Description of the Pokrovskiy Sobor (Holy Virgin Protection)
or St. Basil Cathedral
Pokrovskiy Sobor or Pokrovsky Cathedral was
commissioned by Ivan the Terrible shortly after conquest of the
Tatar kingdom of Kazan in 1552. After centuries of Tatar yolk and
constant raids from the south the church was a testament of a new
might and power that Muscovy (Moscow) principality had. The official
name of the church is Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral on the Moat
since it stood outside of the city moat that protected Kremlin.
However Saint Basil "a holy fool" loved the church so much and
gained such popularity among Moscow citizens that in the general
public it became known as the church of Basil or simply Saint Basil
Building anything outside of city walls was a risky
venture that tsar Ivan nevertheless completed in 1561. One of the
most famous legends exist associated with its architect Postnik
Yakovlev who was said to be blinded by the orders of the cruel tsar.
It was done with a premise that nothing of this beauty would ever be
erected anywhere in Moscow or anywhere the country. The architect
actually lived after the death of Ivan the Terrible. The
multicoloured onion domes were added in 1670's and between 1772 and
1784 it got a metal replacement covered by gold. During invasion of
Napoleon the Moscow temple was looted. Famous French Emperor ordered
its destruction along with Kremlin, but fortunately they ran out of
time and enough explosives. In 1817 Emperor Alexander I returned the
previous multicoloured appearance to this house of worship. The
interior of the church is fairly narrow and claustrophobic at times,
but it carries the sense of Medieval Russia with its small churches,
beautiful iconostasis and frescoes. At times you forget that just
outside of these walls there is a modern Moscow.
The monument that you see at the base of the cathedral is
Minin and Pozharsky, two men who are responsible for starting a
rebellion and subsequent defeat of Polish invaders and forcing
them out of Kremlin in the 17th century.