The St. Basil Cathedral is located at the end of the Red Square opposite the Spasskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin.
The origins of the Cathedral date back to Russia's battles against the Mongol Tartars. In 1552, Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible won a decisive battle against the Tartars near the city of Kazan. Upon his return home he commissioned a new church to be built to commemorate this victory. The construction works lasted six years from 1555 till 1561.
Because the victory over Tartars took place on the feast day of the Intercession of Virgin, the Tsar chose to name the new church Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin on the Moat (after a nearby moat that ran across the Kremlin perimeter). The Cathedral is better known by its nickname Saint Basil. The "holy fool" Basil the Blessed was very popular at the time with Muscovites and with Ivan the Terrible himself. The grave of Basil the Blessed is located meters away from the Cathedral.
St. Basil Cathedral narrowly escaped destruction several times in its history. Legend has it that Napoleon was so infatuated with this church that he wanted to take it back to Paris with him. But lacking the technology to do so he ordered the Cathedral be destroyed when the French retreated from Moscow. The French put kegs of gunpowder and already lit their fuses when a sudden, miraculous rain helped extinguish the fuses and prevent the explosion.
In 1918, St. Basil Cathedral was among the first Russian buildings to be taken into custody of the Soviet Government as the monument of Russian and world heritage. It opened as a museum in May 1923, and for the six more years regular church services were held in the Cathedral. Four major renovation works have taken place since 1920s and the Cathedral has been restored to its original shape.