St. Basil’s Cathedral
– Fairytale Palace Near the Kremlin

Source and Copyright: RT News. Language: ENGLISH. Duration: 3 minutes, 22 seconds

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Called everything from beautiful to unusual and downright strange-looking, Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral remains the city’s most celebrated landmark and nothing short of Russia’s national symbol.

Completed in 1561, the iconic cathedral was built on the order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of the Tatar stronghold of Kazan. It is officially called the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat. The popular alternative refers to Basil the Blessed, a prophet and miracle worker who was buried at the site.

At the time of Ivan’s final victory over the Tatars, eight wooden churches had already been built here, marking his previous successes in the campaign. Wanting a more permanent memorial, Ivan had them replaced by stone and brick; one more church was later added to mark St. Basil’s tomb.

So if the resulting structure looks like a chaotic pile-up of domes, it is because the cathedral is not just one church, but a cluster of nine, built on a single foundation and linked by a maze of snaking galleries.

Despite its fame, the landmark offers surprisingly few facts – a lot about it is the stuff of legend. Little is known about its designers. They were apparently two men called Barma and Postnik, although some researchers suggest both names may refer to the same person. There is also a story – albeit one not backed by historians – that after the building was finished, the tsar had the architects blinded so that they could never create anything as beautiful elsewhere. Experts still argue about the inspiration behind this riot of shapes and colors.

The cathedral is simply like no other Russian building – before or after it. It is thought that the unusual design is a heady mix of Russian traditions of wooden and stone architecture, with some elements thrown in from the works of Italian architects who were employed in Moscow at the time.

After the Russian Revolution, St. Basil’s was turned into a museum, which saved it from the destruction wrought on many other churches by the Soviet government. Still, it nearly fell victim to Stalin’s big reconstruction plans because the cathedral was deemed to be in the way of grand military parades held in Red Square. The demolition project did not go ahead, though, and now, after 450 years, this church that looks more like a fairytale palace stands tall as Russia’s most enduring symbol.

Source & Copyright: RT News
27 October, 2011