Saint Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square

St. Basil’s Cathedral (Cathedral of the Protection of the Holy Mary in Moscow).

Saint Basil's Cathedral (Pokrovsky Cathedral in Moscow)

September 1 – October 31: 11:00 – 18:00, daily November 1 – April 30: 11:00 – 17:00, daily May 1 – August 31: 10:00 – 18:00, daily December 31 and January 1: closed

Metro Okhodny Ryad st. “Okhotny Ryad, Ploshchad Revolutsii, Teatralnaya.
Bus Stop. “Red Square”, 158, m5.

The Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God upon the River, popularly called St. Basil’s Cathedral, is an active Orthodox church, museum, one of the main attractions of Red Square and a recognized symbol of Moscow and Russia for foreigners, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The highest part of the temple is 65 meters high. The Cathedral of the Intercession includes 11 altars, and each of them is consecrated in honor of the church holidays, on which days the decisive battles for Kazan took place. There are no basement rooms, the thrones are located on a podklet, divided into rooms almost 6.5 meters high.

In front of the temple is the main sculpture of the square – Monument to Minin and Pozharsky.

Saint Basil's Cathedral (Pokrovsky Cathedral in Moscow)

The domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral

Bright, “gingerbread”, domes of the Intercession Cathedral attract attention in the first place. However, the symbolic meaning of such coloring, which theoretically should exist, remains a mystery.

According to one version, such festivity is related to the dream of Andrei the Fool of God about the Heavenly Jerusalem.

The brick temple has 11 domes. Nine are located directly above it, in accordance with the number of altars, and the main dome in the center is above the altar of the Intercession of the Theotokos. The tenth dome is located above the aisle of St. Basil the Blessed, and the last one – above the bell tower.

Saint Basil's Cathedral (Pokrovsky Cathedral in Moscow)

History of the cathedral

The brick church in the historic center of the capital was built in 1555-1561 by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the victory over the Kazan Khanate, which was finally won on the day of the Intercession of the Theotokos.

The architect of the St. Basil’s Cathedral (historically and at present – the Intercession Church, in addition, a separate Church of St. Basil was added later) was Postnik Yakovlev, a Pskov architect. This version is now the official one, although previously it was accepted that the temple could have had several main architects.

The Church of St. Basil on the northeast side of the cathedral was built in 1588 over the burial of the canonized fool, and was originally a separate building. At the end of the 16th century, already under Theodore Ioannovitch, the figurative painted heads of the temple were decorated.

The appearance of the famous cathedral noticeably changed in the XVII century: the vault was extended, porches with hipped roofs were equipped, and artistic paintings were added.

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According to historical evidence of the first third of the XVIII century, there were 18 altars in the cathedral. By that time, the cathedral was several times restored after each fire, and the most extensive restoration was needed in 1737, after a major fire, which went down in the history of the capital as the “Trinity Fire”. The restoration works were led by I. Michurin.

In the early Soviet years, the ancient Pokrovsky Cathedral on Red Square was among the first to be included in the list of state-protected monuments. Already in 1923 a historical and architectural museum was established. In 1929 the bells were removed from the building, while the museum exhibit was available on a permanent basis – the building was forced to close only during the World War II. Under the simultaneous management of the Historical Museum and the church the complex of the cathedral has been operating since 1991.

Saint Basil's Cathedral (Pokrovsky Cathedral in Moscow)

Working hours of the St. Basil’s Cathedral

As a museum, the cathedral is open to visitors according to a seasonal schedule:

  • December 31 and January 1, the museum is not open.
  • September 1 – October 31: 11:00 – 18:00, daily.
  • November 1 – April 30: 11:00-17:00, daily.
  • May 1-August 31: 10:00-18:00, daily.
  • The museum’s box office and grounds close 45 minutes early.

In frosty weather below -15° or during the festivities on Red Square the opening hours are reduced. For exact information please call the information desk.

During school vacations (winter and spring) the museum is open to visitors one hour longer.

The first Wednesday of the month is a sanitary day, and admission tickets are not sold on this day.

Divine services in the temple on Red Square

Services in the St. Basil’s Cathedral are held every Sunday, as well as on the second day of Easter, according to the schedule.

The liturgy begins at 10:00 a.m. and is followed by an akathist to St. Basil.

How to enter the Basil’s Cathedral

Entrance to St. Basil’s Cathedral is paid – the building belongs to the grounds of the State Historical Museum and, therefore, mostly works as a museum.

Prices for tickets to St. Basil’s Cathedral:

  • For adults – 500 rubles;
  • To students – full-time students; persons 7-17 years old; holders of ISIC and IYTC cards; pensioners of Russia and the CIS – 250 rubles;
  • Pensioners of Russia and the CIS – 250 rubles on weekdays and 500 rubles on weekends and holidays.

The last Sunday of the month there is free entrance for students, pupils of 16-18 years old and members of large families.

A complete list of the categories of citizens who have free admission on other days – on the official site of the St. Basil’s Cathedral Museum as part of the State Historical Museum.

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To find out about attending a liturgy in the cathedral, visit the website of the Moscow Patriarchate separately.

Excursions to St. Basil’s Cathedral

Guided tours, including those adapted for children, on a separate schedule, are conducted in the temple by employees of the Historical Museum. An additional fee for a guided visit of the museum as a part of a combined tour group (in addition to the general admission ticket) is 200 rubles per person.

Tickets and audio tours

You can also learn more about the history of this architectural monument during sightseeing tours around Red Square with a guide of the project Experts.Turister.Ru.

How to get there

The Cathedral is a part of the ensemble of Red Square from the south side, so it is convenient to get there not only by the classical way – by subway, but also by ground transport – by bus 158, m5 to the stop “Red Square” on Varvarka Street. From the stop, it will be a short walk to the temple through Vasilyevsky Spusk.

From Moscow railway stations it is more convenient to take the metro and get off at one of the many stations within walking distance of Red Square (depending on the selected metro branch): “Okhotny Ryad”, “Teatralnaya”, “Ploshchad Revolutsii”, “Kitay-gorod”.

Entrance from Red Square. Panorama from Google Maps

Panorama of St. Basil’s Cathedral from the Basil Descent

Basil’s Cathedral – history and mysteries

The Church of St. Basil is the most beautiful and mysterious church in all of Russia. It is believed that the architects who created it were deprived of sight, the building was not allowed to be demolished by Stalin himself, and during the war the temple was hidden from shelling. The top tier of the cathedral resembles a labyrinth, and the base resembles an eight-pointed star. We have collected all the most important things about the temple, by which foreigners unmistakably recognize […]

The Church of St. Basil is the most beautiful and mysterious church in all of Russia. It is believed that the architects who created it were deprived of sight, the building was not allowed to be demolished by Stalin himself, and during the war the temple was hidden from shelling. The top tier of the cathedral resembles a labyrinth, and the base resembles an eight-pointed star. We have collected all the most important things about the temple, by which foreigners unmistakably recognize […]

St. Basil’s Cathedral is the most beautiful and mysterious church in all of Russia. It is believed that the architects who created it were deprived of sight, the building was not allowed to be demolished by Stalin himself, and during the war the church was hidden from shelling. The top tier of the cathedral resembles a labyrinth, and the base resembles an eight-pointed star. We have collected all the most important things about the temple, by which foreigners unmistakably identify Russia.

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St. Basil’s Cathedral – real name

The Basil's Cathedral. History

St. Basil’s Cathedral – a religious building from the time of Ivan the Terrible, by which every foreigner recognizes Moscow to this day. This is the most recognizable Russian temple. Few people know its true name – the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God on the Rvu. On July 2 (June 29, O.S.) 1561, the central church of the Intercession was once consecrated. The first reliable mentioning of the construction of the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God dates back to the autumn of 1554. It is believed that it was a wooden cathedral which was later demolished to build a stone church.

The reason for the construction of the cathedral was the conquest of the Kazan Khanate. Tsar Ivan the Terrible, praying before starting a military campaign, made a vow to God to build a church, which Russia had never seen before, in case of his victory. The tsar was stern and ruthless, but remained a deeply religious man.

Temple of St. Basil – History

To preserve the beautiful building in a single copy, Tsar Ivan the Terrible ordered to blind the architects Postnik and Barma – so the legend says. Their names became known only at the end of the XIX century. It is believed that the tsar watched the construction of the temple from the tower on the Kremlin wall. When the construction came to an end, he summoned the architects to ask whether they could replicate such a building. The architects answered in the affirmative to the king. Then he ordered that their eyesight be taken away. Scientists have doubts about this: in the XVI century prominent architects were very valued. So for the construction of the Kremlin invited Italian masters. It is quite possible that, knowing the stern temperament of the Russian Tsar, the rumors were spread by foreigners.

In the XVIII-XIX centuries in the St. Basil’s Cathedral regular divine services were held. As a rule, they were held in an annex – a temple built in honor of St. Basil, because the other churches were cold. That is why the name St. Basil’s Cathedral caught on among the people.

Services in the temple continued until the early 20th century. The last rector was Father Ioann Vostorgov, nowadays numbered among the New Martyrs and Confessors. He was shot for his missionary work. He was especially loved and respected by Muscovites.

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The Cathedral of St. Basil's. Architecture

“At Father John’s request, the executioners allowed all the convicts to pray and say goodbye to one another. All knelt down, and a fervent prayer began… And then everyone bid farewell to one another. Archpriest Vostorgov was the first to come briskly to the tomb, and he said a few words to the others, inviting them all to make the last atoning sacrifice in faith in God’s mercy and the swift rebirth of our homeland. “I am ready,” he concluded, turning to the convoy. All rose to their designated places. The executioner came close to him from behind, took his left arm, twisted it behind his waist, and, holding a revolver to the back of his head, fired, simultaneously pushing Father John into the grave.”

During the Great Patriotic War, the museum did not stop its work, although it was closed to visitors. St. Basil’s Cathedral was carefully camouflaged to save it from bombing. There is a legend that after the war Stalin was offered to remove the cathedral under the pretext of interfering with the parade. It is believed that Kaganovich showed Stalin a model of the square, and in front of him removed the model of the temple, suggesting that it be demolished. Stalin sharply interrupted him, “Lazarus, put it back!” The inviolability of the cathedral since then no one questioned.

Basil's Cathedral. Mysteries

St. Basil’s Cathedral – architecture

The cathedral was built for 6 years from 1555 to 1561. Its original image was changed by additions, but the design of St. Basil’s temple seems unusual even in today’s times. It looks like a vault of eight churches, which surrounds the highest – the ninth. Such a temple still does not exist in Russia. Each temple has its own entrance and lighting, yet the cathedral is a single building.

Without the attached porches the St. Basil’s Cathedral seemed to be striving upwards. Masters used all possible at that time architectural decorations. All the domes of the cathedral are similar, but carried out differently. Nevertheless, the building looks very harmonious. This is one of the unique features of the cathedral. The idea of private distinctions and general similarity prevails in the interior design of the cathedral. The architecture of the cathedral has a lot of sacred symbols: a circle is the symbol of eternity, a triangle is the symbol of the triune God, the square is reminiscent of equality and justice, and the dot is the beginning of life. The architecture of the cathedral has a huge spiritual meaning.

The walls of the foundation of St. Basil’s Cathedral are three meters thick. It is this thickness allows the whole nine buildings to be held securely. If you look at the base of the church, you can see that eight small churches form an eight-pointed star – the symbol of the Virgin. There are bigger churches in the ensemble of small churches. They are strictly oriented on the sides of the world and form a symmetry. The main temple, with a huge dome and a tent, represents the Intercession of the Mother of God, Her intercession.

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The first changes to the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God on the Rvu occurred almost immediately after its construction and were connected with the name of a famous Moscow saint – St. Basil the Blessed. Before the appearance of the stone cathedral, there was the wooden Trinity Church, where St. Basil often came to pray. In 1558 a lower church was added to the Intercession Cathedral over the burial place of St. Basil the Blessed Wonderworker of Moscow. In order to add this temple, the builders dismantled a part of the original cathedral.

In the XVII century two ornate porches with twin pavilions were added to the Church of St. Basil, and a roof over its outer gallery was erected.

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The St. Basil’s Cathedral – an idea

Such a choice of architects was due to the fact that the idea of the Temple of St. Basil was to symbolize paradise, the city of God. The idea belonged to Metropolitan Macarius, the architects tried to bring it to life. Epochs were changing and so were people’s ideas of how paradise should look like, that is why the cathedral underwent changes. The basic idea remained unchanged: the St. Basil’s Cathedral is a prototype of the heavenly paradise, a blossoming garden. In its design, vine leaves, beautiful flowers, plants that do not grow on earth…

St. Basil’s Church – today

St. Basil's Cathedral these days

In the Church of St. Basil now you can see paintings from different centuries: the neighboring XVII and XIX century. This is an amazing architectural monument. For example, there are mysterious images of tulips. How did they know about them in medieval Moscow? Or a fresco with seaweed. Where else could the locals have seen it? This fresco is not repeated in any element of the cathedral.

Traveling through the second tier of the temple, visitors experience the change of spaces, paintings and architectural features of the cathedral so vividly that it seems as if one has entered a beautiful labyrinth. This is one of the amazing features of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

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