Of all Russia’s iconic buildings, none are more easily recognized than the colorful Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Constructed between 1555 and 1561, Saint Basil’s was built to commemorate the Russian defeat of Kazan and Astrakhan. Built over the grave of Saint Basil, the church eventually took his name and still has a small chapel directly over his gravesite.
During the establishment of state atheism, Saint Basil’s Cathedral was taken over by the Russian government in the late 1920s. During the 1930s, Stalin even considered demolishing the cathedral and replacing it with utilitarian government offices. However, objections to this plan were strong enough that the building was spared and turned into a state museum.
Today, Saint Basil’s Cathedral is one of Europe’s most recognizable buildings due to its colorfully painted onion-shaped domes. Inside, the church is just as beautiful, with most walls covered in centuries-old murals. While Russia has some astonishingly beautiful cathedrals, public buildings, and even subway stations, there is no denying that Saint Basil’s Cathedral is the city’s most beautiful structure.
While I enjoyed touring the Kremlin, and seeing Lenin’s embalmed body, the clear highlight of my time in Moscow was Saint Basil’s. Standing stoically at one end of Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral has outlasted the tsars and socialism, as well as atheism and potential destruction, to become one of the world’s most iconic and beautiful buildings.