Sunday, December 16, 2018

St. Basil's Cathedral

Built 1555-1561 by Ivan the Terrible, complete with horrible legends of blinded architects, the incredible, fairytale-like church in Red Square has had many names, including:

Trinity Church
Intercession Church (prophetic, I think!)

The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat
(Theotokos refers to Mary, the Mother of Jesus)

Pokrovsky Cathedral
Church of Intercession on the Moat 
Temple of Basil the Blessed

The name of Vasily (Basil) the Blessed was attached to the church in the 17th century. He is buried on-site and Ivan the Terrible, who he had boldy spoken out against, 
was reportedly one of his pallbearers. 

Who was this man?

His parents were poor serfs. He was said to have been born at the entrance of a local church. He trained as cobbler, but was known for stealing to give to the poor. He wore chains willingly and sometimes went naked in public. They called him a Holy Fool. 

He survived insulting Ivan the Terrible, calling him out for letting his mind wander in church (specifically telling him what he had been thinking about) and for violence and cruelty toward the innocent. He won the respect of the ruthless leader who, years later, served as his pallbearer. He called Basil "a seer of hearts and human thoughts." 
He was said to be the only man Ivan feared.

Mysterious happenings...

When he was a young man working as cobbler, a merchant placed an order with him for boots. Basil suddenly began to weep and asked the man to cancel the order, as he would soon die and would never wear them. He passed away several days later.

At just 16, the future saint arrived in Moscow and began exhibiting bizarre behavior. He would walk around barefoot in summer and winter. In one instance, he knocked over a stand of bread and poured out a jug of kvass (a traditional drink). The shopkeepers attacked him, but he remained joyful and thanked God. They soon discovered, however, that something had been wrong with both the bread and the beverage. He had saved everyone from getting sick! People began to see him as a holy man and, in a tradition of the time, a Holy Fool or Fool-for-Christ, 
because his actions often seemed unusual. 

He prayed for and showed kindness toward people who were drinking in the local taverns, sometimes clinging to the walls outside and weeping for their souls. 

His prayers were said to have stopped an invasion of Russian lands in 1521 when Khan Makhmet-Guirey was scared by a vision of legions of soliders 
who weren't really there and retreated.

In 1547 he foresaw the great fire of Moscow. He was believed to have extinguished another fire at Novgorod through prayer and symbolically pouring wine out of a window. It was discovered later that there had been a fire in Novogorod at that time, but it did not spread far because someone unknown to the eyewitnesses was seen pouring water over the burning houses. Later, after visiting Moscow, some of them recognized Basil as the stranger they had seen on that day, 
but he had been miles away at the time.

There came to be so much respect for him that the church in Red Square 
is now commonly known as St. Basil's Cathedral. 
It is arguably the most recognized symbol of Russia. 
Isn't it remarkable what can become of a simple person, a fool for Christ?


  1. I've been there, visited the churches with the onion shaped domes, and of course St.Basil's cathedral. The red square with the Kremlin and the churches - a lifetime experience.

  2. Dear Sandi

    The history of old Russia is very interesting but also cruel.
    The tsars of Great Russia built beautiful Orthodox churches, but they oppressed their people.
    Ten years ago I was in Moscow, unfortunately all my pictures were taken by the Trojan virus.


  3. Most inspirational story I have ever heard dear Sandi!

    I strongly believe that he was a n absolutely normal person

    Perfect model of humanity!

    His deep connection with God was reflected in his actions

  4. What a beautiful cathedral. I loved hearing the story behind it. Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

  5. Votos de Feliz Natal repleto de muita paz e amor.

  6. The uplifting story, gorgeous watercolor!

  7. Sandi, I loved reading this story, and what a moral behind it! I did not know any of this. As I read, at one point I thought Basil may turn out to be Rasputin. But Basil was much more innocent. I learned so much; a truly beautiful Sunday post.

  8. I wasn't at all familiar with the man for whom the place is named.

  9. Sandi, today I learned something very interesting about Vasily (Basil) the Blessed reading your inspirational post.
    I saw the S.t Basil's Cathedral many years ago, it's incredibly beautiful.
    Thank you for sharing the beautiful story with us.

  10. Very interesting!! God does work miracles in our lives!

  11. Remarkable indeed. Here I am a Russian who did not know this part of history. :) Thanks for your research. I am familiar with Kvass which is a fermented drink many women make in their own kitchens over several months...

  12. Foi bom o que aprendi aqui. Obrigada.
    Que tenha um Natal de Amor e um novo Ano com tudo de bom.
    Boas Festas!
    Um beijo.

  13. Que os bons momentos sejam eternos. Feliz Natal!

  14. Ah Sandi - this was such an amazing story. I had never read about this man before and the story of the beautiful cathedral. Thank you for sharing. Hope your Christmas is blessed with Joy and Peace. Hugs!

  15. Hello Dear Sandi!
    I wish you Christmas filled with magic, wonder and love.

  16. What a wonderful story, Ivan the terrible was very feared by the population.
    Nice that Basil was protected and the church is really beautiful.