Last edited 26 Apr 2021

St. Basil's Cathedral


The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, more popularly known as St. Basil’s Cathedral, is a church located at one end of Moscow’s Red Square. It was built between 1551 and 1561 at the behest of Ivan the Terrible as a war memorial, with the architects designing eight pillar-shaped churches on one base, arranging seven of them around the central church, using domes, polygonal towers, blank arches and sharp spires to create the shape of bonfire flames rising into the sky.

The architects took inspiration from Byzantine as well as Asian architecture, and used open brickwork which was a new technology at the time.

As Russian preferences moved towards the use of vivid colours during the 18th century, the onion-shaped domes were given garish individual colour schemes.

The cathedral has narrowly avoided destruction on several occasions. In the 19th century, Napoleon and his forces tried to dynamite it as they left Russia but the plan was scuppered by rain. Then in the 20th century, Stalin developed plans to destroy it, apparently for not being stylistically representative of the Soviet Union, but he was prevented by architect Pyotr Baranovsky who refused to prepare it for demolition.

Today it is a no longer a functioning church but a museum and popular tourist attraction, having become a unique and iconic symbol of Russia.


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