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The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 Tuesday, July 29, 2014
 
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Cathedral of St. Basil

The "Cathedral of St. Basil (Vasily) the Blessed" (the Prokrovsky Cathedral), built 1554-60, is located in Moscow. It was one of the boldest departures from Byzantine architecture of the time, being part of the artistic movement known as the Moscow or National period (from the fall of Constantinople until the 18th century). In "St. Basil", western architectural concepts, based on rational, manifest harmony, were completely ignored in favor of a profusion of disparate, colorful exterior decoration. Its design is not easily readable and embodies the characteristic features of the wood churches of northern Russia, translated into masonry. (An example of which is the tiered tower and the tent-shaped roof first developed in wood by Russia’s carpenters.) The church’s building technique, content, form, decoration, and feeling are uniquely Russian medieval

The importance of the Russian Byzantine architectural style is founded in its religious development. Kievan Rus was converted to Christianity in 988. In Kiev, the dominant political and cultural center of the time, mosaics were made by Byzantine craftsman. Other Byzantine artists occasionally worked in the area from this time onward, so that Russian art was basically founded in the Byzantine style. Architecture and icon painting both had their beginnings in this period as important art forms.

Russian Byzantine architecture took on many characteristics uniquely their own. Modifications to Byzantine designs in northern Russian churches were required by the heavy snowfalls. Exterior and interior innovations made during the 12th century influenced architecture throughout the country (including St. Basil) for centuries to come. Windows were narrowed and deeply splayed and roofs became steeper. Perhaps the most notable alteration developed during this time was the change of the flat dome profile to a more bulbous form. Northern innovations also changed the basic Byzantine design inside the church. The "kokoshniki," a stepped arch-like structure built out from the walls, was originally used to support cupola drums and cupolas in churches too small to contain interior columns. It became a favorite structural and decorative element. Church porches, exterior walled-in galleries, and arcaded bell towers were other outstanding design contributions of the period.



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