St Basil’s Cathedral | Attraction Guides | History Hit

St Basil’s Cathedral

Moscow, Moscow, Russia

About St Basil’s Cathedral

St Basil’s Cathedral is a strikingly ornate red brick building bordering Moscow’s Red Square and crowned with several vividly coloured domes, which bear a striking resemblance in shape to flames licking at the sky.

St Basil’s Cathedral was originally constructed in 1555, under the orders of Tsar Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible. Ivan’s intention in building St Basil’s Cathedral was to celebrate his victory in the Russo-Kazan Wars, specifically the siege of Kazan and the cathedral’s name was derived from that of a Russian Orthodox saint called Vasily (Basil) the Blessed.

There has been much dispute over who actually designed St Basil’s Cathedral, but one particularly gruesome legend says that, after they did so, Ivan arranged for the architect’s eyes to be removed so that they could not create anything to rival its beauty. In fact, St Basil’s Cathedral was quite an innovation in Russian architecture. Nothing like it had existed before. Today, St Basil’s Cathedral is a popular tourist destination and is a focal point of Moscow’s world renowned Red Square.

The interior of St Basil’s Cathedral is arguably disappointing when compared with the building’s exterior. This is due in large part to the scale and design, which lacks a focal point. However, it does contain some interesting medieval paintings and today forms part of the State History Museum. Visitors can also see the resting place of Saint Basil himself. Outside St Basil’s Cathedral is a platform from which the tsar would announce executions and general orders.

St Basil’s Cathedral also features as one of our top ten tourist attractions in Russia.