St. Basil Cathedral is one of the most outstanding and remarkable monuments of Old Russian architecture. In the 16th century the tourists admired the beauty of the cathedral, and for the Russians it became the symbol of native history and culture.
In 1552 the temple consecrated in honor of Saint Trinity was put up. The temple was to commemorate the victory of Ivan the Terrible over Kazan and Astrakhan khanate. In 1554 Tsar ordered to construct the Cathedral of the Intersection of the Blessed Virgin on the site of the temple. The chapels of the cathedral were commemorating the victory over the Tatars. Later Saint Basil, Moscow «God's fool» was buried in one of the chapels, hence the name of the cathedral.
According to chronicles, St. Basil Cathedral was designed by Russian architects Postnik and Barma. There is the legend saying that Ivan the Terrible admired the beauty of the cathedral and ordered to blind the architects so they could never construct such a masterpiece again. Some historians insist that the cathedral was designed by one person — Ivan Barma who had a nickname Postnik as he kept the fast. The legend of the architects' blindness could be refuted by the fact that the name of Postnik was the author of many architectural monuments mentioned in the chronicles after St. Basil Cathedral construction.
St. Basil Cathedral is a symmetrical architectural ensemble consisting of eight chapels surrounding the ninth temple, which is the highest one. It is topped with a hipped roof. Each chapel bears the name of a saint. The central temple is dedicated to the Intersection of the Blessed Virgin. The chapels are conjoined by the system of passages. The cupolas that top the chapels are different from each other. Each cupola is decorated with windows, niches, and cornices. The cathedral impress as a festive and elegant one. Until the end of the 17th century when the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower was constructed on the Kremlin territory, St. Basil Cathedral was the highest construction in Moscow. The cathedral is 60 meters high.
In St. Basil Cathedral there are 9 icon-stands containing about 400 icons of the 16th-19th centuries. The icons are great examples of Moscow and Novgorod schools of icon painting. The walls of the cathedral are decorated with oil paintings and frescoes of the 16th-19th centuries. In the cathedral one can see portrait and landscape painting of the 19th century, and church plate of the 16th-19th centuries. Among the most precious items is the chalice of the 17th century that used to belong to Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich.
In the middle of the 20s of the 20th century St. Basil Cathedral got the status of museum. Since 1934 it is the branch of the State Historical Museum in Moscow.