St. Basil s Cathedral on Red Square, considered to be a true symbol of Russia and an integral part of Moscow scenery, is one of the most remarkable monuments and the supreme achievement of ancient architecture of the capital.
Great variety of architectural forms of the pillar-towers on the one hand and wild fantasy of the colorful decor and a rare unity of all the parts of the monument as a whole on the other indicate the brilliant talent of its creators who dared to boldly break the traditional canons of erecting a religious building. The building itself doesn t actually have the main entrance, so it s perceived as a round sculpture revealing itself in new, always interesting foreshortenings. The Cathedral was created in order to be seen perfectly well from different parts of Moscow.
The loss of the magnificent background of the distances of Zamoskvorechie against which the Cathedral could be seen from Red Square, turned out to be really great. But we have an opportunity to see the church against that background only in the Bolshoi Theater on the splendid scenery made by F. Fedorovsky for the opera Chovanshina . Pocrovsky Sobor, or the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat (the moat was dug along the citadel wall), was erected to commemorate the capture of Kazan capital of the khanate of Kazan and the last stronghold of Tatar-Mongolian invaders on the festival of the Intercession of the Virgin in October 1552.
Originally seven wooden churches (each of them dedicated to the saints on whose days the main victories of the Kazan campaigns took place) were built around the Cathedral of the Trinity, which already existed there. In 1555 architects Barma and Postnic began to raise a stone cathedral on a slight elevation on a massive ground floor.
The cathedral's composition is very unusual. It s the semibasement with eight pillar-towers grouped round the central tent roof. It is topped by a decorative tent roof bearing a small gilded dome. The main theme on which the cathedral's decoration is based, is frequently repeated tiers of kokoshniks. Three years later Barma and Postnik built the ninth chapel at the northeast corner of the cathedral housing the burial place of a Moscow famous holy fool Basil by whose name the Cathedral is now known. The open galleries with the stairs surrounded the walls of the Cathedral all over its perimeter.
At the end of the XVII century they were arched, and the staircase porches were covered with hipped roofs. Originally the facades and domes of the Intercession Cathedral were not painted different colours. The carved decorative details of white stone stood out boldly on the red-brick walls.
The sixteenth-century monument received its riot of colour in the two following centuries. The chapel and tent-roofed bell-tower also built in that period made the Cathedral look more picturesque. The interiors of the Cathedral are designed in a very interesting and unusual manner as well.
Narrow staircases and passages, not high churches contrast strikingly with the imposing exterior appearance of the Cathedral.
Thorough brickwork of the arches with their spiral design draws our attention. You can realize the real scale of this monumental building only having found yourself in the central church, narrow but vast in its dome. Pocrovsky Sobor repeatedly underwent partial reconstructions during the ages of its existence. Numerous repairs (including the major one done in 1898) were carried out without any appropriate scientific research of the ancient building. On May, 21 1923 the Cathedral became a branch of the State History Museum. Since then systematic scientific repairs are being carried out there.
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