Incredible Cathedrals of Red Square

The most famous and significant place in Russia and in Moscow, the witness of the fateful events of the past and now – the main arena of grandiose festivities in Moscow – Red Square – is rightly called the heart of the capital and the face of the country. In her guise, the history and power of the whole state were imprinted. Magnificent beauty and the unchanging solemnity of a cult place fascinates tourists from all over the world.

Walk along Red Square and its neighborhoods is not just a must, but a primary route for every guest in Moscow. In this public space, which for several centuries has become sacred, the main attractions and a whole complex of unique monuments that embody national ideas and values of different epochs are concentrated.

In this guide we are going to talk about the fascinating cathedrals of the Square.

Kremlin cathedrals

Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Photo by

St. Basil’s Cathedral

The main temple in Moscow is the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin, which is situated on a ditch, erected on Red Square in 1555-1561.
The construction of a grand religious building was marked by a triumphant victory over the Kazan Khanate.

The amazing beauty of the temple gave rise to an interesting legend that the architects who participated in the creation of the cathedral were blinded by the order of Ivan the Terrible, so that they could not build such a masterpiece.

Throughout its existence, the Intercession Cathedral has undergone several changes in its appearance. So, in 1588, another (tenth) church was built in honor of St. Basil the Blessed, who gave the second temple a second, “popular” name.

The Intercession Cathedral was not only a military temple, but also a symbol of the national idea, according to which Moscow was proclaimed the Third Rome – the religious and political center, the main custodian of the Orthodox faith.

The cathedral is also an encrypted image of the Heavenly Jerusalem: multicolored chapters of eight churches surrounding the high tent of the ninth temple, in plan it forms an eight-pointed star – a symbol referring to the Bethlehem star, indicating to the Magi the path to the Savior.

Today St. Basil’s Cathedral is an active temple, as well as one of the largest museums of the country and Moscow in particular, narrating about the history of Orthodox Russia.

More interesting legends about St.Basil’s Cathedral you may read in our article – St.Basil’s Cathedral: Q&A.

Kazan Cathedral

Located in the northern part of Red Square, the one-domed cathedral, adorned with four tiers of keeled kokoshniks, is an example of Russian architecture of the first half of the 17th century.

However, the Kazan Cathedral is not a true monument of antiquity, but a reconstructed temple. The architectural copy of the ancient church dismantled in 1936, appeared on a historical place in the post-Soviet period in 1990-1993.

In 1625 the wooden church was consecrated in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. The national popularity of this shrine is connected with the events of the “Time of Troubles”. The copy of icon accompanied the second militia, which liberated Moscow from the Polish-Lithuanian interventionists.

Kazan Cathedral, built in 1635 on the money of the founder of the Romanov dynasty – Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich, became a military temple, a kind of monument to Russian soldiers who fell in the struggle for the independence of their Motherland.

For several centuries the cult church was rebuilt several times. Today we can observe its original appearance, and make an excellent photo of such a landmark.

Cathedral Square of Moscow Kremlin

In the first half of the 14th century, first white-stone churches were erected on the top of the Borovitsky (Kremlin) hill, which determined the spatial organization of the future Cathedral Square.

Ancient buildings were not preserved until nowadays but new cathedrals grew on the site of their predecessors. The construction of majestic religious buildings was carried out at the end of the 15th – beginning of the 16th century – at the time when the unification of Russian lands around Moscow was completed, Moscow turned into the capital of the unified Russian state.

The Cathedral Square is the historical and architectural center of the Moscow Kremlin, it retained a unique architectural ensemble, including the famous monuments of Russian temple architecture – the Uspensky Cathedral, Archangel’s Cathedral, Annunciation Cathedral, the Church of the Deposition, Ivan the Great Belltower, Cathedral of Twelve Apostles.

In addition to architectural value, churches have an important historical and memorial significance. The Assumption Cathedral is famous for the fact that all the coronations of Russian monarchs took place in it, beginning with Ivan III and ending with Nicholas II. And the Necropolis of the Archangel Cathedral became the burial vault of Russian rulers (great and specific princes, kings). Currently, the Kremlin’s cathedrals are not only functioning Orthodox churches, but also museums that exhibit masterpieces of ancient Russian art.

Bell Tower Ensemble of Ivan the Great

The final stage of the unification of Great Russian lands, the final overthrow of the Horde yoke, the formation of a single Russian state, occurred during the reign of Ivan III, also known in modern historiography as Ivan the Great.

In memory of the sovereign of all Russia, whose policy played such an important role in the destiny of the country, in 1505 (in the year of his death) a new sub-church temple was laid (on the site of the ancient church of St. Ioann Climacus). The construction project was executed by Bon Fryazin, an Italian architect who worked in Russia then.

The ensemble of the bell-tower “Ivan the Great”, which has been formed for over three centuries, includes three different volumes at a time. These are the pillar of Ivan the Great’s bell tower, which in 1600 increased its height to 81 m, Uspenskaya belfry of the 16th – the second half of the 17th century, and also Filaretov annex of the first half of the 17th century, crowned with a tent.

Until the beginning of the 18th century, the Bell Tower was the tallest building in Russia. In 1812, when retreating from Moscow, French troops blew up the temple: the bell tower survived, but the northern outbuildings were destroyed to the ground. Soon after the end of the war, the monument was restored.

Today, on the three tiers of the bell ringing “Ivan the Great” and on the adjoining annexes there are 22 ancient bells. Since 2008, the historical building has a museum that introduces visitors to its unique interior space.
From the observation deck of the monument comes a panoramic view and delightful views of the Kremlin and Zamoskvorechye.

Voskresensk Gates and Iberian Chapel

The way to Red Square from the Manege Square and the Revolution Square lies through the Resurrection Gate – a restored fragment of the Kitay-Gorod Wall. The two-story structure with gatehouses and two hipped towers, crowned with two-headed eagles, is located between the Historical Museum and the City Duma building.
The gates were purchased in 1680. The construction of a two-way passage on this site dates back to 1535.

Over its old history the fortress structure was renamed more than ones: the gates were called the Neglienensky (after the bridge over the Neglinnaya River that once stood nearby), the Troitskys (on the nearest Trinity Tower of the Kremlin). The gates were also called the Triumphal ones: solemn entrances of Russian rulers to Red Square were carried out through them.

The emergence of the now widespread name “Resurrection” is explained by the fact that in 1680 an icon of the Resurrection of Christ was attached to the gates. A historical monument is also known as the Iversky Gate. In the XVII century between the passages the Chapel of the Iberian Icon of the Mother of God was installed, it was one of the most revered in Moscow.

The cult building was demolished soon after the revolution, and in 1931 the Resurrection (Iver) gates were dismantled, which prevented the passage of military equipment during the parades. Both the gates and the chapel were restored in 1994.

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