One of the best-known and most photographed sights in Moscow, the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed or simply Saint Basil’s Cathedral marked its 458th birthday this year on July 12. Maybe you have heard of this amazing cathedral, maybe you haven’t. Either way, here are some interesting facts about it.
The origin of Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Did you know that Saint Basil’s Cathedral symbolizes the Heavenly City? According to one theory, the cathedral symbolizes Heavenly Jerusalem, or, in other words, the Kingdom of God, the walls of which are decorated with precious stones. Another theory states that its architects tried replicating the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae in Constantinople when the Holy Virgin appeared as a result of Christians praying for protection from the Saracen army. The Holy Virgin protected Christians with her mantle.
Many in one
This cathedral is more than one building. In fact, it is nine churches in one! At the beginning, the present cathedral’s basement was used as a base for nine small churches that were built separately and then connected with small passages and galleries. In the 16th century, this basement was used for storing the city’s savings and the church’s money.
Changes throughout history
The exterior of the cathedral was originally designed to look like brickwork, but as time passed, each era affected Saint Basil’s Cathedral in a particular way, so its looks kept changing. After a fire that happened in 1595, all the churches were decorated with onion domes and they kept their colors until the 18th century. During the renovation of Red Square in 1817, it was further changed – the retaining wall was reinforced with stone and a cast-iron fence was added as well.
Legends of Saint Basil’s Cathedral
There is an interesting legend that says that the architects of Saint Basil’s Cathedral were blinded after they completed their work. According to the legend, Ivan the Terrible demanded that the architects be blinded after the completion of their work on this breathtaking cathedral in order to prevent them from recreating this work of art, let alone creating something more impressive. This surely sounds brutal, but there are some facts that indicate that one of the architects was later involved in another construction project, meaning that he probably wasn’t blinded.
A cathedral protected by God
This breathtaking cathedral has survived throughout the years, but only one original bell remains there. By a miracle, that bell survived the melting of bronze bells that had been ordered by the Soviet authorities in 1929. “It has preserved the sound of the 16th century, down to the last upper partial tone”, said a bell ringer called Alexei Konovalov. After that, France wanted to blow it up and the Communists wanted to demolish it. Saint Basil’s Cathedral was in danger whenever there was a fight near Moscow, especially if the enemy forces were in Moscow itself. Fortunately, the cathedral has withstood all the troubles throughout history and remains one of the greatest places of worship in the world.