Libmonster ID: RU-17181
Author(s) of the publication: Konstantin AVERYANOV

by Konstantin AVERYANOV, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), RAS Institute of Russian History

The most famous of Russian cathedrals was built 450 years ago.

It is the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil "on the moat" (the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed), near the Moscow Kremlin. The cathedral was built under the order of Ivan IV the Terrible to commemorate the annexation of the Kazan Khanate by Rus.

It would seem that this unique masterpiece of ancient Russian architecture is known comprehensively, but there are still some mysteries related to this Cathedral.

The Nikon Chronicle* contains information that the Cathedral of " Protecting Veil of the Mother of God with its side chapels was erected in 1554 to commemorate the Russian victory over the Kazan Khanate."

*The Nikon Chronicle is one of the biggest 16th century Russian chronicles. --Ed.

On September 30 of the same year, on Sunday, Macarius, Metropolitan of all Russia, held 3 religious services there: vespers, night service and matins. Next day, at the festival of the Protection of the Virgin, Macarius consecrated the

The Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed.

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Cathedral in the presence of the tsar, boyars and crowds of people. There already were several churches named so in Moscow. That is why the new cathedral's name included the addition "on the moat", as the building was located near the moat around the Kremlin.

But some questions arise from this information. Historians know that just after the capture of Kazan, on October 2, 1552, Ivan IV the Terrible ordered to build the Annunciation church in Kazan to commemorate the victory. Four days later the church was built and consecrated. But why was the tsar slow to build such a monument in Moscow for almost two years?

Let us try to answer this question. The same chronicler points out that the tsar "ordered to lay a nine-dome stone church to replace the wooden one erected to commemorate the capture of Kazan" in June 1555. That means that the above-mentioned cathedral consecrated in 1554 was a wooden building. But we read further: "the Trinity church was here 2 years before." If we have 1555 as the base date, this church should have been built in 1553 according to researchers of the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed.

But we believe that one should rather take away 2 years from 1554, i.e. from the time when the wooden cathedral was consecrated. Such calculation puts everything in order: after return to Moscow in late autumn 1552, Ivan IV ordered immediately to build the Trinity church to commemorate his victory, and then to add the Cathedral of Protecting Veil with chapels. Alas, it is not clear when the latter one was laid and how the churches functioned together.

The present stone masterpiece decorating the Red Square was being built for 6 years (at that time construction was possible only in summer). It is commonly known that the cathedral consists of 9 churches on one foundation: the central main church and 8 side additional ones located symmetrically around it. By the autumn of 1559, the construction was generally finished and on October 1, the festival of Protection of the Virgin, Macarius in the

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presence of the tsar, his family, boyars and former Kazan rulers consecrated the cathedral chapels, but not the central church. For about 50 years the cathedral was the tallest building in Moscow, before the Ivan the Great Bell Tower was erected in the Moscow Kremlin* (probably constructed in 1543-1600 by architects Fyodor Kon and Petrok Maly)**.

The same contemporary enumerated all annexed churches--Holy Trinity; Palm Sunday; Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker in Velikoretsk; Saint Cyprian and Justinia; Saint Varlaam of Khutyn; Saint Alexander of the Svir; the Armenian Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator and explained: they were dedicated to the saints, prayed for on the days of the main Kazan war victories. But he named only 7, the 8th, dedicated to Alexander, John and Paul Junior (all of them were the Patriarchs of Alexandria), he failed to mention.

Finally, we read an entry of 1561 : "The stone churches of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God and Life-Giving Holy Trinity and other side-chapels were completed the same summer..." One should remember that this double name of the church was used till the end of the 17th

See: A. Nikolayeva, "Moscow Kremlin Museums", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2006.--Ed.

** See: I. Kostin, "The Bells of Ivan the Great", Science in Russia, No. 1, 1994.--Ed.

century (it is imprinted in the inscription on the altar crucifix of 1694). But foreign visitors of Moscow in the 17th cent. did usually mention the church as Palm Sunday church because of an annual Palm Sunday procession with the Patriarch of Moscow riding on a donkey led by the tsar.

It is officially called the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil since the 18th century only. Its common name is the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed, according to the 9th side-chapel, erected in late 16th century over the place, where he had been buried.

Now this monument is considered a masterpiece of Russian medieval architecture and a symbol of Moscow and Russia. It is a branch of Russian State Historical Museum* and from 1990** is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

No chronicle mentions architects of the cathedral. By the way, there is a legend about its architect, which became popular in the 17th century: allegedly he was blinded to prevent him from constructing another such masterpiece. Some versions add that the architect was a foreigner. But this is only a legend, which cannot find a confirmation in Russian written sources. According to historians this story

See: V. Yegorov, "Treasure-House of Russian History", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2004.--Ed.

** See: N. Maxakovsky, "Russia in UNESCO World Heritage", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2006.--Ed.

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first appeared in Adam Olearius' works describing his journeys to Russia in 1634, 1636, 1638-1639 and 1643, as well as in works by Berngard Tanner, a Czech traveler who visited Russia in 1678. The possible source can be a story about the architect of St. Mark's temple in Venice, Italy (consecrated in 1094).

The architect's name became known only in late 19th century, when the archpriest Ioann Kuznetsov, serving there, paid attention to the text contained in the Piskaryov Chronicle*: "And the master was Barma with companions." Continuing his work, the priest found one more hand-written collection, compiled in late 17th century and including the life of the metropolitan Iona. It mentioned the names of two builders: "God sent him two Russian masters, named Postnik and Barma." After such a significant discovery, the historians of architecture tried

Piskaryov Chronicle--a chronicle of the first half of the 17th century, which contains historical data from the foundation of Ancient Russian State to 1615, is kept in the collected works of D. Piskaryov at the Russian State Library.--Ed.

to ascribe to them other constructions of the epoch of Ivan the Terrible, for example, the Church of Beheading of St. John Baptist in the village of Dyakov near Moscow (now the territory of the capital), and the Church of Kozma and Damian in Murom*.

Certainly, researchers tried to supplement the information obtained from chronicles with other data. Thus, some of them believed: Barma was nothing but a nickname of a man with noncalendar (not included in the calendar) name Postnik, rather widespread in the 16th century, i.e. only one master (and not two) were meant in the life of Iona. Moreover, the famous historian of Moscow Ivan Zabelin (honorary member of Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1907) identified Postnik with PosnikYakovlev, the church and town master of Pskov. But in late 1554, the latter went to Kazan following the order of the tsar--to erect a fortress, hence, in 1555 he could not lay the foundation of a stone cathedral in the capital. Consequently

See: O. Bazanova, "Homeland of Ilya Muromets", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009.--Ed.

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they returned to the opinion that there were two authors of the unique construction.

Thus, as it was only Barma, who was mentioned in the Piskaryov Chronicle, it allowed a number of scientists to consider him "the leading builder", and Posnik Yakovlev--"the chief co-worker", who came to Moscow after his work in Kazan. However, careful studies of the activity of the Pskov artel in the 1550s-1560s demonstrated an impossibility to identify the Pskov dweller with Postnik from Moscow. So, the problem about the architect of the cathedral remains unsolved. The consecrations of some of its churches present a mystery too. As the chronicler specified that they had been erected in honor of one or other fights of 1552, the assumption on small wooden "ordinary" temples became widespread, i.e. on those erected in Moscow in one day after receiving news about victories of the Russian army. Thus, by the end of the war there were built 8 of them, and it is possible to trace in their names the thought-out program of consecrations.

However, it is fair only for the main temple and four lateral ones: of Saints Alexander of the Svir, Alexander, John and Paul of Alexandria (on August 30--the battle of Russian armies with a detachment of the tsarevich Epanchi), of Gregory the Illuminator (on September 30--an explosion of the Arsk tower of the Kazan Kremlin and the victory over the enemy on the Arsk field), of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God (on October 1-fhe beginning of assault of the enemy capital), in memory of

Cyprian and Justinia (on October 2--its capture). The connection of names of other side-chapels with the campaign of 1552 is less obvious. Though, let's say, the southwestern one could be consecrated in honor of Varlaam Hutynsky prayed for on November 6 as that day the tsar returned to Moscow.

As to the temples of Palm Sunday (this holiday fell on April 10 in 1552) and of the Holy Trinity (on June 5), their names do not correspond at all with the conquest of Kazan. We can only assume that consecration of the first of them is related to the ceremonial entry of the tsar Ivan the Terrible to Moscow after the victory, and of the second one--to his trips at the beginning and in the end of the campaign to the Monastery of St. Sergiy*.

Perhaps the existence of a side-chapel in honor of Nicholas Velikoretsky is connected with the following events. In 1555, in the territory, added as a result of the conquest of the Kazan khanate, there was formed an arch-bishopry (eparchy managed by an archbishop). The same year the priests and "the best" people of Khlynov (today Kirov)--the capital of the Vyatka land, which was included into it--"bowed down to the ground" to Ivan IV about the construction of a new "house" for the miracle-working icon of Nicholas Velikoretsky. The matter is that the temple, standing in the city where there was a sacred place, destroyed by the fire, but it itself remained almost

See: V. Darkevich, "The Monastery of St. Sergiy", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2000.--Ed.

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undamaged, and such a remarkable event was perceived as a blessing by the saint of a feat of the Moscow sovereign--the establishment of Orthodoxy in his new possessions.

By the way, the curious legend is connected with the side-chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Veliko-retsk. Originally it, unlike the others, had no name but when its walls went up by a sazhen from the earth, the image of Nicholas Velikoretsky was brought to Moscow, which worked numerous miracles. Then the tsar with the metropolitan decided to call the nameless temple by the name of this Saint. While its construction was in progress, a temporary wooden church was erected in the neighborhood, where an exact copy of the miracle-working icon was placed.

Let's try to restore chronology of the events connected with the construction of the famous cathedral. Apparently, after returning from the campaign in autumn of 1552, the tsar ordered to construct a wooden church of the Holy Trinity for "vows". Later on the church of Protecting Veil with six side-chapels, consecrated on October 1, 1554, was added to it. However, here the historians are trapped by riddles: Why did the official chronicle, which was so extremely attentive to all that was occurring in Moscow, fail to record the time of founding of both of them and only two years later they were mentioned?

Then, in the spring of 1555, several months later after finishing the building of the wooden temple, the stone one was founded. Trying to understand such an inexplicable fact at first glance, the scientists brought forward different hypotheses, sometimes rather witty. In particular, according to some researchers the concept "for vows", widely spread in the 17th-century sources, was exceptionally related to wooden churches, while stone ones, which later on substituted them were called "cherished". However, the thorough analysis of an existence of both terms showed: there was no difference between them.

It is obvious that was not the point. In the completely wooden Moscow there were no qualified masons and in some important cases they were invited from other places.

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The basement plan of the cathedral.

The cathedral in a cross-section.

For example, in late 15th century, the tsar Ivan III decided to erect a Dormition Cathedral* in the Moscow Kremlin, but the local masters did not cope with the set task and they had to address Pskov masters. But after inspecting the construction site, they refused too. As a result the famous Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti was invited. In a word, the search for such experts continued till the spring of 1555. And what about the wooden one? Many researchers think that it was disassembled. However, the documentary evidence about laying the foundation of a temporal log church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Velikoretsk that same year contradicts it. It is more probable that the original temples stood not there where the monument, we are talking about, is located, but nearby-along the moat separating the Kremlin from the Red Square in those days. Later on new ones were added in line. The masons invited by the sovereign

See: V. Zverev, "Moscow White-Stone", Science in Russia, Nos. 1-2, 1992; T. Geidor, "Masterpieces That Endure", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2009.--Ed.

had their own project--they grouped side-chapels around the main Church of Protecting Veil, after choosing a place on a hill slope, where the Red Square passes into Vasilevsky descent to the Moskva River.

The chronicle informed that the cathedral had been consecrated in 1561, but did not name a day and a month of the event. Its date remained unknown for a long time, and in 1957, during a restoration of the architectural masterpiece, after removing the latest layer from the painting, in the base of the hipped roof of the Church of Protecting Veil, the so-called "khramozdannaya" chronicle was found, containing the exact date of the completion of construction--on June 29 (old style).

Thus, due to the work of historians, art critics, architects and restorers the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed is gradually disclosing its secrets, but a great deal is still in store for a researcher.


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