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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

St. Basil’s Cathedral

Commissioned by Ivan the terrible to commemorate his successful military campaign against the Tartar Mongols in the city of Kazan, in 1552, St. Basil’s was designed by Postnik Yakolev and built between 1555 and 1561. Legend has it that Ivan the Terrible had the architect blinded after the building was finished, so he could never build anything more beautiful, but history records that he did build another cathedral in Vladimir, so the legend is most likely just that.

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Built on the edge of the Red Square in Moscow, St. Basil’s Cathedral is a colorful edifice made up of 9 individual chapels, each a symbol of a successful assault on Kazan and topped by an onion dome. The ninth chapel was erected in 1588 between the first eight, giving the cathedral the look of an eight-corner star when seen from above.


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Moscow’s most popular and probably most beautiful building was close to being a victim of the Bolshevik regime; Stalin closed down the church, melted its bells and prepared a plan for its demolition, to ease the movement of parades and vehicles through the square. Thankfully the courage of brilliant architect P. Baranovsky, who, when ordered to make preparation for the destruction, threatened to cut his own throat on the church’s steps, managed to convince Stalin to reconsider.

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