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Home > 19 Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow

Excursion to Saint Basil's Cathedral with private tour guide in Moscow

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Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat Saint Basil's Cathedral

Cathedral was erected in 1555-1561 (it have been built during 6 years and only in warm time of year) by the order of the tsar Ivan The Terrible in memory of conquest of Kazan Khanate or in honor of capture of Kazan. Numerous churches of the cathedral are directly connected with the events of Kazan campaign. The title is connected with the main event of Kazan campaign which took place on the Most Holy Theotokos day in the beginning of October 1552. Its picturesque silhouette and colorful domes become the visit card of Moscow and Russia. There are nine independent churches of the upper tier on the powerful basement. Every church is dedicated to some holiday or saint and gas separate entrances- portals. On the compass points there are four big side-altars, between them there are four small churches. They surround central cathedral of Church of the Intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God with tent end and small head. All side-altars are built on the combination of pillar-like octagonal and quadrangular volumes (octagonal structures and quadrangles), are spanned by the vaults and are finished with domes. On the outside, the churches look like closely pressed to each other. The impression is intensified thanks to the external gallery which connects them. The height of the whole cathedral is 61 m and the cathedral had been the highest structure of Moscow before the beginning of 18 century and construction of the belfry of Ivan the Great. Figured domes of bulbous form crown nine churches of the Most Holy Theotokos cathedral and the church above the tomb of honored Moscow saint Basil the Blessed. The heads differ from each other by the size, décor and color. They are decorated with cornices, kokoshniks, niches.

From the western sine two beautiful porches with white-stone stairs adjoin the cathedral. To the South-East of the cathedral there is rent belfry of XVIII century.

In the Intercession cathedral one can see frescos of XVI, tempera paintings of XVII, monumental oil painting of XVIII-XIX centuries and also rare monuments of Russian icon-painting.

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Churches combine two galleries – internal one around central church, and external bypass gallery around nine churches initially was opened. In the middle of 19 century. Arch entrance openings lead from the external gallery to the sites between the churches and connect it with internal passages. At present, external gallery is closed for the visits to avoid contamination and thinning of paint layer.

In the ancient time the day light penetrated to the gallery from the windows located above the passages on ambulatories. Today it’s illuminated by the mica lanterns of XVII manufactured specially for the Intercession cathedral. Their multi-dome finials remind silhouette of the cathedral.

In XVII external and internal galleries of the Most Holy Theotokos cathedral were painted in tempera technique with the vegetative ornament. Motive of the lush grapevine which braids the walls and vaults of the cathedral is connected with the symbolism of Christian cathedral and creates image of Paradise garden. The painting of galleries includes blue, red and black colors on the white background. Portals, arches, niches are richly decorated with geometrical ornament.



There are no cellar rooms in the Intercession cathedral. Churches and galleries stand on the single basement consisting of few rooms. Solid brick walls of the basement (up to 3 meters thick) are spanned with vaults. The height of the rooms is about 6.5 m.

Construction of the Northern basement is unique for XVI century. Its basket-handle arch with big length don’t have supporting pillars. The walls are cut with narrow weep holes. Together with “breathing” building material – brick, they provide special micro climate of the room at any time of the year.

Earlier, the rooms of the basement were unavailable for the parishioners. Deep niches-caches in it were used as storages. They were closed by doors from which only loops have remained. Until 1595 royal treasury was hidden in the basement. Wealthy citizens also brought here their belongings.

It was possible to get to the basement from the upper central church of the Intercession cathedral by the through-the-wall white-stone stairs. Only initiated knew about it. Later this narrow passage was blocked up. However, in the process of restauration of 1930-s there was found a secret stairs. In the basement there are icons of the Intercession cathedral. The most ancient of them is the icon of Saint basil of the end of XVI century painted specially for the Intercession cathedral.

Two icons “Intercession of the Theotokos” and “Our Lady of the Sign” are also exhibited. The icon “Our Lady of the Sign” is a replica of the façade icon located on the eastern wall of the cathedral. It was written during 1780-s. In XVIII-XIX the icon was above the entrance into the side altar of Basil the Blessed.



Belfry of Intersession cathedral was erected in 1680-s. In the past, ancient three-tier belfry with three tents and big bells in the arches stood on its place. I was erected under Ivan the Terrible.

The belfry is crowned with high octahedral tent with small head and the eight-pointed cross. There are small windows in it, they are meant for intensifying of bell sounds.

Under the tent there is open site where bells hang on thick wooden joists. Current collection includes 19 bells cast in different time, from 1547 to 1995 in France, Poland, Holland, Moscow and Yaroslavl.

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