St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow – Famous Cathedral of Moscow

What is St. Basil’s Cathedral? Where is the St. Basil’s Cathedral? Who built the St. Basil’s Cathedral? All of these questions and more will be explored in the discussion below. We will examine the history of the Cathedral of Moscow, St. Basil’s Cathedral’s architecture, and its architects. Let’s get started and have a look at this stunning example of Russian architecture known as St. Basil’s Cathedral.



A Look at St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

ArchitectIvan Barma (16th century) and Postnik Yakovlev (16th century)
Date Constructed1555 – 1561
Original FunctionCathedral
Present FunctionMuseum
Materials UsedBrick, stone, and wood
Height47.5 meters (or 156 ft)
LocationMoscow, Russia

St. Basil’s Cathedral is a stunning church building in Moscow, Russia. Ever since it was constructed, it has been considered to be one of the most gorgeous pieces of Russian architecture ever designed, but it no longer serves the purpose for which it was designed.

In the beginning, it was constructed as a Russian Orthodox cathedral, but after the Communist Revolution in Russia, it has instead served as a museum.

When the church was founded, it was dedicated to the feast day of the Intercession. This is the day on which there is a celebration for the supposed appearance of the Virgin Mary in the 10th century in the then-Byzantine city of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul in Turkey). The St. Basil’s Cathedral of Moscow would eventually go on to become one of the most famous sights in all of Russia.

Cathedral of Moscow Crowd in the Red Square in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral; This photo was taken by Anton Zelenov.Please credit this with : Photo : Anton Zelenov in the immediate vicinity of the image.If you use one of my photos, please email me (account needed) or leave me a short message on my discussion page.It would be greatly appreciated.Do not copy this image illegally by ignoring the terms of the license below, as it is not in the public domain.If you would like special permission to use, license, or purchase the image please contact me to negotiate terms.English | русский | +/−, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The silhouette and design of the nine domes of the church have become a symbol of the country and city. The church building has managed to survive through the centuries. Even though it was confiscated from the church in 1928, ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has hosted church services. It does still remain a museum to this day despite that though.


The History of St. Basil’s Cathedral

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was constructed thanks to Ivan the Terrible. This figure is considered to be one of the most important in the history of Russia. He received his title because of the incredible violence through which he ruled his people, and he was also a firm believer in the divine right to rule. He believed that he had the authority of god behind him. During his rule, he would unite Russia and become the Czar of all Russia, and after he went to war against the Khanates and Astrakhan and won, he decided to have the now-famous church constructed.

The church was dedicated to the appearance of the Virgin Mary, as has been mentioned, and would be designed by two architects that we know very little about (although they will be discussed below).

The church was designed with nine chapels, and each had its own dome, and those chapels are all dedicated to a different religious figure. The tallest dome, which is part of the central chapel, is dedicated to the Intercession. This has led the church to become one of the most illustrious and architecturally stunning churches ever constructed.

Who Built the St Basil's Cathedral The color scheme of the cathedral seen by night; Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The church itself would become known as St. Basil’s Cathedral. The reason for this is because of a figure who became a minor saint in the Russian Orthodox faith, and his body was buried in the church. He was noted for his piety and humility, and he was also a critic of Ivan the Terrible. However, he was respected by the monarch regardless of that.

The chapel dedicated to St. Basil himself is the only one that has a different color scheme from the rest. The church has managed to survive much through the years.

It was expanded in the late 17th century, damaged by a fire in 1737, became cluttered around a commercial district in the early 19th century, and restored in the late 19th century. Things would only significantly change for the structure after 1918 though. After the Communist Revolution that year, the church was taken over by the state and there were even some thoughts to demolish it, notably under the rule of Joseph Stalin.

Where Is the St Basil's Cathedral The small dome on the left marks the sanctuary of Basil the Blessed (1588); Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, it was ultimately preserved and opened as a museum. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early-1990s, it has become both a museum and a church space. Services do take place every Sunday in the historic church.


St. Basil’s Cathedral Architecture

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is considered to be one of the greatest examples of Russian architecture. The immensely colorful design is also considered to be unlike much of Russian structures in general, although the now immensely famous colorful domes were technically added later. The exterior of the structure has become one of the most famous cultural images of Russia, and it has remained that way for generations.

The outside of the church is quite distinct from the inside. St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow has an exterior that is massive and monumental in scale. The inside of the church is significantly different as it is made up of nine separate chapels that are each dedicated to a different figure.

This has led the inside of the building to be predominantly made up of a collection of narrow corridors that connect to the small chapels within its walls. When it comes to the actual architectural style of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, it is a difficult thing to establish. It does not quite fit into any singular tradition and is a structure of its own that defies the expectations of church architecture. The church’s design is something of a composite, and it drew inspiration from a variety of sources, such as Russian vernacular architecture, Gothic, and Italianate designs.

Interior of the Cathedral of Moscow Inside Saint Basil’s Cathedral on the Red Square, Moscow; Alessio Damato, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the time, there were a number of working Italians in Russia who contributed to the architecture of Moscow, and there are certain aspects of St. Basil’s Cathedral’s architecture that draw quite heavily from Italian traditions, such as the use of brickwork vaults inside St. Basil’s Cathedral.

According to tradition, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is supposedly modeled after the depiction of the Kingdom of Heaven from the Bible, but this would still be an interpretive exercise for any architect. Regardless, it has an architectural style all of its own that distinguishes it from every other Russian church (and every other church around the world in general).

Some of the most stunning aspects of the design include the use of the red brick that has become such a prominent part of the design of the structure as a whole, the central chapel design that is built to be surrounded by the eight other chapels of the church, the immense complexity of the exterior and interior design and, of course, the domes.

Inside St Basil's Cathedral Murals in the galleries of St. Basil’s Cathedral; Meihe Chen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow have become the most famous aspect of the design as they are brightly colored and serve as a gorgeous backdrop against the skyline of the city. Furthermore, the design of the domes is meant to be evocative of bonfires. All of these different architectural elements come together to transform St. Basil’s Cathedral into one of the most stunning examples of church architecture that has ever been designed.


The Saint Basil’s Cathedral Architects

Little is known about Saint Basil’s Cathedral architects, but it is believed that it was two men, Ivan Barma and Postnik Yakovlev. Little is known about either, but more is known about the latter. When it comes to Ivan Barma, we mostly know that he was likely one of the architects who worked on the Cathedral of Moscow.

Other than that, we do not know anything else about him other than he and his partner being alive in the 16th century. When it comes to Postnik Yakovlev, we also know very little about him, but it is possible that Ivan Barma was either a nickname for him or an assistant to him.

Saint Basil's Cathedral Architect Saint Basil’s Cathedral as viewed from the Red Square; Tsy1980, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The lack of record-keeping has ensured that this has remained an issue for the ages. However, there is one story that exists about Postnik Yakovlev, but it may not be true. According to legend, when St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was constructed under the order of Ivan the Terrible, the famously violent monarch considered the church to be so beautiful that he felt Postnik Yakovlev should never be able to build anything else again. For this reason, he blinded the architect. However, as has been stated, this is likely a myth seeing as Postnik Yakovlev did design other structures after the completion of St. Basil’s Cathedral.


And so, at long last, we have come to the end of our look at St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. We have discussed the history of the structure, St. Basil’s Cathedral’s architecture, and the architects behind it all. The Cathedral of Moscow has become one of the most famous sights in all of Russia, and it stands as one of the most unique church buildings ever constructed. If you ever get the chance to see it yourself, do not hesitate.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is St. Basil’s Cathedral?

St. Basil’s Cathedral is one of the most famous architectural sights in all of Russia. It was constructed as a Russian Orthodox Church under the orders of Ivan the Terrible, and it has become one of the most recognizable images of Russia ever since. It now serves as a museum.


Where Is the St. Basil’s Cathedral?

St. Basil’s Cathedral is situated in Moscow, Russia. In more specific terms, it is located in the immensely famous Red Square of the city and is near some of the other most famous sites in the city. For instance, it is situated near the Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum.


Who Built the St. Basil’s Cathedral?

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was constructed under orders of Ivan the Terrible. It was constructed to commemorate the victories of the famously brutal monarch over the Khanates and the Astrakhan.


Who Were Saint Basil’s Cathedral’s Architects?

The architects in charge of the construction were Ivan Barma and Postnik Yakovlev. Little else is known about these architects other than them designing the now incredibly famous church. According to a legend, Ivan the Terrible blinded Postnik Yakovlev after he designed it so that he would never build something as beautiful again, but that story is not supported by historical evidence.


Why Was St. Basil’s Cathedral Built?

Ivan the Terrible is said to have ordered the construction of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow after his military victory over two rival states. However, the church itself was constructed as a monument to god and his own power and authority.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow – Famous Cathedral of Moscow.” Art in Context. July 26, 2023. URL:

van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 26 July). St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow – Famous Cathedral of Moscow. Art in Context.

van Huyssteen, Justin. “St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow – Famous Cathedral of Moscow.” Art in Context, July 26, 2023.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *