Considered one of the most stunning monuments to the Russian Orthodox Church, St. Basil’s has come to symbolize Moscow and Russia to the outside world. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to celebrate the seize of the Mongol stronghold of Kazan in 1552, the cathedral was accomplished in 1561. It’s reputed to have been designed by the architect Postnik Yakovlev.
Legend says, that Ivan was so astonished at the beauty of Yakovlev’s work that he had him blinded so that he may never design something as beautiful again. The church was formally known as the Cathedral of the Intercession, as a result of the ultimate siege of Kazan started on the Feast of the Intercession of the Virgin. Nonetheless, it’s generally known as St. Basil’s after the “holy fool,” Basil the Blessed, whose remains are interred in the cathedral’s ninth chapel.
Born in 1464 into a peasant family, Basil worked as an apprentice to a shoemaker. His skill at divining the future quickly turned obvious and at the age of sixteen he left for Moscow. There he undertook the ascetic challenge of walking the city’s streets barefoot, educating Muscovites in piety. Though he was usually derided and beaten for his sermonizing, his fortune came in 1547, when he foresaw the fire of Moscow and was credited with stopping it from destroying the whole city. On Basil’s death, Czar Ivan the Terrible carried his body to the cathedral for burial. He was canonized in 1579.
DESIGN OF THE CATHEDRAL
St. Basil’s Cathedral consists of 9 church buildings, each dedicated to different saints. Every church aside from the Central Chapel of the Intercession, symbolizes the eight assaults on Kazan and is topped by a multicolored dome. All the churches are uniquely decorated and completely different in size from each other, giving the construction an all-round stability. The constructing is designed to be seen from every angle, therefore the absence of a single main façade. In plan, the eight church buildings form an eight-pointed star.
The Russian Orthodox Church uses icons for worship and teaching and there are strict rules for creating each picture. lconography is a symbolic artwork, expressing in line and colour the theological teaching of the Church. lcons are considered imbued with energy from the saint they depict and are sometimes invoked for protection throughout wartime.