Death and Life in St. Basil's

If a foreigner could name a single architectural symbol of Russia, it would likely be this Cathedral at the Red Square in Moscow. Its ornate, multicolored onion domes often appear in tourist advertising and news reports alike reinforcing immediate association with my Motherland. 

(I use the term "Motherland," rather than "Fatherland," deliberately, as it underscores the nocturnal-feminine essence of Russia, unlike, say, the diurnal-masculine nature of Germany.)

Those  with a bit more interest in the subject of history are likely aware that the structure was erected upon Ivan's IV (misnamed "the Terrible," rather than a more accurate "the Formidable" in English) conquest of Kazan' in the middle of the 16th century, and refers to Basil the Blessed, a well-known holy fool. 

Yet it takes investigating the interior to teleport oneself into the age of the very first tsar, the consolidator of Russia. Whereas St. Basil's is currently a museum, its thick walls, narrow winding staircases, cool temperature, and damp scent throughout enhance the feeling of authentic mystery offered by intricate otherworldly Orthodox gold surroundings glistening in daylight coming from its tall windows. The latter also illuminate--faintly--murky wall paintings and icons darkened by age and candle smoke alike. 

Elongated, fairytale-like red-and-black Old Slavonic text throughout the building is sometimes difficult to read even for native Slavs. Equally magical dragons or St. George, the symbol of Moscow, slaying the latter make numerous appearances. Fresco angels are in constant communication with each other across the arches. St. Basil's lavish tomb is the centerpiece of the Cathedral's interior, in which Death and Eternal Life coexist within the same space. 

Despite the 11th-century schism, one cannot help but be reminded of Abbot Suger's meditative writings on church architecture and interior design (to use contemporary language) for which St. Basil's at the heart of Moscow is living proof.

P.S. All images are mobile.