south-east and the north-east others dedicated to saints whose feast days fell on 3o August, the day of another Russian victory over the Tatars in i552. The cathedral is thus a collection of shrines for offering votive thanks to the Mother of God, the Holy Trinity, and saints associated with the siege and conquest of Kazan. It is also construed as an icon of the heavenly kingdom of Jerusalem, which one symbolically enters through its western chapel. Later in Ivan's reign a Palm Sunday procession went from the inner sanctum of the Kremlin to the more public space of Red Square and then to this chapel.9' The cathedral had counterparts in other art forms. There is a striking similarity, for example, between the central tower of St Basil's and the so-called Tsar's Seat (tsarskoe mesto) of Ivan IV in the Dormition cathedral, made in i55i. Both are decorated with kokoshniki, pediments and small columns, suggesting an ideological kinship in the idea of divine protection, a link between the place where the tsar celebrated the liturgy and the memorial to royal victory.92
The popular name for the cathedral derives from its associations with Basil the Blessed or Vasilii Blazhenny (i489-i552), a 'fool for Christ's sake'.93 Basil roamed around Moscow in rags and heavy chains and was famed for his prophecies, including predicting the Moscow fire of i547. He died shortly after prophesying that Ivan would kill his first-born son (which he did, in i58i).94 It was another son, Tsar Fedor Ivanovich, who in i588 added St Basil's chapel, next to the Trinity chapel. Prayers to St Basil were sung daily at his shrine, which has its own entrance at ground level. The chapel also contained the relics of Ioanna Khrista-rad (died i599), a holy fool from Vologda.
Tsar Fedor Ivanovich (i584-98) has sometimes been depicted as a sort of royal holy fool. His death without issue ended the royal line that traced its origins back through the Moscow Daniilovichi to the semi-legendary Riurik. The rivalries engendered by its extinction were a root cause of the period of dynastic, social and national collapse known as the Time of Troubles (i598-i6i3) that occurred after the death of Fedor's successor, the boyar Boris Godunov (i598-i6o5).95 The belief was that the Troubles, no less than the Mongol invasion almost four centuries earlier, were a punishment for Russia's 'sins'. In
91 See M. S. Flier, 'Breaking the code: the image of the tsar in the Muscovite Palm Sunday ritual', in Medieval Russian Culture, ii, 2Q-42.
92 N. I. Brunov, KhramVasiliiaBlazhennogovMoskve (Moscow: Iskusstvo, i988), 97. J. Cracraft and D. Rowland, Architectures of Russian identity, 1500 to the present (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2oo3), 34-5o.
93 A. Beliankin, Skazanie o zhizni i chudesakh Sviatogo Blazhennago Vasiliia Khrista Radi Iurodivago Moskovskago chudotvortsa (Moscow, i884).
94 H. Boldyreff Semler, Moscow: the complete companion guide (London: Equator, i989), 78.
95 On Godunov, see Cracraft and Rowland, Architectures of Russian identity, 34-5!.
Was this article helpful?