Anastasia in St Basil’s Cathedral

Today is Russian Orthodox Christmas. Happy Christmas to everyone who celebrates it today!

It seems fitting to continue the story of Anastasia’s summer trip to Moscow by showing the magnificent St Basil’s Cathedral. It was one of the first places we visited. 

The construction of the St Basil’s Cathedral was ordered by Ivan IV the Terrible, the grandson of Ivan III who built the Moscow Kremlin and Sophia Palaiologina, to celebrate the conquest of the Khanate of Kazan. It was built in 1555 – 1561. Dedicated to the protection of the Virgin Mary, the church is officially known as the Church of the Intercession, or the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on the Moat. It has also been called Pokrovsky Cathedral. The name “St Basil” comes from a commoner Basil the Blessed (or the Beatific and the Wonderworker of Moscow). He was born in 1468 and became known for his prophetic powers and for being a “fool for Christ”. He died in 1557 and was buried in the cathedral that would take its name after him.

The cathedral’s original colour was white while the domes were gold. Starting in the 17th century, the facade and domes started to be painted in the bright colours that are seen today.

St Basil’s Cathedral is made up of 9 chapels built around the central chapel of the Intersession of the Holy Virgin. The 8 chapels are aligned to points on the compass, four of which are raised to designate their position between heaven and earth. The chapels are dedicated to the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Saints Cyprian and Ustinia, the Holy Trinity, St Nicholas Velikoretsky, St Gregory of Armenia, St Barlaam Khutynsky, St Alexander Svirsky, and the Three Patriarchs. The ninth chapel was added in honour of Saint Basil.

The monument in front of the Cathedral is the statue of Minin and Pozharsky. Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and the merchant Kuzma Minin were the leaders of the militia that repelled the Polish invasion of 1612, at the height of the Time of Troubles. The statue was erected in 1818 and became Russia’s first monumental sculpture. The statue once stood in the centre of the Red Square, with the figure of Minin pointing towards the Kremlin. However, it was moved in 1930 as its location interfered with Stalin’s plans for organised parades.

Technically, the Cathedral is still part of the Russian State History museum, but since 1991 Russian Orthodox services have been held in the St Basil’s chapel every Sunday at 10am and also of the special feasts days – on the 14-15th of August (St Basil’s Day) and on the 13-14th of October (the Feast of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin).

The Cathedral’s so called basement. The wall paintings here are all recent, carefully restored in their former beauty.

The chapel of St Basil.

St Basil’s tomb in the chapel.

A couple of Russian manuscripts displayed in the chapel. Both are open on the pages with prayers to St Basil.

The central chapel of the Intersession of the Holy Virgin. It’s the tallest chapel in the Cathedral. It’s 47.5 metres high and it’s breathtaking to look up.

The chapel of the Three Patriarchs.

Some galleries and passages between the chapels.

The chapel of St. Nicholas Velikoretsky.

The chapel of the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem.

Sticharion, deacon’s liturgical vestment. 17th century. It is made out of velvet, embossed and gilt silver, and pearls. It is adorned with 58 decorative silver plaques.

A 17th century (1672) Russian illuminated manuscript. The Life of St Alexander Svirsky.

Outer gallery leading to the exit from the cathedral.

Some paintings on the walls.

View from the cathedral onto the Red Square.

View from the Cathedral onto the Moscow River.

The statue of Minin and Pozharsky.

More close-ups of the exterior if the cathedral. It’s so magnificent that’s it’s hard to stop taking lots of photographs!

St Basil’s Cathedral at sunset.

To be continued…

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