Red Square: The Story of Russia’s Most Iconic Landmark

Red Square: The Story of Russia’s Most Iconic Landmark

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Red Square is undoubtedly one of Moscow’s – and Russia’s – most iconic landmarks. Although it began its life as a shanty town of wooden huts, it was cleared in the 1400s by Ivan III, allowing it to blossom into a rich visual narrative of Russian history. It houses the Kremlin complex, St Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s mausoleum.

Although its name is often thought to derive from the blood that flowed during periods of unrest, or to reflect the colours of the communist regime, it is actually of linguistic origin. In the Russian language, ‘red’ and ‘beautiful’ derived from the word krasny, thus it is known as ‘Beautiful Square’ to the Russian people.

A Palm Sunday procession in the 17th century, leaving Saint Basil’s for the Kremlin.

In the 20th century, Red Square became a famous site of official military parades. At one parade, on 7 November 1941, columns of young cadets marched through the square and straight onto the front line, which was only about 30 miles away.

At another parade, the victory parade on 24 June 1945, 200 Nazi standards were thrown on the ground and trampled by mounted Soviet commanders.

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The Kremlin

Since 1147, the Kremlin has always been a place of importance as the first stones were laid for the hunting lodge of Prince Juri of Suzdal.

Perched on the Borovitskiy Hill, at the confluence of the Moscow and Neglinnay Rivers, it would soon grow to become a vast complex of Russian political and religious power and is now used as the seat of the Russian Parliament. An old Moscow proverb says

‘Over the city, there is only the Kremlin, and over the Kremlin, there is only God’.

A bird’s eye view of the Kremlin. Image source: / CC BY 4.0.

In the 15th century, an enormous fortified wall was built to cut the Kremlin off from the rest of the city. It measures 7 metres thick, 19 metres high, and over one mile long.

It enclosed some of Russia’s most important symbols of piety: the Cathedral of the Dormition (1479), the Church of the Virgin’s Robes (1486) and the Cathedral of the Annunciation (1489). Together, they create a skyline of white turrets and gilded domes – although red stars were added in 1917 when the communists gained power.

The Palace of Facets, the oldest secular structure, was built in 1491 for Ivan III, who imported Italian architects to create a Renaissance masterpiece. The tall bell tower known as ‘Ivan the Terrible’ was added in 1508, and the St Michael Archangel Cathedral was built in 1509.

The Great Kremlin Palace, viewed from across the Movska River. Image source: NVO / CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Great Kremlin Palace was built between 1839 and 1850, in just 11 years. Nicholas I ordered its construction to emphasise the strength of his autocratic regime, and to act as the Tsar’s Moscow residence.

Its five sumptuous reception halls, the Georgievsky, Vladimisky, Aleksandrovsky, Andreyevsky and Ekaterininsky, each represent the orders of the Russian Empire, The Orders of St George, Vladimir, Alexander, Andrew and Catherine.

The Hall of the Order of St. George in the Great Kremlin Palace. Image source: / CC BY 4.0.

St Basil’s Cathedral

In 1552, a battle against the Mongols had raged for eight terrible days. It was only when Ivan the Terrible’s army forced the Mongolian troops back inside the city walls that a bloody siege could finish off the fighting. To mark this triumph, St Basil’s was built, officially known as the Cathedral of St Vasily the Blessed.

The Cathedral is topped with nine onion domes, staggered at various heights. They are decorated with mesmerising patterns which were recoloured between 1680 and 1848, when icon and mural art became popular and bright colours were favoured.

Its design seems to stem from the vernacular wooden churches of the Russian North, whilst revealing a confluence with Byzantine styles. The interior and brickwork also betray Italian influence.

An early 20th century postcard of St Basil’s.

Lenin’s mausoleum

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, also known as Lenin, served as the head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 until 1924, when he died from a hemorrhagic stroke. A wooden tomb was erected in Red Square to accommodate the 100,000 mourners who visited in the following six weeks.

During this time, freezing temperatures preserved him almost perfectly. It inspired the Soviet officials not to bury the body, but preserve it forever. The cult of Lenin had started.

Mourners queuing to see Lenin’s frozen body in March 1925, then housed in a wooden mausoleum. Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-01169 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Once the body had defrosted, time was ticking for the embalming to be completed. Two chemists, without any certainty about the success of their technique, injected a cocktail of chemicals to prevent the body drying up.

All the internal organs were removed, leaving only skeleton and muscle which is now re-embalmed every 18 months by the ‘Lenin Lab’. The brain was taken to the Neurology Centre at the Russian Academy of Sciences, where it was studied to try and explain Lenin’s genius.

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However, Lenin’s corpse had already reached early stages of decomposition – dark spots formed on the skin and the eyes had sunk into their sockets. Before the embalming could take place, scientists carefully whitened the skin with acetic acid and ethyl alcohol.

Under the pressure of the Soviet government, they spent months of sleepless nights trying to preserve the body. Their final method remains a mystery. But whatever it was, it worked.

Lenin’s mausoleum. Image source: Staron / CC BY-SA 3.0.

An imposing mausoleum of marble, porphyry, granite and labradorite was constructed as a permanent memorial on Red Square. A guard of honour was placed outside, a position known as ‘Number One Sentry’.

The body was laid out dressed in a modest black suit, lying on a bed of red silk inside a glass sarcophagus. Lenin’s eyes are closed, his hair is combed and his moustache neatly trimmed.

During the Second World War, Lenin’s body was temporarily evacuated to Siberia in October 1941, when it became apparent Moscow was vulnerable to the approaching German army. When it returned, it was joined in 1953 by the embalmed body of Stalin.

Lenin speaking on 1 May 1920.

This reunion was short-lived. In 1961 Stalin’s body was removed during Khrushchev’s Thaw, the period of de-Stalinization. He was buried outside the Kremlin Wall, beside many other Russian leaders of the past century.

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Today, Lenin’s mausoleum is free to visit, and the body is treated with great respect. Visitors are given strict instructions regarding their behaviour, such as, ‘You must not laugh or smile’.

Taking photographs is strictly forbidden, and cameras are checked before and after visitors enter the building, to check these rules have been followed. Men are not able to wear hats, and hands must be kept out of pockets.

Featured Image: Alvesgaspar / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Red Square

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Red Square, Russian Krasnaya Ploshchad, open square in Moscow adjoining the historic fortress and centre of government known as the Kremlin (Russian: Kreml). The Kremlin and Red Square were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1990.

Dating from the late 15th century, just after the Kremlin walls were completed, Red Square has long been a focal point in the social and political history of Russia and the former Soviet Union. It has had several names, but the present name has been used consistently since the later 17th century. Always a market area, the square has also housed, at various times, churches, Moscow’s first public library and university, a public theatre, and a printing house.

Red Square has been the scene of executions, demonstrations, riots, parades, and speeches. Almost 800,000 square feet (73,000 square metres), it lies directly east of the Kremlin and north of the Moskva River. A moat that separated the square from the Kremlin was paved over in 1812. The State Historical Museum (built 1875–83) stands at the northern end of the square. Directly opposite, at its southern end, is the nine-towered Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed (originally Church of the Intercession), built 1554–60 to commemorate the defeat of the Tatars (Mongols) of Kazan and Astrakhan by Ivan IV (the Terrible). Nearby is a white stone platform (Lobnoye Mesto) dating from the 16th century. From there, edicts and decrees were read to the assembled masses, and once a year the tsar would present himself to the people. GUM, the former State Department Store (built 1889–93 privatized 1993), is on the east side, and Lenin’s tomb, designed by Alexei Shchusev and completed in 1930, is on the west. Other graves near Lenin’s tomb flank the spruce-lined Kremlin wall.

In 1930 the cobblestone paving of Red Square was replaced with granite paving stones, and a monument to Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky (leaders of the army that forced the surrender of Polish invaders in 1612) was moved from the centre of the square to its present location in front of St. Basil’s in order to facilitate parades and demonstrations. During the Soviet era the annual May Day and October Revolution (November 7 Day) military parades were probably the best-known celebrations held in Red Square. Although they were discontinued after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, they were revived in 2008 by Pres. Vladimir Putin.

The Upkeep on Vladimir Lenin's Corpse

The corpse of the Soviet Union’s founding father lies entombed in a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square. Lenin died in 1924. That means decades of constant upkeep has been required to ensure his body remains fit for viewing by the throngs of tourists and pilgrims that come to visit the former revolutionary. So just what is involved in preserving his body?

Lenin’s body is kept in a pristine state (or as pristine as a corpse can be), under precise temperature and lighting conditions. Scientists say it is possible to continue preserving his body for centuries to come if the right environment is maintained.

Such conditions don’t come cheap. In 2016, the Russian Federal Guard Service announced that the maintenance of Lenin’s remains had cost 13 million roubles (over £155,000/$210,000). This amount covered the costs of the ‘Lenin Lab’, a team of scientists that has been monitoring his body since his passing. During Soviet times, the Lenin Lab was comprised of 200 scientists. Although the team is much smaller now, the work remains much the same.

Lenin’s conservation team checks on his body every few days to monitor the condition of his skin and to keep the body looking natural. Every 18 months, the body is taken to the lab beneath the viewing room for re-embalming. Although all Lenin’s organs have been removed, the team of specialists have preserved his skeleton, muscles and skin.

Upon removal, the former leader’s brain was taken for analysis at the Soviet Brain Institute, which was created shortly after Lenin’s death for this purpose. Apparently, bits of it are still preserved in the Neurology Centre at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Alongside the regular re-embalming, the Lenin Lab keeps the body’s joints working and replaces damaged tissue with artificial material. It also tests new treatments and chemicals on unidentified bodies kept in the lab, according to the Moscow Times.

No one had planned to preserve Lenin’s body for so long. He was embalmed temporarily so people could pay their respects to their leader, and it was then assumed the body would be buried in Red Square. The government held an open casket in central Moscow, where throngs of people passed by to say their goodbyes.

A crowd of around 500,000 Soviets and foreigners made the pilgrimage to view the remains and attend his funeral. The State had intended to keep viewings going for four days. Fifty-six days after Lenin’s death, the decision was made to preserve Lenin’s body permanently so people could continue to visit.

Initially, the body was going to be preserved by deep-freezing. However, two eminent chemists, Vladimir Vorobyov and Boris Zbarsky, suggested preservation by chemical enablement instead. They argued that the body would continue to rot even if kept at an extremely cold temperature. In fact, the body had already started to show signs of decay.

Just a few months after Lenin’s death and the first attempt at embalming, the corpse’s skin began to discolour, and there was physical damage to the eye sockets. So, the official preservation process began with a team of scientists working around the clock to whiten any visibly rotten spots and determine the correct dosage of chemicals required.

It took roughly four months for the team of scientists to ready the body for viewing. Eight months after Lenin’s death, on August 1st 1924, his mausoleum opened to the public in Red Square, and it has attracted a crowd ever since.

2. A Blight on the Face of Gentility?

When the Eiffel Tower was completed as an exhibit for the World Industrial Fair in 1889, the plan was to tear it down after 20 years. That probably would have appeased the countless people who hated the thing from the start. Most writers and intellectuals felt it destroyed the pristine, genteel beauty of Paris. They labeled it an ugly and useless addition to the landscape.

Writer Guy de Maupassant famously said he would lunch frequently in a restaurant at the Tower’s base. Why? It was the only place he could go where he didn’t have to look at it.

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Mount Elbrus

Russia is the home of Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. The mountain’s twin peaks rise to 18,510 feet and 18,442 feet, according to the Center for Russian Nature Conservation. The now inactive volcano is part of the Caucasus Mountain chain, close to Russia’s border with Georgia, once part of the Soviet Union. Mount Elbrus features hot springs, ski slopes, hiking paths and Russia’s Prielbrusye National Park.

Carol Luther has more than 25 years of business, technology, and freelance writing experience. She has held leadership roles in higher education management, international development, adult education, vocational education, and small business support programs


A marvelous vestige of the powerful Roman Empire, Rome’s Colosseum is one of the most instantly recognizable structures in the world. Most notably, it was used for gladiator fights where men fought to the death against wild animals, with an estimated 50,000-80,000 spectators looking on. Today, the building retains its powerful presence within Rome’s scenic city center.

As a lover of Ancient Roman history and a teacher of Julius Caesar, I have to say that seeing the Colosseum in person has been one of my favorite travel experiences. It’s vital to know the history, have a guide, or an audio tour to truly understand the importance of this place. Just catching a glimpse of the Colosseum sends tingles throughout my body. It’s that powerful.


The site of the church had been, historically, a busy marketplace between the St. Fool's (later Saviour's) Gate of the Moscow Kremlin and the outlying posad. The center of the marketplace was marked by the Trinity Church, built of the same white stone as the Kremlin of Dmitry Donskoy (1366–68) and its cathedrals. Tsar Ivan IV marked every victory of the Russo-Kazan War by erecting a wooden memorial church next to the walls of Trinity Church by the end of his Astrakhan campaign, it was shrouded within a cluster of seven wooden churches. According to the report in Nikon's Chronicle, in the autumn of 1554 Ivan ordered the construction of the wooden Church of Intercession on the same site, "on the moat". [16] One year later, Ivan ordered the construction of a new stone cathedral on the site of Trinity Church to commemorate his campaigns. Dedication of a church to a military victory was "a major innovation" [10] for Muscovy. The placement of the church outside the Kremlin walls was a political statement in favor of posad commoners and against hereditary boyars. [17]

Contemporary commentators clearly identified the new building as Trinity Church, after its easternmost sanctuary [16] the status of "katholikon" ( собор , sobor, large assembly church) had not been bestowed on it yet:

On the Trinity on the Moat in Moscow.
In the same year, through the will of czar and lord and grand prince Ivan began making the pledged church, as he promised for the capture of Kazan: Trinity and Intercession and seven sanctuaries, also called "on the moat". And the builder was Barma with company.

The identity of the architect is unknown. [19] Tradition held that the church was built by two architects, Barma and Postnik: [19] [20] the official Russian cultural heritage register lists "Barma and Postnik Yakovlev". [2] Researchers proposed that both names refer to the same person, Postnik Yakovlev [20] or, alternatively, Ivan Yakovlevich Barma (Varfolomey). [19] Legend held that Ivan blinded the architect so that he could not re-create the masterpiece elsewhere. [21] [22] [23] Many historians are convinced that it is a myth, as the architect later participated in the construction of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow as well as in building the walls and towers of the Kazan Kremlin. [24] [25] Postnik Yakovlev remained active at least throughout the 1560s. [26]

There is evidence that construction involved stonemasons from Pskov [27] and German lands. [28]

Because the church has no analog—in the preceding, contemporary, or later architecture of Muscovy and Byzantine cultural tradition, in general, [10] —the sources that inspired Barma and Postnik are disputed. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc rejected European roots for the cathedral, opining that its corbel arches were Byzantine and ultimately Asian. [31] A modern "Asian" hypothesis considers the cathedral a recreation of Qolşärif Mosque, which was destroyed by Russian troops after the siege of Kazan. [32]

Nineteenth-century Russian writers, starting with Ivan Zabelin, [7] emphasized the influence of the vernacular wooden churches of the Russian North their motifs made their ways into masonry, particularly the votive churches that did not need to house substantial congregations. [33] David Watkin also wrote of a blend of Russian and Byzantine roots, calling the cathedral "the climax" of Russian vernacular wooden architecture. [34]

The church combines the staggered layered design of the earliest (1505–1508) part of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, [35] the central tent of the Church of Ascension in Kolomenskoye (1530s), and the cylindric shape of the Church of Beheading of John the Baptist in Dyakovo (1547) [29] but the origin of these unique buildings is equally debated. The Church in Kolomenskoye, according to Sergei Podyapolsky, was built by Italian Petrok Maly, [28] although mainstream history has not yet accepted his opinion. Andrey Batalov revised the year of completion of Dyakovo church from 1547 to the 1560s–70s, and noted that Trinity Church could have had no tangible predecessors at all. [36]

Dmitry Shvidkovsky suggested that the "improbable" shapes of the Intercession Church and the Church of Ascension in Kolomenskoye manifested an emerging national renaissance, blending earlier Muscovite elements with the influence of Italian Renaissance. [37] A large group of Italian architects and craftsmen continuously worked in Moscow in 1474–1539, as well as Greek refugees who arrived in the city after the fall of Constantinople. [38] These two groups, according to Shvidkovsky, helped Moscow rulers in forging the doctrine of Third Rome, which in turn promoted assimilation of contemporary Greek and Italian culture. [38] Shvidkovsky noted the resemblance of the cathedral's floorplan to Italian concepts by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Donato Bramante, but most likely Filarete's Trattato di architettura. Other Russian researchers noted a resemblance to sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, although he could not have been known in Ivan's Moscow. [39] Nikolay Brunov recognized the influence of these prototypes but not their significance [40] he suggested that mid-16th century Moscow already had local architects trained in Italian tradition, architectural drawing and perspective, and that this culture was lost during the Time of Troubles. [41]

Andrey Batalov wrote that judging by the number of novel elements introduced with Trinity Church, it was most likely built by German craftsmen. [28] Batalov and Shvidkovsky noted that during Ivan's reign, Germans and Englishmen replaced Italians, although German influence peaked later during the reign of Mikhail Romanov. [28] German influence is indirectly supported by the rusticated pilasters of the central church, a feature more common in contemporary Northern Europe than in Italy. [42]

The 1983 academic edition of Monuments of Architecture in Moscow takes the middle ground: the church is, most likely, a product of the complex interaction of distinct Russian traditions of wooden and stone architecture, with some elements borrowed from the works of Italians in Moscow. [43] Specifically, the style of brickwork in the vaults is Italian. [43]

Instead of following the original ad hoc layout (seven churches around the central core), Ivan's architects opted for a more symmetrical floor plan with eight side churches around the core, [20] producing "a thoroughly coherent, logical plan" [44] [45] despite the erroneous latter "notion of a structure devoid of restraint or reason" [44] influenced by the memory of Ivan's irrational atrocities. [44] The central core and the four larger churches placed on the four major compass points are octagonal the four diagonally placed smaller churches are cuboid, although their shape is barely visible through later additions. [46] The larger churches stand on massive foundations, while the smaller ones were each placed on a raised platform as if hovering above ground. [47]

Although the side churches are arranged in perfect symmetry, the cathedral as a whole is not. [48] [49] The larger central church was deliberately [48] offset to the west from the geometric center of the side churches, to accommodate its larger apse [48] on the eastern side. As a result of this subtle calculated [48] asymmetry, viewing from the north and the south presents a complex multi-axial shape, while the western facade, facing the Kremlin, appears properly symmetrical and monolithic. [48] [49] The latter perception is reinforced by the fortress-style machicolation and corbeled cornice of the western Church of Entry into Jerusalem, mirroring the real fortifications of the Kremlin. [50]

Inside the composite church is a labyrinth of narrow vaulted corridors and vertical cylinders of the churches. [29] Today the cathedral consists of nine individual chapels. [51] The largest, central one, the Church of the Intercession, is 46 metres (151 ft) tall internally but has a floor area of only 64 square metres (690 sq ft). [29] Nevertheless, it is wider and airier than the church in Kolomenskoye with its exceptionally thick walls. [52] The corridors functioned as internal parvises the western corridor, adorned with a unique flat caissoned ceiling, doubled as the narthex. [29]

The detached belfry of the original Trinity Church stood southwest or south of the main structure. Late 16th- and early 17th-century plans depict a simple structure with three roof tents, most likely covered with sheet metal. [53] No buildings of this type survive to date, although it was then common and used in all of the pass-through towers of Skorodom. [54] August von Meyerberg's panorama (1661) presents a different building, with a cluster of small onion domes. [53]

The foundations, as was traditional in medieval Moscow, were built of white stone, while the churches themselves were built of red brick (28 by 14 by 8 cm (11.0 by 5.5 by 3.1 in)), then a relatively new material [20] (the first attested brick building in Moscow, the new Kremlin Wall, was started in 1485). [55] Surveys of the structure show that the basement level is perfectly aligned, indicating use of professional drawing and measurement, but each subsequent level becomes less and less regular. [56] Restorers who replaced parts of the brickwork in 1954–1955 discovered that the massive brick walls conceal an internal wooden frame running the entire height of the church. [7] [57] This frame, made of elaborately tied thin studs, was erected as a life-size spatial model of the future cathedral and was then gradually enclosed in solid masonry. [7] [57]

The builders, fascinated by the flexibility of the new technology, [58] used brick as a decorative medium both inside and out, leaving as much brickwork open as possible when location required the use of stone walls, it was decorated with a brickwork pattern painted over stucco. [58] A major novelty introduced by the church was the use of strictly "architectural" means of exterior decoration. [59] Sculpture and sacred symbols employed by earlier Russian architecture are completely missing floral ornaments are a later addition. [59] Instead, the church boasts a diversity of three-dimensional architectural elements executed in brick.

The church acquired its present-day vivid colors in several stages from the 1680s [7] to 1848. [43] Russian attitude towards color in the 17th century changed in favor of bright colors iconographic and mural art experienced an explosive growth in the number of available paints, dyes and their combinations. [60] The original color scheme, missing these innovations, was far less challenging. It followed the depiction of the Heavenly City in the Book of Revelation: [61]

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats, I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

The 25 seats from the biblical reference are alluded to in the building's structure, with the addition of eight small onion domes around the central tent, four around the western side church and four elsewhere. This arrangement survived through most of the 17th century. [62] The walls of the church mixed bare red brickwork or painted imitation of bricks with white ornaments, in roughly equal proportion. [61] The domes, covered with tin, were uniformly gilded, creating an overall bright but fairly traditional combination of white, red and golden colors. [61] Moderate use of green and blue ceramic inserts provided a touch of rainbow as prescribed by the Bible. [61]

While historians agree on the color of the 16th-century domes, their shape is disputed. Boris Eding wrote that they most likely were of the same onion shape as the present-day domes. [63] However, both Kolomenskoye and Dyakovo churches have flattened hemispherical domes, and the same type could have been used by Barma and Postnik. [64]

1583–1596 Edit

The original Trinity Church burnt down in 1583 and was refitted by 1593. [43] The ninth sanctuary, dedicated to Basil Fool for Christ (the 1460s–1552), was added in 1588 next to the north-eastern sanctuary of the Three Patriarchs. [43] Another local fool, Ivan the Blessed, was buried on the church grounds in 1589 a sanctuary in his memory was established in 1672 inside the south-eastern arcade. [7]

The vault of the Saint Basil Sanctuary serves as a reference point in evaluating the quality of Muscovite stonemasonry and engineering. As one of the first vaults of its type, it represents the average of engineering craft that peaked a decade later in the church of the Trinity in Khoroshovo (completed 1596). [65] The craft was lost in the Time of Troubles buildings from the first half of the 17th century lack the refinement of the late 16th century, compensating for poor construction skill with thicker walls and heavier vaults. [65]

1680–1683 Edit

The second, and most significant, round of refitting and expansion took place in 1680–1683. [7] The nine churches themselves retained their appearance, but additions to the ground-floor arcade and the first-floor platform were so profound that Nikolay Brunov rebuilt a composite church from an "old" building and an independent work that incorporated the "new" Trinity Church. [66] What once was a group of nine independent churches on a common platform became a monolithic temple. [66] [67]

The formerly open ground-floor arcades were filled with brick walls the new space housed altars from thirteen former wooden churches erected on the site of Ivan's executions in Red Square. [7] Wooden shelters above the first-floor platform and stairs (the cause of frequent fires) were rebuilt in brick, creating the present-day wrap-around galleries with tented roofs above the porches and vestibules. [7]

The old detached belfry was demolished its square basement was reused for a new belltower. [7] The tall single tented roof of this belltower, built in the vernacular style of the reign of Alexis I, significantly changed the appearance of the cathedral, adding a strong asymmetrical counterweight to the church itself. [68] The effect is most pronounced on the southern and eastern facades (as viewed from Zaryadye), although the belltower is large enough to be seen from the west. [68]

The first ornamental murals in the cathedral appeared in the same period, starting with floral ornaments inside the new galleries the towers retained their original brickwork pattern. [7] Finally, in 1683, the church was adorned with a tiled cornice in yellow and blue, featuring a written history of the church [7] in Old Slavic typeface.

1737–1784 Edit

In 1737 the church was damaged by a massive fire and later restored by Ivan Michurin. [69] The inscriptions made in 1683 were removed during the repairs of 1761–1784. The church received its first figurative murals inside the churches all exterior and interior walls of the first two floors were covered with floral ornamentation. [7] The belltower was connected with the church through a ground-floor annex [7] the last remaining open arches of the former ground-floor arcade were filled during the same period, [7] erasing the last hint of what was once an open platform carrying the nine churches of Ivan's Jerusalem.

1800–1848 Edit

Paintings of Red Square by Fyodor Alekseyev, made in 1800–1802, show that by this time the church was enclosed in an apparently chaotic cluster of commercial buildings rows of shops "transformed Red Square into an oblong and closed yard." [70] In 1800 the space between the Kremlin wall and the church was still occupied by a moat that predated the church itself. [71] The moat was filled in preparation for the coronation of Alexander I in 1801. [72] The French troops who occupied Moscow in 1812 used the church for stables and looted anything worth taking. [69] The church was spared by the Fire of Moscow (1812) that razed Kitai-gorod, and by the troops' failure to blow it up according to Napoleon's order. [69] The interiors were repaired in 1813 and the exterior in 1816. Instead of replacing missing ceramic tiles of the main tent, the Church preferred to simply cover it with a tin roof. [73]

The fate of the immediate environment of the church has been a subject of dispute between city planners since 1813. [74] Scotsman William Hastie proposed clearing the space around all sides of the church and all the way down to the Moskva River [75] the official commission led by Fyodor Rostopchin and Mikhail Tsitsianov [76] agreed to clear only the space between the church and Lobnoye Mesto. [75] Hastie's plan could have radically transformed the city, [74] but he lost to the opposition, whose plans were finally endorsed by Alexander I in December 1817 [75] (the specific decision on clearing the rubble around the church was issued in 1816). [69]

Nevertheless, actual redevelopment by Joseph Bove resulted in clearing the rubble and creating Vasilyevskaya (St. Basil's) Square between the church and Kremlin wall by shaving off the crest of the Kremlin Hill between the church and the Moskva River. [77] Red Square was opened to the river, and "St. Basil thus crowned the decapitated hillock." [77] Bove built the stone terrace wall separating the church from the pavement of Moskvoretskaya Street the southern side of the terrace was completed in 1834. [7] Minor repairs continued until 1848, when the domes acquired their present-day colours. [43]

1890–1914 Edit

Preservationist societies monitored the state of the church and called for a proper restoration throughout the 1880s and 1890s, [78] [79] but it was regularly delayed for lack of funds. The church did not have a congregation of its own and could only rely on donations raised through public campaigning [80] national authorities in Saint Petersburg and local in Moscow prevented financing from state and municipal budgets. [80] In 1899 Nicholas II reluctantly admitted that this expense was necessary, [81] but again all the involved state and municipal offices, including the Holy Synod, denied financing. [81] Restoration, headed by Andrey Pavlinov (died 1898) and Sergey Solovyov, dragged on from 1896 [82] to 1909 in total, preservationists managed to raise around 100,000 roubles. [81]

Restoration began with replacing the roofing of the domes. [79] Solovyov removed the tin roofing of the main tent installed in the 1810s and found many original tiles missing and others discoloured [79] after a protracted debate the whole set of tiles on the tented roof was replaced with new ones. [79] Another dubious decision allowed the use of standard bricks that were smaller than the original 16th-century ones. [83] Restorers agreed that the paintwork of the 19th century must be replaced with a "truthful recreation" of historic patterns, but these had to be reconstructed and deduced based on medieval miniatures. [84] In the end, Solovyov and his advisers chose a combination of deep red with deep green that is retained to the present. [84]

In 1908 the church received its first warm air heating system, which did not work well because of heat losses in long air ducts, heating only the eastern and northern sanctuaries. [85] In 1913 it was complemented with a pumped water heating system serving the rest of the church. [85]

1918–1941 Edit

During World War I, the church was headed by protoiereus Ioann Vostorgov, a nationalist preacher and a leader of the Black-Hundredist Union of the Russian People. Vostorgov was arrested by Bolsheviks in 1918 on a pretext of embezzling nationalized church properties and was executed in 1919. [ citation needed ] The church briefly enjoyed Vladimir Lenin's "personal interest" [86] in 1923 it became a public museum, though religious services continued until 1929. [12]

Bolshevik planners entertained ideas of demolishing the church after Lenin's funeral (January 1924). [87] In the first half of the 1930s, the church became an obstacle for Joseph Stalin's urbanist plans, carried out by Moscow party boss Lazar Kaganovich, "the moving spirit behind the reconstruction of the capital". [88] The conflict between preservationists, notably Pyotr Baranovsky, and the administration continued at least until 1936 and spawned urban legends. In particular, a frequently-told story is that Kaganovich picked up a model of the church in the process of envisioning Red Square without it, and Stalin sharply responded "Lazar, put it back!" Similarly, Stalin's master planner, architect Vladimir Semyonov, reputedly dared to "grab Stalin's elbow when the leader picked up a model of the church to see how Red Square would look without it" and was replaced by pure functionary Sergey Chernyshov. [89]

In the autumn of 1933, the church was struck from the heritage register. Baranovsky was summoned to perform a last-minute survey of the church slated for demolition, and was then arrested for his objections. [90] While he served his term in the Gulag, attitudes changed and by 1937 even hard-line Bolshevik planners admitted that the church must be spared. [91] [92] In the spring of 1939, the church was locked, probably because demolition was again on the agenda [93] however, the 1941 publication of Dmitry Sukhov's detailed book [94] on the survey of the church in 1939–1940 speaks against this assumption.

1947 to present Edit

In the first years after World War II renovators restored the historical ground-floor arcades and pillars that supported the first-floor platform, cleared up vaulted and caissoned ceilings in the galleries, and removed "unhistoric" 19th-century oil paint murals inside the churches. [7] Another round of repairs, led by Nikolay Sobolev in 1954–1955, restored original paint imitating brickwork, and allowed restorers to dig inside old masonry, revealing the wooden frame inside it. [7] In the 1960s, the tin roofing of the domes was replaced with copper. [12]

The last round of renovation was completed in September 2008 with the opening of the restored sanctuary of St. Alexander Svirsky. [95] The building is still partly in use today as a museum and, since 1991, is occasionally used for services by the Russian Orthodox Church. Since 1997 Orthodox Christian services have been held regularly. Nowadays every Sunday at Saint Basil's church there is a divine liturgy at 10AM with an akathist to Saint Basil. [96] [15]

The building, originally known as "Trinity Church", [10] was consecrated on 12 July 1561, [12] and was subsequently elevated to the status of a sobor (similar to an ecclesiastical basilica in the Catholic Church, but usually and incorrectly translated as "cathedral"). [97] "Trinity", according to tradition, refers to the easternmost sanctuary of the Holy Trinity, while the central sanctuary of the church is dedicated to the Intercession of Mary. Together with the westernmost sanctuary of the Entry into Jerusalem, these sanctuaries form the main east–west axis (Christ, Mary, Holy Trinity), while other sanctuaries are dedicated to individual saints. [98]

Sanctuaries of the cathedral
Compass point [99] Type [99] Dedicated to [99] Commemorates
Central core Tented church Intercession of Most Holy Theotokos Beginning of the final assault of Kazan, 1 October 1552
West Column Entry of Christ into Jerusalem Triumph of the Muscovite troops
North-west Groin vault Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia Capture of Ars Tower of Kazan Kremlin, 30 September 1552
North Column Saint Martyrs Cyprian and Justinia (since 1786 Saint Adrian and Natalia of Nicomedia) Complete capture of Kazan Kremlin, 2 October 1552
North-east Groin vault Three Patriarchs of Alexandria (since 1680 Saint John the Merciful) Defeat of Yepancha's cavalry on 30 August 1552
East Column Life-giving Holy Trinity Historical Trinity Church on the same site
South-east Groin vault Saint Alexander Svirsky Defeat of Yepancha's cavalry on 30 August 1552
South Column The icon of Saint Nicholas from the Velikaya River (Nikola Velikoretsky) The icon was brought to Moscow in 1555.
South-west Groin vault Saint Barlaam of Khutyn May have been built to commemorate Vasili III of Russia [100]
North-eastern annex (1588) Groin vault Basil the Blessed Grave of venerated local saint
South-eastern annex (1672) Groin vault Laying the Veil (since 1680: Nativity of Theotokos, since 1916: Saint John the Blessed of Moscow) Grave of venerated local saint

The name "Intercession Church" came into use later, [10] coexisting with Trinity Church. From the end of the 16th century [67] to the end of the 17th century the cathedral was also popularly called Jerusalem, with reference to its church of Entry into Jerusalem [7] as well as to its sacral role in religious rituals. Finally, the name of Vasily (Basil) the Blessed, who died during construction and was buried on-site, was attached to the church at the beginning of the 17th century. [10]

Current Russian tradition accepts two coexisting names of the church: the official [10] "Church of Intercession on the Moat" (in full, the "Church of Intercession of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat"), and the "Temple of Basil the Blessed". When these names are listed together [44] [101] the latter name, being informal, is always mentioned second. The common Western translations "Cathedral of Basil the Blessed" and "Saint Basil's Cathedral" incorrectly bestow the status of cathedral on the church of Basil, but are nevertheless widely used even in academic literature. [10]

Miraculous find Edit

On the day of its consecration the church itself became part of Orthodox thaumaturgy. According to the legend, its "missing" ninth church (more precisely a sanctuary) was "miraculously found" during a ceremony attended by Tsar Ivan IV, Metropolitan Makarius with the divine intervention of Saint Tikhon. Piskaryov's Chronist wrote in the second quarter of the 17th century:

And the Tsar came to the dedication of the said church with Tsaritsa Nastasia and with Metropolitan Makarius and brought the icon of St Nicholas the Wonderworker that came from Vyatka. And they began to offer a prayer service with sanctified water. And the Tsar touched the base with his own hands. And the builders saw that another sanctuary appeared, and told the Tsar. And the Tsar, and Metropolitan, and all the clergy were surprised by the finding of another sanctuary. And the Tsar ordered it to be dedicated to Nicholas .

Allegory of Jerusalem Edit

Construction of wrap-around ground-floor arcades in the 1680s visually united the nine churches of the original cathedral into a single building. [7] Earlier, the clergy and the public perceived it as nine distinct churches on a common base, a generalized allegory of the Orthodox Heavenly City similar to fantastic cities of medieval miniatures. [7] [103] At a distance, separate churches towering over their base resembled the towers and churches of a distant citadel rising above the defensive wall. [7] The abstract allegory was reinforced by real-life religious rituals where the church played the role of the biblical Temple in Jerusalem:

The capital city, Moscow, is split into three parts the first of them, called Kitai-gorod, is encircled with a solid thick wall. It contains an extraordinary beautiful church, all clad in shiny bright gems, called Jerusalem. It is the destination of an annual Palm Sunday walk, when the Grand Prince [104] must lead a donkey carrying the Patriarch, from the Church of Virgin Mary to the church of Jerusalem which stands next to the citadel walls. Here is where the most illustrious princely, noble and merchant families live. Here is, also, the main muscovite marketplace: the trading square is built as a brick rectangle, with twenty lanes on each side where the merchants have their shops and cellars .

Templum S. Trinitatis, etiam Hierusalem dicitur ad quo Palmarum fest Patriarcha asino insidens a Caesare introducitur.
Temple of Holy Trinity, also called Jerusalem, to where the tsar leads the Patriarch, sitting on a donkey, on the Palm Holiday.

The last donkey walk ( хождение на осляти ) took place in 1693. [107] Mikhail Petrovich Kudryavtsev [ru] noted that all cross processions of the period began, as described by Petreius, from the Dormition Church, passed through St. Frol's (Saviour's) Gate and ended at Trinity Cathedral. [108] For these processions the Kremlin itself became an open-air temple, properly oriented from its "narthex" (Cathedral Square) in the west, through the "royal doors" (Saviour's Gate), to the "sanctuary" (Trinity Cathedral) in the east. [108]

Urban hub Edit

Tradition calls the Kremlin the center of Moscow, but the geometric center of the Garden Ring, first established as the Skorodom defensive wall in the 1590s, lies outside the Kremlin wall, coincident with the cathedral. [109] [54] Pyotr Goldenberg (1902–71), who popularized this notion in 1947, still regarded the Kremlin as the starting seed of Moscow's radial-concentric system, [110] despite Alexander Chayanov's earlier suggestion that the system was not strictly concentric at all. [109]

In the 1960s Gennady Mokeev (born 1932) formulated a different concept of the historical growth of Moscow. [111] According to Mokeev, medieval Moscow, constrained by the natural boundaries of the Moskva and Neglinnaya Rivers, grew primarily in a north-easterly direction into the posad of Kitai-gorod and beyond. The main road connecting the Kremlin to Kitai-gorod passed through St. Frol's (Saviour's) Gate and immediately afterwards fanned out into at least two radial streets (present-day Ilyinka and Varvarka), forming the central market square. [112] In the 14th century the city was largely contained within two balancing halves, Kremlin and Kitai-gorod, separated by a marketplace, but by the end of the century it extended further along the north-eastern axis. [113] Two secondary hubs in the west and south spawned their own street networks, but their development lagged behind until the Time of Troubles. [114]

Tsar Ivan's decision to build the church next to St. Frol's Gate established the dominance of the eastern hub with a major vertical accent, [114] and inserted a pivot point between the nearly equal Kremlin and Kitai-gorod into the once amorphous marketplace. [115] The cathedral was the main church of the posad, and at the same time it was perceived as a part of the Kremlin thrust into the posad, a personal messenger of the Tsar reaching the masses without the mediation of the boyars and clergy. [116] It was complemented by the nearby Lobnoye mesto, a rostrum for the Tsar's public announcements first mentioned in chronicles in 1547 [67] and rebuilt in stone in 1597–1598. [67] Conrad Bussow, describing the triumph of False Dmitriy I, wrote that on 3 June 1606 "a few thousand men hastily assembled and followed the boyarin with [the impostor's] letter through the whole Moscow to the main church they call Jerusalem that stands right next to the Kremlin gates, raised him on Lobnoye Mesto, called out for the Muscovites, read the letter and listened to the boyarin's oral explanation." [117]

A scale model of Saint Basil's Cathedral has been built in Jalainur in Inner Mongolia, near China's border with Russia. The building houses a science museum. [118]

5. The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Fancy yourself a bit of a gladiator? Well, you may have seen the epic films and think you can swing a sword, but once you’re down in the arena of the Colosseum in Rome, you’ll probably be so overwhelmed by the size of the amphitheatre, you’ll want to reconsider. The Romans really did take their fun and games seriously. The amphitheatre is large enough to have held an audience of around eighty thousand which is well on par with most modern Olympic stadiums.

Mind Boggling Building. The fantastic construction is truly mind boggling when you consider the materials and equipment the Romans had available to build it. Even more incredible is that it’s still standing today. Take an underground tour of the tunnels and feel the prickle of ghostly goosebumps crawl across your skin in sympathy for all the gladiators and animals who preceded you, but weren’t fortunate enough to come out again and end their day snacking on pizza.

When to go: The Colosseum in Rome is one of Europe’s most visited attractions so whenever you go during the daytime you’re going to have to queue. Beat the crowds and do it at night when the Colosseum looks even more impressive illuminated. Sightseeing is also much more fun without having to put up with suffocating heat, so night tours are winners all round.

Top 10 iconic landmarks in the world for selfies

Take a look at some of the world's most iconic landmarks that are perfect for selfies!

Since digital cameras came into existence, taking self-portraits became the norm. But it was only in 2013 that ‘selfie’ was first used… and accepted. Even celebrities and politicians haven’t been spared. Skyscanner therefore brings you 10 of the most iconic landmarks in the world for those picture-perfect selfies. Ready to play the travel selfie game?

1. Big Ben in London, UK

So your hard work in compiling all requirements for a UK Tourist Visa finally paid off! Best way to celebrate your victory? Take a selfie with the iconic Big Ben! How else to show that it’s your time to shine in the land of the royal family? Besides the Big Ben though, London sets the perfect backdrop, with its selfie-worthy landmarks such as the Tower Bridge (no, that’s not the London Bridge), Buckingham Palace and oh, even the iconic red telephone booths scattered all over the city.

2. Taj Mahal in Agra, India

The Taj Mahal is a must-visit place for every hopeless romantic out there the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built this in loving memory of Mumtaz Mahal, his third wife. While taking a selfie with this iconic landmark in Agra might not be able to capture just how grand the mausoleum is, you’ll be amazed at the extent of the Taj Mahal’s grandeur… just like true love.

3. Statue of Liberty in New York, USA

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable landmarks not only in the United States, but in the whole world! For Filipinos, this statue is a symbol of success and freedom. Obtaining a US Visa can be tough, so your selfie here is proof of how far you’ve come, quite literally.

4. Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

France is on most bucket lists, especially with couples and artists. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognized structures the world over, and a lot of people from across the globe are willing to spend tons of money just to visit this landmark. When in Paris, watch out for mush galore, complete with couple-kissing selfies. Not your thing? The Louvre Museum is your next best bet who wouldn’t want a shot with the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci?

5. Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy

Looking for a quirkier selfie? Better visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa! This is one of the structures that unintentionally became a worldwide tourist photo phenomenon due to its tilted construction. Most visitors take souvenir shots pushing or carrying the bell tower. The funny part is you’re not the only one taking a selfie no matter what time of the day you visit. In this case, photoshop will be your best friend!

6. Sphinx in Egypt

One of the most recognized figures in Egypt is called the Sphinx (mythical creature with a human head and body of a lion). Aside from the pyramids that give you that nostalgic feeling of world history, the Great Sphinx of Giza is a must visit for every tourist visiting this part of the world.

7. Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia

Australia is a favorite destination for most Filipinos and there’s no other way to express your gratitude (in finally making it) than to take a touristy shot or a selfie at the Sydney Harbour! A good place to relax, dine, unwind and do some people watching, a visit to the Sydney Harbour is more than just a social media thing.

8. Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia

This UNESCO World Heritage Site found in the Red Square of Moscow is still considered as the most recognized landmark of Russia. According to historians, the identity of the architect behind this masterpiece is still unknown up to this day, and its design has nothing to do with Russian architecture, making it all the more fascinating. Why did the architect use a bonfire structure? Whatever the reason, visitors just can’t help but take a snapshot of it. Amazing!

9. Merlion in Singapore

Ask a working-class Filipino where he/she would like to go for the weekend and you’ll probably get ‘Singapore’ as a response. For most people, Singapore is a must visit destination within the Southeast Asian region. The Merlion serves as the most recognized landmark of Singapore. No wonder you’d spot a lot of Filipinos carrying their selfie sticks near the Merlion! Snap! Click!

10. Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Believe it or not, the John Lloyd Cruz – Bea Alonzo ‘Miss You Like Crazy‘ inspired a lot of Filipinos to embark on a trip to Kuala Lumpur! Who wouldn’t yearn to feel the power of love when staring at the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers? It’s like looking at a symbol of good relationship between lifetime partners. Couples might as well take a selfie to remind each other to be like the iconic landmark – standing tall and strong!

How about our Landmark Quiz now?

Landmark Quiz (1): Can you name the six famous landmarks shown in the image below?

Landmarks Quiz (2): Which landmarks are shown in the image below?

Landmarks Quiz (1): Statue of Liberty, Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pyramids,  St Basil's Cathedral, Eiffel Tower

Landmarks Quiz (2): These famous landmarks are shown in the image above (from top left): Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italy) | Taj Mahal (India) | Christ the Redeemer (Brazil) | St Basil's Cathedral (Russia) | Brahma Statue (Thailand) | London Eye (UK) | Big Ben (UK) | Hagia Sophia (Turkey) | Arc de Triomphe (France) | Achlumer Mole (Netherlands) | Colosseum (Italy) | SacreCoeur (France) | Statue of Liberty (USA) | Rajabai Tower (India) | Eiffel Tower (France)