Intercession of the Virgin. The cathedral was thus officially named Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat (the moat being one that originally ran beside the Kremlin).

But the cathedral was popularly known as St. Basil's Cathedral, after St. Basil the Blessed (a.k.a. St. Basil Fool for Christ; 1468-1552), almost from the beginning. 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 of the Intercession a.k.a. St. Basil's Cathedral was constructed from 1555 to 1560. Legend has it that after it was completed, Ivan had the architect blinded in order to prevent him from building a more magnificent building for anyone else.

... it 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...

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 symmetry 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.

- Sacred Destinations  (12/10)

The building's design, shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, is like no other Russian building. Nothing similar can be found in the entire millennium of Byzantine tradition from the fifth to fifteenth century.

Restorators who replaced parts of the brickwork in 1954–1955 discovered that the massive brick walls conceal an internal wooden frame running the whole height of the church. This frame, made of elaborately tied thin studs, was erected as a life-size spatial model of the future cathedral and was gradually enclosed in solid masonry.

The builders, fascinated by flexibility of the new [brick] technology, used brick as decorative medium inside and outside, leaving as much brickwork open as possible; when location required use of stone walls, they decorated it with brickwork pattern painted over stucco....

The cathedral acquired its present-day vivid colors in several stages from 1680s to 1848.

The cathedral has operated as a division of the State Historical Museum since 1928. The cathedral has been part of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990

- Wikipedia (12/10)

Photos and their arrangement 2010 Chuck LaChiusa
| ...Home Page ...| ..Buffalo Architecture Index...| ..Buffalo History Index... .|....E-Mail ...| ..

web site consulting by ingenious, inc.