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St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil’s Cathedral is not just Moscow’s most famous artistic work of architecture, but it is the most recognizable Russian building in the world. Also known as Pokrovsky Cathedral, St. Basil’s Cathedral is to Russia what the Eiffel Tower is to France, an honorable symbol of their past, present, and future.

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St. Basil’s Cathedral is a church in Red Square in Moscow, Russia.  Although it’s known to everyone as St. Basil’s, this legendary building is officially named “The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat”. The popular alternative refers to Basil the Blessed, a ‘holy fool’ who was buried on the site in the Trinity Cathedral that once stood before the present building was erected.

The only genuine history that’s known about this celebrated landmark is the Cathedral was ordered by Ivan the Terrible to mark the 1552 capture of Kazan from Mongol forces and was completed in 1560. There, however, scores of legends. Nothing is known about the builders, Barma and Postnik Yakovlev, except their names and the dubious legend that Ivan had them blinded so that they could not create anything to compare. Historians unanimously state that this is nothing but urban folklore.

When built the Cathedral was all white to match the then white-stoned Kremlin, and the onion domes were gold rather than multi-colored and patterned as they are today. In the 17th century, a hip-roofed bell tower was added, the gallery and staircases were covered with vaulted roofing, and the helmeted domes were replaced with decorated ones. In 1860 during rebuilding, the Cathedral was painted with a more complex and integrated design and has remained unchanged since.

The Cathedral is now a museum. During restoration work in the seventies, a wooden spiral staircase was discovered within one of the walls. Visitors now take this route into the central church, with its extraordinary, soaring tented roof and a fine 16th Century iconostasis. You can also walk along the narrow, winding gallery, covered in the beautifully patterned paintwork.

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