St.Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral is one of the most remarkable figures of Moscow, Russia. It is situated on the southeast edge of the Red Square, right at the heart of Moscow, adjacent to the Kremlin.

The St. Basil's Cathedral was overlooked by Ivan the Terrible between 1555 and 1561. Its construction was to celebrate the capture of the Khanate of Kazan, which occurred on the meal day of the Intercession of the Virgin. Its official name, as selected by Ivan the Terrible, is the Cathedral of Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat, assigning to the feast day, and to the trench that surrounds the Kremlin.

The Cathedral is generally known as Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed, or St. Basil's Cathedral, almost since the inception, in commemoration of St Basil the Blessed. Also termed as Blessed Basil of Moscow, Fool for Christ, the Russian sage whose given name was Vassily Blazhenny impressed Ivan the Terrible when his prediction in 1547 that a fire will break out in Moscow came true.

When he died, Ivan himself acted as the pallbearer and carried his coffin to the cemetery. Basil was canonised in 1580, and his feast day was commemorated on 2 August, or 15 August if the Gregorian calendar is to be believed.

St. Basil’s Cathedral Information

55°45′9″N 37°37′23″E
Location Red Square, Moscow
Country Russia
Denomination Russian Orthodox
Website Cathedral of St. Vasily the Blessed
State Historical Museum
Founded 1555
Founder(s) Ivan IV
Architect(s) Barma and Postnik

St. Basil’s Cathedral Image


The design of St. Basil's Cathedral is the finest example of tented church architecture in Russian. In spite of its small size compared to the Kremlin next to it, its classic use of swirling colors makes it an astounding piece. St Basil's includes nine chapels constructed on a single foundation.

Each chapel is decorated with a classic onion dome. There were initially eight chapels, each one of it representing the invasion on Kazan. In 1588, Tsar Fedor Ivanovich incorporated a chapel on its eastern part above the grave of St Basil. You can identify that chapel as this green-and-gold dome is studded with golden pyramids. The design is extremely symbolic, and is made to represent the New Jerusalem as explained in the book of Revelation.

According to myth, Ivan the Terrible blinded the architect Postnik Yakovlev to prevent him from generating anything better than it. Yakovlev in fact also designed another cathedral, in Vladimir, in spite of him being handicap.

In the inner part of St. Basil's Cathedral there is a narrow maze , dimly lit corridors linking the different chapels. A spiral staircase made with wood carries visitors up to witness its inonostasis that are as old as from the 16th century.

In front portion of the St. Basil's Cathedral is a monument to Russian figures Dmitry Mikhaylovich Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin, the two people who led Russia's volunteer army to combat Polish attackers between 16th and 17th centuries. This monument to Minin and Pozharsky is prepared of bronze, and was crafted by renowned Russian architect Ivan Martos somewhere between 1808 and 1818. It was made for the city of Nizhny Novgorod, where the two heroes came from, and whose people have arranged funds for its construction. However Tsar Alexander I placed it on the Red Square later on. Initially it was established in the middle of the Red Square, with Pozharsky waving in the direction of the Kremlin. Its placement was hindering Soviet military parades, so in 1936 it was shifted to its current site outside the St. Basil's Cathedral.

St Basil's Cathedral was almost pulled down under Stalin. The Russian leader acknowledged it as an obstruction, and wanted to pull it down. However, architect Baranovsky displayed his wrath for the move. He stood on the steps of the cathedral and intimidated to slit his own throat if St Basil's was pulled down. Stalin coiled back, but for the act of heroism, Baranovsky served five years in the gulag.

The St. Basil's Cathedral, accompanied by the Red Square and the Kremlin, were written by Unesco as World Heritage Sites in 1990.

Weather of St Basil’s Cathedral

Spring typically begins at the end of March. End of April or first of May is quite a pleasant time to make a visit to Moscow.  By this time the weather warms up and grass and flowers gets replanted and the melting snow water has gone away entirely and things have dried out.  The first of spring can be quite messy with mud everywhere. Flowers start to bloom towards mid spring.  As soon as the last frost melts, the fountains of Moscow display some beautiful fountains. With rising temperatures, the skirts go up with it. By April, the weather is clear and the city turns green again. This is the ideal time for tourists to visit Moscow, the conditions are pleasant for sightseeing and witnessing city life which has come in full swing.

St Basil’s Cathedral Naming

Compass Point Type Dedicated to Commemorates
Central core Tented church Intercession of Most Holy Theotokos Beginning of the final assault of Kazan, October 1, 1552
West Column Entry of Christ into Jerusalem Triumph of the Muscovite troops
North-west Groin vault Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia Capture of Ars Tower of Kazan Kremlin, September 30, 1552
North Column Saint Martyrs Cyprian and Justinia (since 1786 Saint Adrian and Natalia of Nicomedia) Complete capture of Kazan Kremlin, October 2, 1552
North-east Groin vault Three Patriarchs of Alexandria (since 1680 Saint John the Merciful) Defeat of Yepancha's cavalry on August 30, 1552
East Column Life-giving Holy Trinity Historical Trinity Church on the same site
South-east Groin vault Saint Alexander Svirsky Defeat of Yepancha's cavalry on August 30, 1552
South Column The icon of Saint Nicholas from the Velikaya River (Nikola Velikoretsky) Miraculous finding of itself
South-west Groin vault Saint Barlaam of Khutyn Indecisive, probably commemorates Vasili III of Russia
North-eastern annex (1588) Groin vault Basil the Blessed Grave of venerated local saint
South-eastern annex (1672) Groin vault Laying the Veil (since 1680: Nativity of Theotokos, since 1916: Saint John the Blessed of Moscow) Grave of venerated local saint