Think of Russia and you probably picture this iconic building, whose onion-shaped domes overlook the Moscow skyline.
St. Basil’s Cathedral has become an emblem of Russia due to its distinctive architecture and prominent position on the famous Red Square. Discover hidden surprises inside its walls. Take pictures of the famous exterior and then explore the maze-like interior, which is comprised of multiple chapels.
Learn the real name of this 16th-century church: the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat. It was so named to celebrate a win over Tatar troops, on the day of the Feast of the Intercession, by Ivan the Terrible and his men. The colloquial name comes from Basil, a holy fool who was laid to rest in the cathedral.
Spend a few minutes appreciating the dazzling design of the cathedral. The most recognizable features are its domes. Known as “onion domes” due to their special shape, they come in a range of different colors and designs with three-dimensional effects. See red and white stripes, green and yellow swirls and a tall golden dome at the top. The dizzying height of its tented roof also catches the eye.
Before you enter, be prepared for the interior to feel a lot smaller than the grand scale of the cathedral’s façade due to its unusual layout. Each of the domes represents a chapel within. Explore the chapels and other religious areas in the building. Look specifically for the St. Basil Chapel and note how it is richly decorated to match the saint’s importance.
Wander along the gallery. The labyrinthine passages here are beautifully decorated and will lead you to your chapel of choice. Climb up the old wooden stairs. These were only unearthed in the 1970s and now lead to the central part of the cathedral. Here you will find a huge iconostasis.
Note that St. Basil’s Cathedral functions mainly as a museum. There is only one service here, held annually on the Day of the Intercession. Take the subway to Ploshchad Revolyutsii to visit the cathedral. The site has an entry fee and is closed on Tuesdays.