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Russia marks 450 years of St. Basil’s Cathedral

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is celebrating the 450th anniversary of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the onion-domed landmark on Moscow’s Red Sqaure named after a homeless, naked dissident who stood up to Czar Ivan the Terrible.

The cathedral has been restored in time for Tuesday’s exhibition dedicated to St. Basil and other so-called “holy fools,” the devout and eccentric prophets known for braving Russian winters by walking around stark naked or wearing only feathers.

St. Basil fearlessly lambasted the tyranny of Ivan the Terrible, who feared the holy fool and carried his coffin to a grave right outside the Kremlin.

The cathedral, constructed to commemorate Ivan’s victory over Mongol rulers, was built in 1561 on the burial site and is revered among believers for miracles and healings.

The exhibition will be part of massive celebrations of St. Basil’s anniversary that will also include a service to be held by Russia Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and a late-night church bell concert.

“This cathedral is a shrine and a symbol of Russia,” Busygin added. “It’s a miracle it survived at all.”

The building was severely shelled during the 1917 Bolshevik takeover of the Kremlin and was patched up during the subsequent civil war and famine. “Those gaping wounds were stuffed with whatever was at hand,” said Andrey Batalov, deputy director of the State Kremlin Museums.

Early Communist leaders — who persecuted countless clerics of all faiths and destroyed tens of thousands of religious buildings — wanted St. Basil’s dynamited as it blocked the way to military parades, and only the cathedral’s conversion into a museum saved it.

A century earlier, Napoleon Bonaparte also ordered St. Basil’s blown up during his army’s hasty retreat from Moscow in 1812, but a heavy rain put down the burning fuses.

Originally named the Holy Trinity Cathedral, over the centuries it became known as the place where St. Basil is buried.

The design of its nine onion-shaped, multicolored domes combine the traditions of Russian wooden architecture with Byzantine and Islamic influences into a unique structure.

Batalov said the restoration focused on recreating the way the building looked by the late 17th century, when the nine domes were united by a wraparound floor.

By that time, St. Basil’s became a symbolic New Jerusalem and the center of Palm Sunday walks, when the Moscow Patriarch approached it sitting on a donkey to recreate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.

Category: World News |

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Last updated March 25, 2017 at 5:40 PM
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