St. Basil’s Cathedral is one of the most famous Moscow’s landmarks. It attracts visitors with its architecture, brightly colored domes and its location on the Red Square. Everyone who visited Moscow definitely has a photo of the cathedral. But have you wondered about what is inside the St. Basil’s Cathedral? Is it worth visiting? How many churches are there? How are they connected? Why it is called St. Basil’s, although it has its official name “the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat”? And where is “the moat”, by the way?
St. Basil’s Cathedral is a votive church built in the 16th century by order of Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible. He made a vow to have a church built if his military campaign against Kazan Khan was successful. Eight small churches devoted to the small victories of the Kazan campaign surround the main one, the tent-roofed church in the centre is a memorial of the final victory over Kazan, which happened on the Day of Intercession. Two other churches were built over the graves of two Russian saints, St. Basil the Blessed and Ivan the Blissed. You can visit 11 churches on the two tiers of the St. Basil’s Cathedral.
In the central Church of the Intercession, spiritual services are held every morning. In the day time, visitors can listen to the ensemble of sacred music singing a cappella. Resonators in the walls create good acoustics, so you can hear their voices very clearly in different corners of the cathedral.
The churches are connected with the labyrinth of beautifully painted narrow vaulted corridors and galleries. The colorful flower patterns symbolize the heavenly garden.
Basil the Blessed was buried near the Church of the Intercession, and soon a new church was built over his grave. People worshipped his holy remains and used to say, “Let’s go to St. Basil”. So, the church got this name. Inside the cathedral, you can learn about his life story from a multimedia presentation, see few icons with the image of St. Basil, and visit the St. Basil’s church with the shrine, which is no doubt the most beautiful. Basil the Blessed was a fool-for-Christ, even in winter he didn’t wear clothes and got the blessing to make miracles. Ivan the Terrible respected him and listened to his advices.
There is also a museum inside of the St. Basil’s Cathedral, where original things used here are exhibited, for example, ostensorium and Holy Banners. You can also see mica windows and a piece of the old domes covering, the precious chains of Ivan the Blessed that weigh about 30 kg. Ancient images of the church clarify its name: in the past, a moat existed on the Red Square along the Kremlin wall, so the cathedral was called “on the Moat”.
St. Basil’s Cathedral is open every day. A complicated system of labyrinths connects small churches and exhibition cases where history, beauty and religion are combined. Inside the St. Basil’s Cathedral at Moscow's Red Square, one can learn many interesting facts from the history and the life of fools-for-Christ, enjoy ancient architecture and applied art, or just walk around being merged into the atmosphere of the past.
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