Moscow marks the 450-year anniversary of St. Basil's Cathedral, the iconic church built in Red Square to honor Ivan the Terrible's victory over Russia's former Tatar conquerors.
By general consensus, if not an absolutely proven fact, Moscow's iconic St. Basil's Cathedral (take a virtual tour), Red Square's famous architectural jewel with its nine swirling, candy cane like multicolored domes, turned 450 today.
While the Google bump might help publicize the anniversary around the world, Russians were already geared up to celebrate the birthday of the unique church that's come to symbolize their country more than any other single image.
The long-planned festivities featured a Divine Liturgy by Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill and attendants dressed up as Ivan the Terrible's fearsome Streltsy. They went ahead Tuesday, despite being marred by national mourning over the growing death toll, now at 129, from the weekend sinking of the Volga cruise ship Bulgaria.
"The lineup of people outside was immense today. We granted free entrance to everyone, and it was obvious that the people were really happy to come here," says Tatiana Saracheva, director of the St. Basil's state museum. "The day was overshadowed by that tragic event, but we couldn't disappoint our visitors today.
"Our cathedral is like a visiting card for Red Square, Moscow, and Russia in general. It has special meaning for our people, and we hope it will keep giving joy for years to come," she adds.