St Basil Cathedral in Moscow, 450 years old today

I am not a Russian Orthodox Catholic However I have often admired the beauty, simplicity, and grandeur of the places and faith of our Russian Orthodox brothers and sisters.
Above: St. Basil's Cathedral in 1900.

Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed is an architectural symbol of Moscow and Russia. The church, now a museum, is celebrating its 450th anniversary on July 12.

The Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, popularly known as Saint Basil's Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox church erected on the Red Square in Moscow in 1555–61. Built on the order of Ivan IV of Russia to commemorate the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan, it marks the geometric center of the city and the hub of its growth since the 14th century. It was the tallest building in Moscow until the completion of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in 1600.

Above: Trinity Cathedral under construction (Apollinary Vasnetsov, 1902)

The original building, known as "Trinity Church" and later "Trinity Cathedral", contained eight side churches arranged around the ninth, central church of Intercession; the tenth church was erected in 1588 over the grave of venerated local saint Vasily (Basil). In the 16th and the 17th centuries the church, perceived as the earthly symbol of the Heavenly City, was popularly known as the "Jerusalem" and served as an allegory of the Jerusalem Temple in the annual Palm Sunday parade attended by the Patriarch of Moscow and the tsar.The building's design, shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, has no analogues in Russian architecture: "...It is like no other Russian building. Nothing similar can be found in the entire millennium of Byzantine tradition from the fifth to fifteenth century ... a strangeness that astonishes by its unexpectedness, complexity and dazzling interleaving of the manifold details of its design..."(Shvidkovsky 2007, p. 126)
The cathedral foreshadowed the climax of Russian national architecture in the 17th century.

The building was consecrated on 12 July 1561, and was subsequently elevated to the status of a sobor (similar to Roman Catholic ecclesiastical basilica, but usually and incorrectly translated as "cathedral"). "Trinity", according to tradition, refers to the easternmost sanctuary of Holy Trinity, while the central sanctuary of the church is dedicated to Intercession of Mary. Together with the westernmost sanctuary of Entry into Jerusalem, these sanctuaries form the main west–east axis (Christ, Mary, Holy Trinity), while other sanctuaries are dedicated to individual saints, being:

The Central core Tented church Intercession of Most Holy Theotokos Beginning of the final assault of Kazan, October 1, 1552

The West Column Entry of Christ into Jerusalem Triumph of the Muscovite troops
North-west Groin vault Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia Capture of Ars Tower of Kazan Kremlin, September 30, 1552

The North Column Saint Martyrs Cyprian and Justinia (since 1786 Saint Adrian and Natalia of Nicomedia) Complete capture of Kazan Kremlin, October 2, 1552

The North-east Groin vault Three Patriarchs of Alexandria (since 1680 Saint John the Merciful) Defeat of Yepancha's cavalry on August 30, 1552

The East Column Life-giving Holy Trinity Historical Trinity Church on the same site
South-east Groin vault Saint Alexander Svirsky Defeat of Yepancha's cavalry on August 30, 1552

The South Column The icon of Saint Nicholas from the Velikaya River (Nikola Velikoretsky) Miraculous finding of itself

The South-west Groin vault Saint Barlaam of Khutyn Indecisive, probably commemorates Vasili III of Russia

The North-eastern annex (1588) Groin vault Basil the Blessed Grave of venerated local saint

The South-eastern annex (1672) Groin vault Laying the Veil (in 1680: Nativity of Theotokos, from 1916: Saint John the Blessed of Moscow) Grave of a venerated local saint.

A Miraclous Find.

Tradition relates, that on the day of consecration the church itself became part of Orthodox thaumaturgy. According to the legend, its "missing" ninth church (precisely, sanctuary) was "miraculously found" during a ceremony attended by Tsar Ivan IV, Metropolitan Makarius and divine interference of Saint Tikhon. Piskaryov's Chronist wrote in the second quarter of the 17th century:

"...And the tsar came to dedication of said church with tsaritsa Nastasia and with father Metropolitan Makarius and brought the icon of miraclemaker Nicholas that came from Vyatka. And they began to offer a prayer service and to make sanctified water. And the tsar touched the base with his own hands. And the builders saw that another sanctuary appeared, and told the tsar. And the tsar, and metropolitan, and all the clergy were surprised by the finding of another sanctuary... And the tsar ordered to dedicate it to Nicholas ..."

State Museum Moscow for more pictures of the interior.


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