YAKOVLEV, Postnik
(active c. 1550-1562 in Moscow)

Exterior view

1555-61
Photo
Saint Basil's Cathedral, Kremlin, Moscow

Rapid growth in Moscow in the 16th century led to the erection of fortifications that enclosed parts of the city, thus transforming it into an architectural whole. In 1535-38 massive stone walls were built around Veliky, now renamed Kitay-gorod ('Chinatown'). Magnificent churches were built on the royal estates on the River Moskva: the votive hipped-roof church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye (1530-32) and St John the Baptist in D'yakovo (1547) with its half columns and chapels. Close to the main gates of the Kremlin the votive church of the Protective Veil (1555-61), attributed to Postnik Yakovlev, was erected to commemorate victory over the khanate of Kazan. It is now known as St Basil's Cathedral.

The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed (Russian: Sobor Vasiliya Blazhennovo), commonly known as Saint Basil's Cathedral, is a church in Red Square in Moscow. It was built from 1555 to 1561 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and commemorates the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan. The original building, known as Trinity Cathedral, contained eight churches arranged around a ninth, central church of Intercession; a tenth church was erected in 1588 over the grave of venerated local saint Vasily (Basil).

Ivan's architects opted for a symmetrical floor plan with eight side churches around the core, producing a coherent, logical plan. The central core and the four larger churches placed on the four major compass points are octagonal; the four diagonally placed smaller churches are cuboid, although their shape is barely visible through later additions. The larger churches stand on massive foundations, while the smaller ones were each placed on a raised platform, as if hovering above ground. Inside the composite church is a labyrinth of narrow vaulted corridors and vertical cylinders of the churches.

The foundations, as was traditional in medieval Moscow, were built of white stone, while the churches themselves were built of red brick, then a relatively new material. The builders used brick as a decorative medium both inside and out, leaving as much brickwork open as possible; when location required the use of stone walls, it was decorated with a brickwork pattern painted over stucco. The church acquired its present-day vivid colours in several stages from the 1680s to 1848.

The cathedral underwent several developments from the sixteenth century to the 1920s when it became a public museum.

View the section and ground plan of Saint Basil's Cathedral.