The Saint Basil’s Cathedral which is located inside Red Square at the heart of Moscow is one of the most famous unofficial symbols of Russia throughout history, especially after the Revolution of 1917, and return of the capital to Moscow. Though Saint Basil’s Cathedral is outside the wall of Kremlin, the western countries mostly use the cathedral as the symbol of Russia in their media. One of the reasons behind this event might be the uniqueness of the place's architecture, which is the only one in all Russia.
Before Saint Basil’s Cathedral was built on the current location in Red Square, the Trinity Cathedral was built at that location. The Trinity Cathedral which was built in 1960, burnt in the fire of 1583. Ivan the Terrible ordered the architects to build a new cathedral at the same location to maintain the memorial of Russia win against the Mongols and conquer of the city of Kazan.
The construction ended in 1593 with a unique and new design. Unlike the previous Orthodox Church’s tradition, the new cathedral was built with eight small church around a central church. Barma and Postnis who were the two architects of the cathedral broke the tradition of six churches around one central church, and in honor of Basil, one of the saints of Moscow who was buried inside the Trinity Cathedral, gave his name to the new cathedral.
The different shapes and design of the cathedral formed eventually throughout time. For example, the painted walls of the cathedral were white, and the flame-patterned domes were round and golden without any bizarre design.
While centuries have passed from the construction of the cathedral, the archaeologists are yet unable to discover the real reason behind the cathedral’s design. They can only guess about the reasons, for example, constructing eight church around one central church could be in honor of Jerusalem’s church, or it could be representing the eight-pointed star, but there are no pieces of evidence for these theories.
Throughout its existence, the Saint Basil’s Cathedral encountered several strikes and incidents, and each time the handlers covered the damages with a series of restorations. The most famous incident throughout the cathedral existence was the fire of 1583, in which the Trinity Cathedral was completely destroyed, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral replaced its position. When Napoleon invaded Moscow, he ordered his army to burn the cathedral, which they were unable to do. During the first world war, the preacher of the cathedral was one of the commanders of Union of the Russian People, he got arrested after the revolution, and got hanged by the Bolsheviks people. When the Soviet Union got the power in Russia, most of the cathedrals and religious sites were demolished or turned to museum and government offices, but the Saint Basil’s Cathedral was favorite by Vladimir Lenin and saved. The Soviet even let the cathedral to give church services until 1929, but when Stalin succeeded the power, he wanted to demolish the Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Kazan Cathedral which was the other cathedral on the square to make a place for his plan of creating the greatest military parade in Red Square. One of the toughest barriers in front of Stalin was the famous Soviet architect, Peter Baranovsky, who vigorously protested the destruction of these cathedrals. Baranovsky was able to save the Saint Basil’s Cathedral, however, he was not able to save the entire Kazan cathedral, but he managed to save the blueprint of the structure, which the new Kazan Cathedral was built after this blueprint and the photographs of the place. Though he did manage to save the Saint Basil’s Cathedral, which was one of the unofficial symbols of Russia, he paid the price of his objections with five years of prison.
One of the reasons for the cathedral’s popularity and recognized as one of the unofficial symbols of the country would be its unique and unusual architecture. The idea of building eight churches around one central church, and also the flaming onion shape of its domes has never been repeated in Russia. The Saint Basil’s Cathedral locates in Red Square complex and includes in the UNESCO world heritage site’s list, and currently, it’s under the State Historical Museum of Russia administration. However, from 1993, the cathedral is giving occasional church services which it was forbidden during the Soviet Union era.
Red Square and Kremlin are the most important tourist attractions of Moscow for the travel agencies, that’s why we’re sure Saint Basil’s Cathedral which is quite attractive for foreign tourists is included in Moscow tour plans. Though if you want to look inside this huge cathedral which consists of nine connected churches, you should fix the plan with your Russia tour agency beforehand.
Each one of the churches has its unique architecture, wall paintings, icons, and background history, which each one of them has their worth to check out. This place has a lot of historical objects and also included in UNESCO world heritage site’s list, that’s why even after the cathedral turned back to the Orthodox Church, it still operates under the state historical museum of Russia administration.
Besides the unique exterior, the interior of this cathedral alongside the wall paintings and the icons is next in line of important attractions of Saint Basil’s Cathedral. There are also several temporary exhibitions that the State Historical Museum of Russia holds in the cathedral.
One of the main attractions of Red Square is the Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and it’s highly recommended in the Moscow’s tour programs. There is no similar thing to the Saint Basil’s Cathedral in all Russia, and even Kremlin’s cathedrals including Cathedral of the Archangel, Cathedral of the Dormition, and Cathedral of the Annunciation can’t compete with the history and uniqueness of the Saint Basil’s Cathedral. There are no doubts about the important role that the Saint Basil’s Cathedral played in Russia history and with all of these attractions, it’s understandable why the cathedral is quite popular in tours of Moscow.