For the scene where the cow is on fire, it was covered in an asbestos coat that protected it from actually being burned. But for the scene where the horse falls down the stairs, it was shot in the neck by director Andrei Tarkovsky. The crew acquired the horse from a slaughterhouse where it was going to be shot the next day.
The movie was completed and shown to selected people in private screenings in the winter of 1966. The first official screening was in February 1969 in Moscow, followed by a screening at the Cannes film festival in May 1969. International distribution started in 1973.
Despite the difficulties that the director, Andrei Tarkovsky, experienced getting this film shown abroad, or even obtaining an official release in his native Soviet Union (or perhaps partly due to those reasons), the work is currently very highly regarded. In the most recent BFI Sight & Sound critics' and directors' polls of the best films of all time, released in 2012, the film achieved the exceptionally high ranking of 27th in the critics' poll. However, Tarkovsky's own later film The Mirror (1975) (The Mirror), outranked it, placing 19th in the same poll. Similarly, in the directors' poll of that year, the film tied for 13th place, while The Mirror appears in 9th place.
The Andronikov Monastery was located in the Taganka region of Moscow and was built in 1360 on the eastern bank of the Yauza River as part of Moscow's outer defensive ring of monastery-fortresses. Its name is derived from that of its first abbot, Andronik. The monastery's most famous monk was Andrei Rublyov.
The character of Danil is based on Daniil Chyorny (c. 1360 - 1430), a Russian icon painter and companion of Andrei Rublyov. He is believed to have painted the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir in conjunction with Rublyov.
There are two major churches mentioned. Dmitrievsky Cathedral (1194) is located in the city of Vladimir. The Annunciation Cathedral is in Moscow and is an amalgamation of churches and chapels from the 14th to the 16th centuries. It is the second oldest cathedral in the Kremlin.