Around Red Square

St Basil's Cathedral

The most recognisable symbol of Moscow and Russia is probably St Basil's Cathedral with its brightly-coloured domes and it is often compared to a fairy-tale wedding cake. The cathedral was built between 1555 and 1561 on the orders of Tsar Ivan the Terrible to commemorate Russia's conquest of Kazan. There is some uncertainty concerning the chief architect of the cathedral. The main theory is that it was a master from Pskov called Postnik Yakovlev who was also known as Barma.  However some suggest that Postnik and Barma were actually two people. The oft-repeated legend that Ivan the Terrible had the architect blinded so that he could never create anything as beautiful as St Basil's again seems to be just a legend, although it is certainly something that Ivan was capable of doing.  It is known that Postnik Yakovlev did go on to work on other cathedrals.

In form, St Basil's comprises a large central dome surrounded by a small tent-domed bell tower and nine chapels of various heights each topped with a dome decorated in various designs and colours. The ninth chapel was added in 1588 over the grave of St Basil the Blessed, who gives the cathedral its popular name; although officially the cathedral is known as the Intercession Cathedral.

Inside, narrow passages and staircases connect all of the chapels and are decorated with frescos.  In 1918 the cathedral was closed and turned into a museum, which became a branch of the State Historical Museum in 1928.  During the 1930s the cathedral was at risk of being demolished, although thankfully this never occurred.  Since 1991 the cathedral has been under the shared ownership of the State History Museum and the Russian Orthodox Church. It remains open as a museum although services are also held there on very rare occasions.


sights by districts  sights in Central Moscow

Location Red Square
Metro Okhotny Ryad, Ploschad Revolyutsi
Website http://www.saintbasil.ru
Open 11:00 - 18:00, daily.