This small church stands where the Red Square meets NikolskayaRussian: Никольская Street, next to the Historical MuseumRussian: Istoricheskiy muzey or Исторический музей and the GUMRussian: ГУМ (State Department StoreRussian: Gosudarstvennyi universalnyi magazin or Государственный универсальный магазин). The moment you see it, your imagination takes over, taking you deep into the mystery of the ancient Moscow of the late Middle Ages. The shrines of the church are also fascinating – they include the icon of the Kazan Mother of GodRussian: ikona Kazanskoy Bozhey Materi or икона Казанской Божией Матери, the relic with particles of 83 orthodox saints and the icon of the Mother of God “Education”Russian: ikona Bozhey Materi «Vospitanie» or икона Божией Матери «Воспитание». You can visit the Kazan CathedralRussian: Kazanskiy sobor/Sobor Kazanskoy Ikony Bozhey Materi or Казанский собор/Собор Казанской Иконы Божией Матери free of charge, and you are left to explore the cathedral unrestricted by tour guides, all day, every day. Religious services take place in the mornings and evenings.
The history of the Kazan Cathedral
The Kazan Cathedral has a long and interesting history beginning in the mid-16th century at the time when Russia’s ruler Ivan the Terribleruled from 1533 to 1584 was conquering the city of Kazanthe capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. As you may know, Kazan was mostly populated by TatarsMongol invaders of Russia and Europe, who were Muslim. Legend has it that one night before a battle, the tsar heard the chiming of the bells of Moscow, then an icon appeared to the people and immediately began to perform miraculous healing work, after which many people converted to Orthodox Christianity.
Later, the Virgin of Kazan iconicon of the Kazan Mother of God played an important role in another pivotal moment of Russian history. Because of this icon, it was believed, the Second People’s Militiawas formed in 1611–1612 during the Russo-Polish War of 1605–1618 regiment led by Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky succeeded in liberating Moscow from Polish invaders.
It is also believed that upon his victory over the Poles, Prince Pozharsky made a vow to build a church. The first church built at his expense was made of wood – after a while, Tsar Michael Ithe first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov after the zemskiy sobor (the first Russian parliament of the feudal Estates type) of 1613 of Russia financed the rebuilding of this church in stone. Famous Old BelieversOrthodox Christians who maintain the liturgical and ritual practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church as they existed prior to the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666 Grigory Neronov and archpriest Avvakum used to serve at the Kazan Cathedral. It also functioned as a parish church for the Moscow UniversityRussian: Moskovskiy universitet or Московский университет, and Field Marshal KutuzovRussian army commander who repelled Napoleon’s invasion of Russia (1812) even came here to be blessed.
If the Russian history is a subject of your interest and you want to know, for example, what is the oldest church in Moscow, what are the famous monasteries around Moscow, which style of Moscow architecture you can see only in this town, you can read about it on our website page about Kremlin Moscow and “History and Architecture”.
The second birth
At the end of the 18th century, the entire complex underwent reconstruction in the classic style. This reconstruction turned the church into a non-descript structure with a ‘boat-shaped’ configuration utterly typical for Russian churches. In this style, all elements of the ensemble are arranged in a single line. Several side-chapels were removed, followed in the early 1800s by the demolishing of the tent-roofed bell tower and replacing it with its modern version. Nonetheless, the darkest times for the cathedral were yet to come. In the 1930s, the Soviet government resolved to have it demolished. The Red Square was supposed to become a site for holding socialist ceremonies – a church standing by the entrance of the Red Square was not in keeping with the socialist agenda and the mood they wished to set.
The church owes its modern appearance to a brilliant Soviet architect and restorer P. Baranovsky (1892-1984), who ordered the precise measurements of the cathedral to be taken immediately upon learning about its impending demolition. The church was recreated in 1990–1993, so the modern building is, in fact, a brand new structure and not the 17th century church it seems to be at first glance. Its walls are covered in artificially antiqued paintings.
The church, quite intimate in its appearance, is actually a complex made up of a bell tower, two side-chapels, the main church and a gallery connecting all the parts. Situated on a site which is not flat, the Kazan Cathedral has a series of wide, flat and low-lying steps leading up to it invitingly from the side of the Historical Museum. The steps terminate at the gallery, whose large windows demonstrate that it was originally designed as an open-air structure, but was glazed afterwards, mainly because of the climate.
The most beautiful element of design is the finishing. The entire Cathedral is finished in a style known as Naryshkin Baroquea particular style of Baroque architecture and decoration that was fashionable in Moscow from the turn of the 17th into the early 18th centuries, which is characterised by the use of contrast colours (red, green, white), rich exterior decoration and the “foam” of kokoshniksa traditional Russian headdress worn by women and girls – keel-like exterior decorative elements used to hide the transition between the main part of a church and its dome. The church itself is designed as a single-domed pillar-less structure, meaning that there are no supports inside the building). Two other domes on the exterior belong to the side-chapels, which are small spaces consecrated in honour of other saints.