St. Basil's Cathedral
Located on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, St. Basil's Cathedral – known formally as The Cathedral of Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat – is an architectural landmark church that is multi-tented and topped with onion domes. St. Basil's was designed by the famed European architect Postnik Yakovlev and completed in 1561. It was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, also known as Ivan IV, to celebrate his capture of the rouge Tatar state Kazan Khanate. Moscow's Red Square is also home to the governmental complex of The Kremlin, which sits directly across from St. Basil's. Due to the well-known architectural features of the cathedral, most modern Western media reporters stand in front of St. Basil's when broadcasting “from The Kremlin,” which accounts for a large case of mistaken identity in the Western world. After the cathedral's completion, Ivan the Terrible commissioned Yakovley to do some more work on The Kremlin, and then had his architect blinded so that the uniqueness of his work would remain exclusive to Moscow.
Ivan the Terrible also built the cathedral as a burial place for the area's popular and eccentric Christ-follower, Vasily Blazhenny - “Basil Fool for Christ” in Russian. The Basil Fool was well-known in the vicinity for shoplifting from the miser shopkeepers in town and giving to the poor and others who were in need. In addition, he commonly went about his business stark naked, wearing nothing but chains, to symbolize the weight of sin carried by Christ on the cross. Furthermore, he had publicly rebuked Ivan the Terrible on numerous occasions for less-than-kind treatment of those in need, and for only attending church for ceremonial, rather than religious, reasons. The impact that Basil made on the community was so great that after his death in 1552, Ivan IV personally served as a pallbearer, and the cathedral was built around his burial place. The Catholic Church recognized Basil as a saint in 1580. To commemorate Basil's canonization, Ivan IV's successor and son, the pious Fyodor I Ivanovich, had a chapel constructed atop the site of Basil's grave.
Before the death of Basil, one of the original concepts that Ivan IV had for the cathedral was a series of nine chapels, each one built to commemorate a saint whose feast day landed on the same day that a tsar had claimed victory in a battle. These nine chapels were each meant to originally have their own tented or onion-domed roof, but it was decided that a larger tower would unify these nine individual structures into their own cathedral.
Today, the original nine chapels, along with the special tenth chapel, make up the interior of St. Basil's Cathedral. Inside each of the chapels are richly-decorated icons celebrating each one of the dedicated saints, wall murals depicting the medieval history of Russia, and detailed artwork on the inside of the domes. The overall effect is of a collaborative cathedral design with each chapel and dome being unique. This helps to separate St. Basil's architectural style from that of other Western cathedrals found throughout Europe, which often have a singular large interior space.