• St. Basil's Cathedral preserves Russian history despite changing times


    St. Basil's Cathedral, one of the most recognizable destinations for Europe travel, was recently honored with a 450th anniversary celebration. Over more than four centuries, the famous cathedral has had a lot of time to see history happen outside its doors.

    Honoring Russia's heroes
    Important events in the cathedral's lifespan began quickly after it was built. St. Basil the Blessed, for whom the building was given its nickname, died shortly before construction began and was buried in an old cathedral that once stood where St. Basil's Cathedral is now located. Just under 20 years after the new cathedral was finished, a chapel added to its eastern face to house Basil's remains, according to Sacred Destinations. His body lies in a silver casket on the ground floor of the chapel.

    In addition to the changes made to honor St. Basil, two other heroes of Russia were immortalized on the cathedral's grounds. Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin are said to have helped raise a volunteer army to repel Polish invaders in the 16th and 17th centuries. A statue commemorating their courage was soon built in the center Red Square, where the cathedral is located. When the Soviets came to power in the 20th century, they demanded that the statue be removed to make room for military parades in the square. The statue was moved to a garden in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in 1936, where it has stood ever since.

    Grim legends
    Other stories from early in the cathedral's history have proved to be hoaxes. A long-standing rumor held that Ivan the Terrible, the emperor who ordered the building's construction, had its architects, Barma and Postnik Yakovlev, blinded after its completion so that they would be unable to erect a more impressive structure anywhere else in the world, according to Voice of Russia. However, historians note that there was no truth to the story. In fact, the pair went on to build other churches throughout Russia.

    Narrowly avoiding destruction
    Soviet leaders once almost had the entire cathedral destroyed, again to make room for their elaborate parades in Red Square. Saying that it blocked their armies from marching together, Joseph Stalin ordered architect Pyotr Baranovsky to prepare the cathedral for demolition. According to the Stephen F. Austin State University, Baranovksy refused, sending a telegram of protest to the Kremlin. Some sources have said that he even stood on the cathedral's steps to defy demolition crews. Whatever the truth is, Baranovsky spent five years in prison for his refusal, but preserved an important artifact of Russia's past for future generations to appreciate.

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