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In 1936 Stalin's officials were already preparing a plan to demolish St.Basil's Cathedral. But the plan failed. Allegedly church restorer Pyotr Baranovsky barricaded himself inside the dynamite-primed church, along with his young daughter - and said they'd blow themselves up along with the building. But when Baranovsky was read this story years later, he only laughed. “If I'd really locked myself in that church, they'd have gladly blown me up along with it!”. In fact Baranovsky had the rare gift of persuasion, which he had used effectively even with Stalin. But in 1933 it had failed to save him – he was denounced by colleagues, arrested, and sent to a labour camp. After serving his sentence he was allowed to live only in a town beyond the 100-kilometre limit from Moscow. It was a tactic the USSR frequently used to deal with released political prisoners and their families – to wreck their careers and limit their rights.
Pyotr Baranovsky was born in 1892, and became an architect and restorer of historic buildings. Born in a serf family, his first profession was as a builder, and second – an art historian. This is how Baranovsky acquired his practical knowledge of restoration, which he practiced throughout his life. He could visualise how even a collapsed pile of bricks had looked when it was newly built. And not only visualise – he could rebuild it. During his long life – and Baranovsky lived to the age of 92 – he saved many historic buildings... not the least of them being St.Basil's Cathedral.
The most striking feature to be found on Red Square is the extravagantly-ornamented, multiple-domed church which seems to be out of a Russian fairy-tale – the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin. But its second name is St.Basil's Cathedral. One of Moscow's oldest churches, it sits at the crown of the slope down to the river embankment. Outside it, within the railing, we see the statues of Minin & Pozharsky.
The Cathedral of the Holy Virgin was built in the mid-C16th at the behest of Tsar Ivan the Terrible – to celebrate his defeat of the Tartar Khanate and capture of the Tartar capital, Kazan. Local folk liked to call it the Church of the Intercession on the Moat, since it stood on the banks of the Kremlin's moat in those days. But the present name of St.Basil's Cathedral arose when a holy soothsayer, nicknamed Basil the Blessed Simpleton, was buried in the cathedral.
Tradition says the cathedral was built by the masons Barma and Postnik. However, it's very likely that “Barma” was the nickname of Postnik Yakovlev, a mason from Pskov. A further tale tells that it was built by an Italian architect, whose name has not survived. There's a potty tour-guide story that Ivan the Terrible ordered the architect to be blinded afterwards – so he could never excel the task elsewhere. But we know Postnik built the Kazan Kremlin later, so this is just an Old Wives Tale.
The cathedral – which is near to being a castle – united 10 smaller chapels within one structure. The altar of each of these chapels are dedicated to the saints, on whose saint-days Ivan's battle victories against the Tartars occurred. Eight of the chapels - four larger ones, and four smaller set between the larger ones – are grouped around a larger ninth central chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin. One central foundation unites all nine chapels, along with a surrounding gallery and interior vaulted passages. In 1588 a tenth chapel was built, facing north-east, and dedicated to the holy soothsayer, Basil the Blessed – his relics were built into the chapel's foundations. The name of this chapel of Basil the Blessed eventually passed on to be used about the entire Cathedral.
This Protection Church is often called St.Basil's Cathedral, and connects it not its building Ivan the Terrible and his Kazan campaigns – but instead with the name of a Moscow soothsayer, or “holy fool”. Basil preached on the streets in medieval Moscow, and went half-naked even in the depths of winter, wearing iron chains & crucifixes. Even Tsar Ivan treated Basil with reverence. When Basil sickened, the Tsar came to visit him. Holy miracles were attributed to him – for example, without leaving Moscow he used three cups of wine... and extinguished a fire in the faraway town of Novgorod.
Now it once happened that Ivan the Terrible summoned the soothsayer Basil, telling him to drink wine with him. Basil took the wine, but poured it out of a window. The Tsar asked to pour a second and a third cup – but again, Basil poured them out of the window. “Why are you so disobedient with your Tsar's request?”. “I'm extinguishing a bad fire in Novgorod!” replied the soothsayer. Yet soon came word from Novgorod, that the soothsayer had spoken truly.
St.Basil's Catheral is one of Russia's most famous historic buildings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today the church is open as a museum. Visitors can climb the spiral staircases, and relish the beauty of the ikonostases, in which ikons of the C16th to C19th are set. They can also see the decorated galleries. The interior walls are decorated with oil paintings and frescoes of the C16th to C19th, and there is a display of church utensils from the same period. Nowadays the church is administered jointly by the Moscow History Museum and the Holy Russian Patriarchate. Services are held on Sundays.
Moscow is the capital of the ancient and modern Russian state. It has been playing crucial role for centuries. Here you can face all episodes of rich and gorgeous Russian history.
The city is full of historical buildings, monuments, cathedrals, museums and parks. It started many centuries ago from the Kremlin – medieval city-fortress overlooking the Moskva River. Now it is not only the government seat but open air museum. Behind the tall red brick walls palaces, cathedrals and museums are hidden. You can get there through one of the gates and walk along the streets that saw Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov, Peter the Great and all other Romanovs, and the Soviet leaders.
You can visit all the cathedrals on Sobornaya (Cathedral) Square, climb Ivan the Great Bell Tower, take photos of the Tzar Bell and Tzar Cannon, see state regalia, ceremonial vestments and gold and silver relics in the world-known treasury-house – the Armoury Chamber. To say more, the Kremlin and its vicinities are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
We would like to advise you not to concentrate on the Kremlin only. Now you can get out of the Kremlin through the Spasskiye Gate and find yourself on Red Square – the main square of the country where Victory Day parades take place. In winter there is a skating rink with some kind of souvenir bazar. Red Square is famous for being the part of so called Kitai-Gorod – the second ring of fortified walls. Here you will see the beautiful fairy-tale St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is open for tourists and it’s worth visiting. Other places that pay tourists’ attention are GUM (the main center for shopaholics), Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State History Museum and the small Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of Our Lady. If you go along Nikolskaya Street, you will get to Lubyanka Square with the imposing buildings of former KGB and the biggest in Russia Children's World Department Store.
If you decide to go through the Resurrection Gate you will find yourself on Manezhnaya (Manege) Square at the entrance to the Alexander Garden. It’s a large pedestrian open space and a nice place to walk and relax near the fountains. Underground Trade Centre ”Okhotny Ryad” or “the Hunter’s Row” is a paradise for shopping. You can continue your walk towards Arbat or Tverskaya Street. There are also fine buildings to visit and to take pictures of: The Shilov Art Gallery, hotels “Moskva”, “Nationale”, Pashkov's House, The Former House of the Moscow State Duma etc.
If you decide to turn round Georgy Zhukov’s horse monument you’ll occur on Revolution Square where you can visit the Museum of Patriotic War of 1812. From there it’s very easy to get to Teatralnaya or “Theatre” Square limited by the Metropol Hotel, The Bolshoi and the Maly Theatres. In the center you will find a beautiful fountain by Vitali.
All these sites and even more you will be able to visit and explore with knowledgeable audio excursion with offline map from Your Audio Guide “Attractions around the Kremlin”. You will find Moscow very pleasant for spending holidays.