1561 c/o Shiona Tregaskis & Crispin Best


1561: And out of the strong came forth sweetness. And out of the eater came forth meat. I think my eyes will burn a hole, I close my eyes, I hear some music, I think of Samson. I am a dead lion. I am some bees. I am a fool. I disappear until the building has been consecrated and elevated to the status of basilica. So the west has a column, dedicated to the Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.

1583: I am a fool with a sword of blue and white flames. I see the altar, I see the flames, I see my hands. The basilica has burned down. You've found me, I'm a fossil. What shall we do with me? So the north-west has a vault dedicated to Gregory the Illuminator, whose left hand is in Armenia and right is in Lebanon (his head being these days in Italy).

1589: A local fool, Basil the Blessed (apprentice cobbler, for whose coffin Ivan the Terrible acted as pallbearer), has been buried in the grounds. Fragments of the coffin drawn into the dead man's mouth. So the north-east has a vault dedicated to the archbishops of Alexandria and Cairo (Arbitrators of the Oecumene; Thirteenth Apostles; Primates of Pentapolis, Libya, Nubia and Sudan), but no, now it is for John the Merciful (who half-dug his own grave and then paid a servant to come regularly and remind him to finish the job). I am dead, how can I help you?

1600: I see what is stuck between my ribs. The Ivan the Great bell tower has been completed, meaning the basilica is no longer the tallest building in Moscow. What shall we do? So the east has a column for the Holy Trinity. Look. We can be incredibly quiet. I see myself 39 years ago when I smelled like wood and stone. I see what is stuck between my ribs.

1672: A sanctuary in memory of another local fool, Ivan the Blessed, has been established. So the south-east has a vault dedicated to Alexander Svirsky, who’s only died a few years ago. A few years is the gap between the red candles, the white candles, and so on. You are a large egg that has broken open. Flour heaps on the tiled floor, orange and blue. You are yeast. You are alive. Bread is alive what is bread and wine is in fact a face and a pulse. Drink for ever in a worthy manner.

1683: The gap widens and the basilica has been adorned with a tiled cornice, in yellow and blue colours, featuring a written history of the basilica. Fingers at the neck now fall. Eyes vault up. Eyes circle left, outwards, narrow to letters. Eyes scan the gold, more than gold, full up with flowers, pluck out, pick out the flowers and trace the lettering, lie under one-by-one curve under history. So the south has a column for Saint Nick. The gap widens. Look. You can be incredibly quiet. You are in my mouth. Beneath us organs thrill.

1784: But the inscriptions of 1683 have been removed. So the north-eastern annex of course has a vault for Basil the Blessed (no longer wandering naked but for chains) who wrote indescribable filth in his diary, bore disappointments well. I see bets being made. You in flannel in a cot, depending on the folds. You are a substance. Here are your teeth, yet again. This is that thing and that is this other.

1812: I see cartridges empty. French troops are using the basilica as stables, looting the rooms. The Fire of Moscow does not damage the building. So the central core has a tented church, dedicated to the intercession of Theotokos (god bearer, who is also Mary, who is also a virgin, who is also our lady of wherever we last saw her). Her chest is a church. My chest is a tented church. My attention holds the flame, narrows sky margins, dusts inner nostrils, dust. For instance: here is a table.

1923: The basilica has become a museum. The Virgin has a cock and balls. She is a dead lion, she is a swarm of bees. She is the water, the wind scoops hollows from the water, she is the colour of various leaves, mud. So the south-eastern annex has a vault at first for Laying of the Veil, then the Nativity of Theotokos, then lastly Saint John the Blessed of Moscow. Birds are tunnelling beneath you this very moment. You are in fountains with no water. Incense remains.

1929: Religious services have been discontinued. Tongues wag on. So the north has another column, originally for Cyprian and Justinia (who were unaffected by torture and so beheaded) but now dedicated to Adrian and Natalia (whose deaths caused a thunderstorm, becoming patron saints of epilepsy and butchers, that sort of thing). An onion dome is above you. Words that fly out of Natalia and land in Adrian, words that are light, words that can never go back to the way things were before, words that sometimes leave something valuable in their wake and sometimes nothing. An onion dome is below you. Now.

1939: The cathedral has been locked up. Look. I can be incredibly quiet while your chest echoes. Now. I will prove this cushion, I will recite these pews. So the south-west has a vault dedicated to a hermit. Once a building has been consecrated it can never be used for secular purposes. I will convince you of this low platform, and so on.