St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow
St. Basil’s Cathedral, which stands in Moscow’s Red Square, was built for the Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible 460 years ago. According to legend, when it was completed Ivan lived up to his nickname and had the architect blinded, so that he could not build another.
The Cathedral’s domes have had to be repaired many times over the centuries, as the parts made of iron quickly rust, necessitating replacement every seven or eight years. Later the iron-clad patterned domes were given protective plating of durable copper. The job took about 40 tons of copper. The pieces were hand-forged to templates, and after being riveted were mounted on the domes.
The Cathedral was built on Red Square in 1555-1561. It is rightfully considered one of the main symbols not only of Moscow, but of the whole of Russia.
At the place where the cathedral is now, in the 16th century there was a stone Trinity Church. There was a defensive moat that stretched along the entire Kremlin wall along Red Square. This moat was filled up only in 1813. Now in its place there is the Soviet necropolis and the Mausoleum.
Ivan the Terrible, who personally led the army in the campaign to conquer the Kazan and Astrakhan kingdoms in 1552, made a vow to build a grandiose cathedral in Moscow on Red Square in case of victory. When the Russian army returned to Moscow Ivan the Terrible ordered to build stone church.
Blessed Basil was buried at the stone Trinity Church in 1552. He died on August 2 (according to other sources, he died not in 1552, but in 1551). Basil was born in 1469 in the village of Yelokhovo. He was endowed with the gift of clairvoyance and predicted the terrible fire of Moscow in 1547. The legend says that Basil collected money for the future church, brought it to Red Square and threw it over his right shoulder and no one, not even thieves, touched these coins. After the death he was buried in the cemetery at the Trinity Church with great honors. And soon the grandiose construction of the new cathedral began here. Later the relics of Basil were transferred there.
Traditionally, it was believed that Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of the cathedral to Barma and Postnik Yakovlev, but many researchers now agree that it was one person – Ivan Yakovlevich Barma, nicknamed Postnik.
There is a legend that after the construction, Ivan the Terrible ordered the masters to be blinded so that they could no longer build anything like this. But this is nothing more than a legend, since the documents indicate that after the construction of the Cathedral Master Postnik nicknamed Barma built the Kazan Kremlin.
St. Basil’s Cathedral consists of nine churches on one foundation. The idea is based on the apocalyptic symbolism of Heavenly Jerusalem. Eight churches, located around the ninth, form a geometric figure of two squares. The number 8 symbolizes the day of the Resurrection of Christ, which according to the Hebrew calendar was the eighth day.
The square expresses the firmness and constancy of faith and is a cosmic symbol of the Universe: its four equal sides mean four corners of the world, four winds of the Universe, four ends of the cross, four canonical Gospels, four apostles-evangelists, four equilateral walls of Heavenly Jerusalem. The combined squares symbolize the preaching of the Gospels to the four corners of the world.
The height of St. Basil’s Cathedral is 65 meters. In 1737, it was badly damaged by fire and was restored. In the second half of the 18th century, under Catherine II, the cathedral was reconstructed and became a real Moscow miracle.
According to legend, Napoleon wanted to transfer the Moscow miracle to Paris. However, the technology of that time turned out to be powerless before this task. So, he ordered to blow up the cathedral together with the Kremlin. Muscovites tried to extinguish the lit fuses, and a sudden downpour helped stop the explosion.
A branch of the Historical Museum is located in the cathedral. There are 19 bells in the museum, which were cast back in 1547 by famous masters. In addition to the bells you can see a huge collection of weapons that Ivan the Terrible collected during his lifetime.