Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Although the correct name of the church is the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God on the Ditch, this church, unique in its beauty, is generally called St. Basil’s Cathedral. Its silhouette is recognisable in the entire world and is always associated with Moscow and Russia.

The cathedral was laid down at the order of Ivan the Terrible as a tribute to the victory over the Kazan Khanate in 1555-1560. Before that, the Trinity Church had stood in its place. The Ditch, which is a part of the official church’s name, really existed. It was a 30-meter-wide defensive fosse with a depth of about eight meters which had been trenched around the entire wall of the Kremlin in 1516. The ditch was filled with earth only in 1813. Currently, the Soviet cemetery and the Mausoleum stand at the former ditch’s place.

In the middle of the 16th century blessed Basil of Moscow, fool-for-Christ, was buried near the Trinity Church. It was believed that he was the prescient of the future. Saint Basil was revered and even feared by Ivan the Terrible himself. According to legend, Basil was the first man who began to raise money for the church. The cathedral is built of brick. Its central part is topped with the tall, splendid cupola with a “fiery” ornament going up to the middle of its height. The cupola is encircled on all sides with domes each of which are uniquely decorated. The domes were painted in their present colours only in the middle of the 19th century. The height of St. Basil’s Cathedral is 65 meters. It was the tallest building in Moscow up until the end of the 16th century.

During the Napolean’s invasion of 1812 St. Basil’s Cathedral was for the first time at risk of demolition. When the French were leaving Moscow they mined the church but, fortunately, had not managed to blow it up, but still ransacked the interior of the cathedral. For the second time the fate of the church was decided in the 1930s. The Soviet Bolsheviks closed the cathedral and handed it over to the Historical Museum in 1929. A few years later, the Soviet government decided that it would be better to demolish the cathedral. There are quite a few argued stories explaining why the cathedral was spared, but nevertheless it remained overlooking the Red Squarewith its festivals and military parades to this day.

The church has preserved its museum status but, as from 1990, religious services are held occasionally. At the end of 2011, the cathedral’s underground facilities were open for the general public to see for the first time. Thus St. Basil’s Cathedral, one of the most beautiful and iconic cathedrals of Moscow and entire Russia still stands as the embodiment of genuine Russia, Russian spirit and history. Moscow tours