St Basil's Cathedral
St Basil's Cathedral with its multicolored domes is the most famous image of Russia, standing on the edge of Moscow's Red Square, a striking design that was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victorious military campaign against the Tartar Mongols at Kazan in 1552. Legend has it that Ivan was so overwhelmed by its beauty that he had the architect blinded to prevent him from creating anything to rival it. It comprises a central chapel surrounded by eight red brick tower-like chapels, each crowned with a different colored and uniquely patterned onion-shaped dome. The church escaped demolition many times during the city's turbulent history and with the beginning of the Soviet regime the cathedral was closed and later turned into a museum. The interior is a dimly lit maze of corridors and delicately decorated chapels, one of them housing a priceless 16th century screen decorated with icons that shields the inner sanctuary. In comparison to the exquisite exterior, the interior can seem disappointing.
The oldest part of Moscow dating back to the city's foundation in 1147, and situated at the very heart of the city on top of a hill, the Kremlin is a fortress surrounded by a thick red wall interspersed with 20 towers. The complex consists of a number of glittering, golden-domed churches and palaces, museums, residences, offices, assembly halls and monuments. It was the royal regime during the Tsarist rule and from 1918, the seat of the Communist government. Cathedral Square is the religious center of Moscow and the historic heart of the Kremlin, and is home to numerous churches. The attractive Annunciation Cathedral was set aside for the private use of royalty and contains beautifully painted murals and icons on the interior walls. The throne of Ivan the Terrible can be found in the Cathedral of the Assumption, which was used for the coronation of tsars; most of the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church were buried here and their tombs line the walls of the spacious, richly colored interior. The Belfry of Ivan the Great is the tallest structure within the walls and a visible city landmark. At its foot lies the world's biggest bell, broken in a fall from its bell tower in 1701, and nearby is the world's largest cannon, the Tsar Cannon. Also within the Kremlin is the Armoury Palace, the richest and oldest museum housing a staggering collection of treasures gathered over the years by the church and Russian state, including jewel-studded coronation capes, thrones encrusted with diamonds, royal coaches and sleighs and the renowned jewelled Fabergé Easter eggs, each containing an exquisitely detailed miniature object of precious metal inside. The Diamond Fund Exhibition in the same building contains the 180-carat diamond given to Catherine the Great by Count Orlov.