Off the Beaten Trail: St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow Russia

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St. Basil’s Cathedral.

The symbol of Russia is a Cathedral with colorful mushroom domes. St. Basil’s Cathedral (Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat) Museum is in Red Square, Moscow. It is the place everyone wants to see. Tsar Ivan the Terrible, the first Tsar of all Russia, built the Cathedral from 1555-1561. He had Greek blood. Tzar Ivan the Terrible III was the grandson of Sophia Palaiologina a Byzantine princess of the mperial Palaiologos family, by marriage. She was Grand Princess of Moscow and the second wife of Grand Prince Ivan III. 1 I have mixed emotions about him. He killed his son and grandson in one of his rages. He created the ULTIMATE symbol of his nation.photo-400x380

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helmets

The central roof is surrounded by eight onions. It contains eight side churches arranged around the ninth, central church of Intercession; the tenth church was erected in 1588 over the grave of  the venerated local saint Vasily (Basil). It was built in honor of the conquest of Kazan. The expulsion of Tartar troops inspired all Russian people. What I learned in seeing Russia was that those times was brutal, involving the massive massacre of persons in conquests and wars with invaders. The Russian people have suffered throughout their history, understood by Greeks who have suffered similarly. The Cathedral has the following churches: The Intercession of the Holy Virgin (Holy Veil), main church where we spent most of our time; Holy Martyrs Cyprian and Justina (northern church); Three Patriarchs of Constantinople: Alexander, John and Paul the New (northeastern church); St. Nicholas (southern church); Holy Trinity (eastern church); Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem (western church); St. Alexander of Svir (southeastern church); St. Varlaam of Khutyn (southwestern church) and Holy Martyr Gregory, Bishop and Enlightener of Armenia (northwestern church).3

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Colorful geometric patterns on walls.

We passed by the “Sign”, an icon of the Mother of God with Saints on the borders, on the easterly wall of the Holy Trinity Church. It was painted by icon painter Timofei Arkhipov, the second half of the 17th century. The icon underwent several oil repaintings during the 19th to 20th centuries. It has been kept outdoors for over 250 years.2  We saw the original icon in our excursion to St. Sophia, Novgorod. The icon of the Mother of God “Of the Sign”, made in 1170, was venerated by many worshippers the day we were there. We saw four to five oversize Pullmans of tourists. Our guide, Olga, said “you are not the only persons interested in Novgorod.”4

                When we visited, the “Doros” male vocal group performed Russian Orthodox music in St. Trinity Church. The interior of church had ornate byzantine iconography, colorful geometric patterns on walls, gilded gold on doors and borders. The museum was in the basement of the Church of the Holy Veil. We saw the following: miniature replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral; church banners gilded and on metal; buttons, buckles, and beads of a man’s outer garment; helmet hats; 17th century copy of the Kazar Chronicle; jewelry; 14th-17th centuries coins and icons.

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Iconostasis

St. Nicholas of Velikoretskoye was in an illuminated case. It is a 16th century tempera on wood icon. It shows St. Nicholas with scenes of his life.  In 1555 the icon was brought from Vyatka to Moscow. The name Velikoretsky means “of the big rivers”.  The southern church was consecrated in honor of the Velikoretsky St. Nicholas icon. “St. George the Victorious” icon was from the 16th century. Both saints were part of the daily lives of probably the largest and most religious Christian nation in the world, prior to the 1917 Communist Revolution.

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St. Nicholas of Velikoretskoye.

Life is unexpected. No one knows what adventures lay before us. I learned more about my refugee Yiayia (grandmother) from Tseme, Asia Minor. She was totally fascinated by Russia, Catherine the Great and Count Orlov who freed them from Ottoman Turkish rule for four years.  I saw in St. Petersburg a church and monuments in Catherine’s Palace dedicated to the Victory of Tseme. St. Basil’s Cathedral has a church dedicated to the Patriarchs of Constantinople and St. Gregory of Armenia (who converted it into the first Christian country of the world), that I did not know existed. Surprises wait all who go “Off the Beaten Trail.”

 

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophia_Palaiologina
  2. Poster outside of St. Basil’s Cathedral.
  3. http://www.moscow-driver.com/top_moscow_tours/st_basils_cathedral.html
  4. http://www.qgazette.com/news/2016-02-10/Front_Page/Off_The_Beaten_Trail_Byzantine_Civilization_Of_Vel.html

 

Links:

https://goo.gl/photos/UhvLTHx7Qw9ww2sq7 – photo album

 

 

Photo 4- St. Nicholas of Velikoretskoye.

Photo 5 – Helmets in museum.

 

 

 

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