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St. Basil’s Cathedral, the psychedelic, Disney-esque, bulbous structure that has become Russia’s national symbol, is located in Moscow’s Red Square. The site is essentially one central church surrounded by eight chapels located at the eight points of the compass. The only anomaly is a ninth chapel, built for the namesake, St. Basil, who was an anomaly himself – Basil, Fool for Christ (his title, actually) reportedly had some peculiar eccentricities, such as shoplifting in Robin Hood-fashion and donating the pilfered goods to the poor, bearing heavy chains on himself, and living completely naked most of the time. This ninth chapel is actually the real St. Basil’s, though the public has grown accustomed to calling the whole site with this name; the real name for the entire structure is Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed or Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat.
Built in the middle of the 16th century under the commission of Ivan the Terrible, it’s withstood centuries and amazingly still looks great today. The structure, however, almost came down under Stalin, who harbored some urbanist ideas for the prime real estate on which it sits, but was thankfully aborted with the help of some unwavering preservationists. Today, the cathedral stands as a kind of museum, which has a small exhibition on the cathedral. Of even more value in the cathedral’s interior are the frescoed walls within.