Friday, February 19, 2010

The Red Square

There are a lot of places that have somehow managed to pack a lot of importance into a small place. One example is Madison Square Garden, the most noteworthy square block in New York City. Another is the Louvre art museum in France, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Even Plymouth Rock, the landing point of America’s first immigrants, is important in my country’s short history while still being a pile of limestone.

Yeah...that's it.

What is it about these places that give them so much prestige? It could be what happened at the local, but so many areas in the world are distinguished with history. It could be the people who graced them with their presence, but I don’t think that’s it either. I believe, in the end, some places are famous not for their past or relevant meaning but just because they’re there; whether by fate or not if you believe in such a thing.

One of the most famous city squares on Earth is the Red Square. Located in Moscow, Russia, the square’s original purpose was to serve as the city’s main marketplace as well as to be the site of public ceremonies like the coronations of czars.

Red Square

There has been much debate on how the square received its name. Despite what you may have heard, it’s not because the bricks around the area are red or because of the association with communism. Instead, it came about because the Russian word for red can also mean ‘beautiful’. Although its alternative meaning was originally applied to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, it was later expanded to encompass the entire square.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

Everywhere you look around the Red Square there is something to admire and learn about. Lenin’s Mausoleum contains the body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. I already mentioned Saint Basil’s Cathedral which marks the geometric center of Moscow and the center of which all construction has been built since the 14th century. It was the tallest building in the city until the completion of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in 1600.

Lenin's mausoleum

On the eastern side of the square there is the GUM (pronounced as ‘goom’) department store (now a shopping mall). In the shape of a trapezoid, the building combines Russian medieval architecture with modern design elements such as steel beams and a glass roof.

the GUM

inside the GUM

Next to the department store is the Kazan Cathedral, an Orthodox church built in the 1630s marking Russia’s freedom from aggressive Polish occupants. Then there is the State Historical Museum which showcases some of the country’s earliest historical artifacts as well as a countless number of priceless artworks dating back to the Romanov dynasty.

Kazan Cathedral

State Historical Museum

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