St Basil's Cathedral - The Empire of the Czar
The Cathedral of St Basil; from The Empire of the Czar ... by the Marquis de Custine.
I shall never forget the chilly shudder which came over me at the first sight of the cradle of the modem Russian empire: the Kremlin alone is worth the journey to Moscow.
At the gate of this fortress, but beyond its precincts — at least, according to my feldjager, for I have not yet been able to visit it — rises the church of St Basil, Vassili Blagennor; it is also known under the name of the Cathedral of the Protection of the Holy Virgin. In the Greek church they are lavish of the title of cathedral; every city possesses several. That of Vaccili is certainly the most singular, if it is not the most beautiful edifice in Russia. I have as yet only seen it at a distance. Thus viewed, it appears as an immense cluster of little turrets forming a bush, or rather giving the idea of some kind of tropical fruit all bristled over with excrescences, or a crystallization of a thousand rays: the scales of a golden fish, the enamelled skin of a serpent, the changeful hues of the lizard, the glossy rose and azure of the pigeon's neck, would all, as regards colour, serve as comparisons: above, rise minarets of a brownish red. The effect of the whole danles the eye, and fascinates the imagination. Surely, the land in which such a building is called a house of prayer is not Europe; it must be India, Persia, or China! — and the men who go to worship God in this box of confectionary work, can they be Christians? Such was the exclamation that escaped me at the first view of the church of Vassili. That building must indeed possess an extraordinary style of architecture to have drawn my attention, as it did, from the Kremlin, at the moment when the mighty castle for the first time met my eyes.