June 29 in Russian history

I had planned to write about the battle of Kosovo yesterday, but I was too busy. Sorry. I still would like to mention this anniversary, so here's a photo of a graffiti in Samara. It says in Serbian: "Serbs and Russians are brothers forever. Greece, Serbia, Russia. ".

1561: The Saint Basil's Cathedral is officially opened in Moscow. The construction started in 1555 to commemorate the victory over the Kazan Khanate. The building was consecrated in 1557 and was named the Cathedral of intercession of the Virgin on the moat, but the construction went on till 1561. It is still unclear who was the architect. The traditional version says that there were two of them: Barma and Postnik. It is possible, though, that these are two names of one man. Yet another version maintains that it was an anonymous architect from Western Europe. The temple consists of eight towers grouped around the ninth one. Once again, traditionally each tower is thought to be dedicated to a certain battle with Kazan. Viewed from the top, they look like two squares forming an eight-pointed star. Number 8 represents the resurrection of Christ and what was called "the eighth kingdom" — the age after the second coming of Christ, after the end of the human history represented by the apocalyptic number 7. The square is a symbol of solid faith and persistence. Its four corners are the four evangelists, four sides of the world, four ends of the cross, four equal sides of the celestial Jerusalem. The eight-pointed star should also remind of the Bethlehem star and symbolize the Christian church which leads human beings, like a star, to the celestial Jerusalem. Mary sometimes appears on orthodox icons in a shawl with three eight-pointed stars.

The cathedral is small, but there's a reason for this. No cathedral would be large enough to accomodate all Muscovites. So, during large holidays, like Easter or Christmas, the whole Red Square became a church and the cathedral played the role of the altar in this church.

Yet another theory says that the cathedral was modeled after the famous Qol-Sharif mosque in Kazan, destroyed by Ivan the Terrible. However, we do not know how the mosque looked like. It is clear, though, that the new Qol-Sharif built in 2005, however beautiful, is not a copy of the old one.

Initially, there were 16 more little towers around the main one, but in late XVIII century they were removed and the temple was painted the way we see it today. In the end of the XVII century one more tower was added, the tower of St.Basil. In 1924 during the archaeological excavations, bricked up narrow loopholes were found in the lower tier of the edifice. Probably, it was intended to serve as a small bastion.

In 1812, Napoleon first planned to move the temple to Paris, but someone explained to him that it was impossible, he ordered to destroy it. The temple was saved by a sudden rain which extinguished the fuses leading to the explosives. After the revolution, bolsheviks also planned to get rid of the cathedral. In 1919 the senior priest was executed and in 1929 Lazar Kaganovich, the head of the apparatus of the Communist Party, offered to dismantle the cathedral. A rumour is that he prepared a small model of the Red Square to prove to Stalin that the temple was an obstacle for the traffic. During the discussion he suddenly said: "And what if we do so?" and tore away the St.Basil from the model. Stunned Stalin was silent for some seconds and then he said slowly: "Put it back, Lazar." However, the truth is probably that the temple was saved due to the activity of a prominent restorator P.Baranovsky. They say that he fell on his knees before the Central Committee of the Communist Party, imploring to spare the temple.

As for Basil (Vassily) himself, he was a Moscow fool. He was born in 1469 and died in 1552. When he was 16, he began to prophesy. He walked almost naked and lived on the streets. He threw stones into the houses of the people who led sinful (in his opinion) life. He used to smash up the stalls in the marketsquares when he thought that the owners were too greedy. When Ivan the Terrible gave him gold, he didn't give it to the poor, but handed to a nearby merchant. It was found out later that this merchant lost all his possessions recently and didn't dare to ask for alms. The tsar gave him wine, but Vassily poured it away to "quench" the fire in Novgorod. He often rebuked Ivan the Terrible and was the only man Ivan was afraid of. Ivan was among the people who carried Vassily's coffin in 1552.

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