Attractions of Kiev. Saint Sophia Cathedral


St Sophia Cathedral originally was a grandiose 13-domed building (in the XVII century six more chapters were added). This cross-domed church has five naves and is surrounded on the south, west and north by a double row of galleries. There are galleries for the grand-ducal family in the west which can be accessed through two stair towers adjoining the western facade. A lot of graffiti has survived on the walls of Sophia of Kiev. The most ancient dated graffiti date back to 1052 by which time the church was finished with decoration: it was richly decorated with mosaics and frescoes created by Greek masters and their Russian pupils. Despite considerable losses, some of this decoration has been preserved until today. Among the sacred images of St. Sophia of Kyiv the most famous are the mosaic icon of the Mother of God “Unbreakable Wall” which decorates the altar apse as well as the icon of the Annunciation located on the pillars of the eastern arch. By its size (55h37 m) and richness of decoration Sophia Cathedral had no equals not only in Kievan Rus, but also in all Europe at that time. Both the scope, with which the main temple of recently baptized Russia was built, and its dedication not so much imitated Sophia of Constantinople, as competed with it. The Sofia cathedral built by Yaroslav the Wise became a burial place of the great prince himself and many of his descendants. The marble sarcophagus with Yaroslav’s remains up to this day stands under the vaults of Sophia of Kiev. Many Primates of the Russian Church at the time of Kievan Rus were also buried in the cathedral metropolitan church.

Batyi’s invasion and decline of the cathedral

The temple was seriously damaged for the first time in 1240 during the sacking of Kiev by the hordes of Batyi. The Mongol-Tatars inflicted a serious damage to St Sophia of Kiev. Not only the Cathedral was deprived of its precious utensils but also was partially destroyed. The galleries and the western part of the temple were especially damaged. Nevertheless after the Batye’s pogrom the Sofia cathedral continued to be a cathedral temple of Russian metropolitans. Despite the devastation services continued to be held there. But gradually it became more and more desolate, like the rest of Kiev. Metropolitan Kirill III, who headed the Russian Church after the Batye invasion, didn’t live much in his cathedral city – almost his entire life was spent traveling between dioceses, where he was restoring church life after the Mongol-Tatar invasion. Nevertheless the great hierarch who died in Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, nevertheless was buried in Sofia of Kiev. In about 1299 Cyril’s successor, holy metropolitan Maximos, definitively left the devastated and decayed Kiev, and transferred his residence to Vladimir-on-Klyazma, under the protection of the princes of Northeastern Rus. But both Maximos himself and his successors retained the title of metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’, and the Sophia cathedral retained its status as the cathedral metropolitan cathedral. And yet the Primate of the Russian Church rarely visits it, and the ancient cathedral continues to deteriorate. Frequent and devastating raids by Tatars and Lithuanians further accelerated its destruction.

In the 14th century most of the Western Russian lands became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Lithuanian sovereigns – Gedimin and his descendants – sought to divide the formerly united Russian Church and create a separate Lithuanian-Russian metropolitanate, so that their Orthodox subjects (who then comprised over 90% of the entire population of the principality of Lithuania) would not depend on the metropolitans of Kiev and All Russia, who had moved to Moscow since St. Peter and St. Theognost. Sometimes the Lithuanian princes succeeded in having a separate metropolitan for Lithuania, who in that case could reside in Kiev, at St. Sophia Cathedral. Thus, during the reign of Olgerd, in violation of the canons, the metropolitanate of Litovsky Rus’ was headed by Theodorit, who attempted to establish himself in Kyiv, but was not very successful. For some time, St. Sophia of Kiev served as metropolis for other protégés of Olgerd – Roman and Cyprian. However these short episodes didn`t lead to the rebirth of the Sophia cathedral. When in the first quarter of the 15th century the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vitovt again intended to appoint a metropolitan for Lithuanian Rus’, his protégé, Grigory (Tsamblak) settled not in the ruined and dangerous Kyiv, but in Novogrudok, not far from the capital Vilna.

In the future, after the final division of the united Russian Church into two metropolitanates-the autocephalous Moscow Church and the Kiev-Lithuanian Church (under the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate), St. Sophia Cathedral continues to be only formally considered the main temple of the latter. Metropolitans of Kyiv only occasionally visit here from Novogrudok and Vilna. The temple continues to suffer from the raids of Crimean Tatars. Thus, it was plundered by the Crimean Tatars in 1497. At the same time the Tatars killed St. Makary, the Metropolitan of Kiev, who was traveling to Kiev to put in order the ruined cathedral [1].

The seizure of the cathedral by the Uniates

The damage caused to the cathedral during the 16th century was so great that according to the words of a contemporary, the once magnificent cathedral stood at this time without a roof. It is probable that during the same years services in St. Sophia of Kiev ceased. Otherwise it is difficult to understand how the cathedral could be seized by the Uniates, although only for a short time. It happened after the conclusion of the Brest Union in 1596. The power of the Polish king in Kiev was not too strong, and the Orthodox here were able to organize strong resistance to the union imposed by Sigismund III. Orthodox Kievers repulsed attempts by Catholics to seize Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and other Kiev temples. However not numerous traitors to Orthodoxy managed to establish themselves in the desolated Saint Sophia temple and held it for about three decades. But they disposed of the Orthodox relic in a peculiar way. Here is a record that in 1605 Uniate priest Philip, who ruled the cathedral of Sophia, “sold hewn stone on the pillars and in the assemblies to different people”. As a result of Catholics` mismanagement the western gallery of the cathedral has completely collapsed.

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The cathedral was returned to the Orthodox and the long-awaited restoration.

St. Peter (Mohyla) who became the Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev in 1633 obtained from the king Vladislav IV the permission to take the ruined St Sophia cathedral from the Uniates and begin its restoration. Metropolitan Peter involved the Italian architect Octaviano Mancini in the restoration of St. Sophia of Kiev.

At the same time, its ancient mosaics and frescoes were whitewashed. The opening of the frescoes was only begun by Imperial order in 1848. This work was done without due care, and the frescoes were immediately and very crudely restored. In 1885 A. Prakhov opened mosaics in the dome and on the inside of the triumphal arch.

St. Peter (Mogyla) again made the Sophia Cathedral a Metropolitan Cathedral of Kiev and Galicia – the temple kept this status up to the beginning of the XX century. At the same time a small monastery was founded near the Sophia Cathedral. Unfortunately, despite the fact that under Peter (Mogyla) huge restoration works were conducted in the cathedral, the metropolitan never had time to complete them before his death – the western part of the cathedral continued to remain in ruins. The cathedral was finally revived only in the late 17th century, after the Kyiv Metropolitanate became part of the Moscow Patriarchate again under Patriarch Joachim and Metropolitan Gedeon of Kyiv. Not only Malorossian architects, but also Moscow masters, whose handwriting is seen in the shape of some casing of the cathedral, took part in the renewal of the temple. On the whole, St. Sophia’s Cathedral at that time acquires the features peculiar to Ukrainian baroque monuments – the temple gets the pear-shaped heads, its walls are decorated with stucco.

In the XVIII – XIX centuries the building works of St. Sophia Monastery were continued. The cathedral was decorated with the new gorgeous iconostasis of gilded wood, next to it there were built a high bell tower, a warm winter church (so-called “Little Sofia”), buildings of metropolitan’s chambers and monastic cells. The last time the Sophia of Kyiv was reconstructed was in 1882, when the western facade of the cathedral was reconstructed. During the Synod period (XVIII – beginning of the XX centuries) St. Sophia Cathedral continued to be the cathedral of the Metropolitans of Kiev and Galicia. Many of them were buried in the cathedral. There were consecrations of hierarchs in St. Sophia of Kiev: in particular, St. Theophanes (Govorov), the Hermit of Vyshensky, was consecrated here as a bishop.

Metropolitans are buried in the cathedral of Sophia: in 1824 – Serapion (Alexandrovsky), in 1837 – Evgeny (Bolkhovitinov).

Revolution. Cathedral in the hands of dissenters

Dramatic changes in the fate of the cathedral came after the October coup of 1917. The St. Sophia Cathedral, perceived as a symbol of Kievan Rus, began to be claimed by adherents of the autocephalous schism, which finally took shape in 1921, when the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) was formed. The dissenters chose as its “first hierarch,” Archpriest Vasily Lipkivsky, banned from ministry for his schismatic activities. However Metropolitan Michael (Ermakov) Patriarch Exarch of Ukraine and other bishops of the Orthodox dioceses in Ukraine categorically refused to take part in the pseudo-device of dissenting autocephalists supported by the Bolsheviks in Kyiv and ordain bishops for the UAOC. As a result, the adherents of the schism made an unprecedented decision – in violation of the canons to “ordain” Lipkivsky “in soborno”, that is, with the participation of priests, deacons and laymen, and not bishops, as required by the canons of the Orthodox Church. The sacrilegious “ordination” of the schismatic pseudo-mitropolitan was performed in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, which had not seen such outrages since the Middle Ages. Later Lipkivsky “ordained” other pseudo-archpriests of the UAOC. For their “ordinations” against the canons, the Lypkivsky dissenters were popularly nicknamed “samosvyaty”. Unfortunately, exactly these figures which have combined in the doctrine nationalistic and renewed ideas, have seized in the hands the greatest shrine of Orthodox Russia – the Sofia cathedral.

The pyramids of Giza.

Closure and conversion into a museum

However, the activities of the schismatic self-sacrificers did not last long. At first the Bolshevik authorities patronized them, hoping to destroy church life in Ukraine from within with the help of Lipkivians. But a negligible number of Orthodox believers followed the dissenters. Convinced of the ineffectiveness of the schismatic “church”, the Soviet authorities stopped supporting the UAOC, and in the early 1930s it ceased to exist on the territory of Soviet Ukraine. In 1934 St Sophia Cathedral was closed and in 1935 the ancient temple was turned into a museum-reserve. The fate of St Sophia of Kyiv was still better in comparison with St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery and other Kyiv monuments destroyed during the Soviet regime. In contrast to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra’s Dormition Cathedral, the Saint Sophia Church was not damaged during the Great Patriotic War either. However after the closure of the church Sofia was deprived of a number of valuable details of its decoration – the massive silver (114 kg in weight) Royal Gates of the main iconostasis were sent for melting, 8 iconostases of the side churches were destroyed, the tombstones of Kiev metropolitans were destroyed. At the same time the Soviet period was the time of intensive restoration works, in the course of which the valuable mosaics and frescos of XI century were released from under the late records, the facades of the temple and other buildings of St Sophia complex were restored.

The cathedral in post-Soviet times

Changes in the status of the church came at the end of so-called “perestroika. The Ukrainian authorities began to allow services to be held from time to time in St. Sophia Cathedral, which nevertheless retained the status of a state museum-reserve and still remains such. In October 1990, it was the venue of a Divine Liturgy officiated by Patriarch Alexy II. During the liturgy, Patriarch Alexy handed Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Filaret (Denisenko) the diploma of granting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church full autonomy in government. At the same time, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, nationalistic sentiments began to revive in Ukraine. On their wave, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was formed again. It was headed by Patriarch Kiev, who was elected in 1990. “Mstislav (Skrypnyk), elected “patriarch of Kyiv” in 1990, was headed by the authorities, who also provided St. Sophia Cathedral for his enthronement. Once again, as in the 20s and 30s, dissenters blasphemed in Sofia. However, the Ukrainian authorities never dared to give St. Sophia Cathedral to dissenters from the UAOC or the so-called “Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate” (formed in 1992, after the former Metropolitan of Kyiv Filaret had left the schism). But the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the sole successor of the Church that has existed since the Baptism of Rus, also did not receive the church back. Later, the cathedral was repeatedly given to the dissenters for “services. At the initiative of President Kuchma, “ecumenical prayers” were also held in it, which, as a rule, were attended by representatives of schismatic communities, various Protestant denominations, and even Islamic and Jewish communities. The hierarchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has consistently refused to participate in such events that contradict the canons of the Orthodox Church. The long-suffering cathedral, however, has been through worse in recent years – the adherents of the so-called “White Brotherhood,” whose leader, Maryna Tsvigun, went much further than the self-proclaimed “patriarch of Kyiv,” Filaret, by proclaiming herself no less than the living incarnation of God, have staged their covenant in its altar.

The abbots, clergy

  • Gervasy (Lintsevsky) (? – June 25, 1742)
  • Platon (Levitsky) (1742-1744)
  • Dositheus (Dalekhovsky) (acc. 1758)
  • Hilarion (1764-166)
  • Joseph (1766 – 1767)
  • Victor (Lodyzhensky) (1768)
  • Melchizedek (1771 – 1774) [2]
  • .
  • John Levanda (1786 – June 25, 1814)
  • Demetrius Sigirevich (1814 – January 11, 1824) [3]
  • Stefan Semyanovsky (1824 – 1829) [4]
  • Callistrat Sokolovsky (1829 – March 9, 1849) [5]
    • Timofei Sukhobrusov (d. 1843 [6])
    • Grigory Kramarev (1856 – July 22, 1863)
    • Nikolai Ogloblin (August 5, 1863 [8] – 1877)
    • Vasily Kamensky (June 1877 – October 12, 1879)
    • Vasily Rozov (1886 [9] – 1890 [10])
    • Alexander Brailovsky
    • Peter Orlovsky (December 4, 1894 – August 1, 1908 [11])
    • Nikolai Brailovsky (June 1, 1909 – 1919)
    • Alexander Dolzhansky[16]
    • John Cererin[17].


    • Д. V. Aynalov and E. Redin. “Kievo-Sofia Cathedral.” Spb. 1889.
    • Gr. I. Tolstoy and N. P. Kondakov. “Russian Antiquities, vol. IV. Spb. 1891.
    • Lazarev V. N., The Mosaic of Sophia of Kiev, Moscow, 1960; Sofia Kievan. Materials and research, K., 1973.

    Used materials


    [1] St. Macarius was buried in the Sophia Cathedral. Here also his relics rested after finding until the closing of the cathedral in 1934. Later they were transferred to the Kiev Knyaz-Vladimirsky Cathedral, where they are now “in captivity” with the schismatic Philaretians.

    [2] Stroev P.M., Lists of hierarchs and abbots of monasteries of the Russian Church. – SPb., 1877. p.27.

    [3] Serebrennikov V. V., “Kiev academy from the half of XVIII century to its transformation in 1819”, Kiev, 1897, pp. 48 – 49,

    [4] Zakrevsky N. V., Description of Kiev / Ed. of Moscow Archaeological Society, vol. 2. – M. : Tip. Grachev and K., 1868, p. 890, ; ; Serebrennikov V. V., “The Kiev Academy from the half of the XVIII century to its transformation in 1819”, Kiev, 1897, p. 53,

    [5] Zakrevsky N. V., Description of Kiev / Izd. Moscow archaeological society, vol. 2. – M.: Tip. Grachev & Co, 1868, p. 890.

    [6] Belik Zhanna Grigorievna “The formation of a scientific approach to the restoration of ancient Russian paintings and the role of the Peshekhonovs in this process”, Ph.D. in Art History : 17.00.04 Moscow, 2006, 265 p. tml

    [7] Lebedintsev P., prot., [obituary] (+ Archpriest Ioann Mikhailovich Skvortsov) // Kiev diocesan gazette, 1863, no. 17( 2), p. 514; № 18 (2), с. 554.

    [8] “Orders of diocesan chiefdom”, Kiev diocesan gazette, 1863, ¹ 16 (1), p. 146.

    [9] Yazykov D.D. A review of the life and works of the late Russian writers. Vol. 10 [Russian writers and women writers who died in 1890] / [Op. by] D.D. Yazykov. – M. : typescript. A.I. Snegireva, 1907, p. 66,

    [10] Obituary. Kiev diocesan gazette, 1890, ¹ 2, p. 47 and A.A. Rozhdestvensky, Memories of V.O. Kljuchevsky , footnote 2,

    [11] Biographical dictionary of graduates of the Kiev Theological Academy: 1819-1920s. Materials from the collection of prof. archpriest F.I. Titov and archives of KDA in four volumes. Volume II. K – P. // Publishing Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev 2015, p. 426.

    [12] I LOVE THE ACADEMY AND WILL ALWAYS ACT FOR THE LOVE OF IT.” (LETTERS OF PROFESSOR D. I. BOGDASHEVSKY to A. A. DMITRIEVSKY). Vestnik PSTGU : History. History of the Russian Orthodox Church. 2013.Vyp. 5 (54). P.75-107 Footnote 72,

    [13] Biographical dictionary of graduates of the Kiev Theological Academy: 1819-1920s. Materials from the collection of Prof. Archpriest F.I. Titov and the archive of the KDA in four volumes. Volume I. A – Y. // Publishing Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev 2014, p. 536.

    [16] Vasily Anisimov, Fire that cannot be extinguished: A PARTICULAR LIST OF THE DESTROYED SPIRIT OF KIEV 1931,

    [17] “By the union of fear we bind…” (Letters of Archpriest Vasily Prilutsky to Alexei Afanasyevich Dmitrievsky (1908-1927)), Vestnik of the Ekaterinburg Theological Seminary. Vol. 1(9). 2015, с. 142.

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    Saint Sophia Cathedral (Kiev)

    Saint Sophia Cathedral (Kiev)

    St. Sophia Cathedral – The cathedral temple of the Kiev metropolis since the 11th century, one of the most famous shrines of Russia. World famous masterpiece of medieval Christian culture and art.

    In 1990 St Sophia Cathedral, as well as Kiev Pechersk Lavra, became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site on the territory of Ukraine.

    Since the building of the cathedral is a part of the National Reserve Sophia of Kyiv and was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List, it is prohibited to transfer it to any religious organization and hold services there. The only exception is the day of August 24 – Independence Day of Ukraine – when representatives of religious organizations make a prayer for Ukraine (it was introduced in 2005). On November 22, 2006 the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) stated that it was impossible for them to participate in such events.


    Historical Background [ edit ]

    The idea to build in Kiev “the Church of St. Sophia, the Metropolia,” according to Metropolitan Hilarion, belonged to Vladimir Sviatoslavich, but Yaroslav the Wise had already had to carry it out. The date of the basis of the cathedral more than one and a half centuries is a subject for scientific discussion. Considering all historical circumstances the most probable years of building should be considered 1032-37. – Exactly 500 years after St. Sophia of Constantinople which was a symbolic model for the Kiev temple.

    Saint Sophia Cathedral (Kiev)

    According to the ancient church tradition, St. Sophia of Kiev was laid by metropolitan John and was consecrated by his successor Theopemptus. Unknown architects were representatives of the capital Constantinople school of architecture. The temple is dedicated to Sophia, the Wisdom of God. It is one of the most complex abstract categories of Christian theology, which has many interpretations. According to St. Paul, Sophia symbolically corresponds to the hypostasis of Christ – the incarnate Word of God. Only later when the identification of Sophia with the Mother of God was spread, the temple feast of the cathedral of Kiev was transferred to September 8 (21) – the day of the Nativity of the Theotokos. The artistic image of the cathedral of Sophia was to embody the multifaceted meaning of this symbol. This explains its grandiose size and extremely complicated structure. Generally, the interior of Sophia reproduces the medieval model of the universe and its external appearance is an image of the City of God – the heavenly Jerusalem.

    Like other temples, Sofia was a burial place of outstanding personalities, mainly of the wealthy. The necropolis of the Sofia cathedral began to form in the middle of the XI century. While he was still alive the founder of the temple ordered to equip for himself a tomb in the northern gallery. The sarcophagus of Yaroslav the Wise is kept in the cathedral up to now. According to the annals, there are four more burial sites of princes, Yaroslav`s descendants, and burial sites of many Kiev metropolitans in Sofia.

    In pre-Mongolian times the Sofia cathedral was plundered twice. For the first time it was the troops of Andrey Bogolyubsky and his allies in 1169 and for the second time the teams of Rurik Rostislavich in 1203. The temple also suffered a great fire in 1180.

    St Sophia and its court suffered the greatest damage during the Mongol invasion of 1240 as well as during the Tatar invasions of 1416 and 1482. However the temple was not destroyed and continued to operate. As early as 1273 metropolitan Cyril summoned here a local cathedral of the Russian church. And although after 1300 metropolitans of Kiev less and less frequently visited their devastated residence, some restoration work did take place from time to time. In particular, in 1376-78 Metropolitan Cyprian carried out repairs of Sofia, and around 1577 the metropolitan’s vicar Bogush Gulkevich-Glebovsky.

    Saint Sophia Cathedral (Kiev)

    Despite these efforts, the temple gradually fell into decay. It was mainly due to the indifference and selfishness of the Metropolitan’s officials. At the end of the 16th century St. Sophia was such a dismal sight that even the Catholic bishop Joseph of Vereshchynsk resented it. In 1608. The Unites took possession of the cathedral and continued to steal construction materials, particularly the roof. The rains and winds did the rest.

    On July 2, 1633 the newly elected Orthodox metropolitan Peter Mohyla released the St Sophia cathedral from the Unites and founded a monastery in it. The capital restoration of the temple began in 1634, but during the life of Mohyla it was not completed. In particular, the western gallery remained half-destroyed. In 1637-38, the work was supervised by the Italian architect Octaviano Mancini. Apparently, it was he who gave the facades of the cathedral a Renaissance character known to us from a drawing by Abraham van Westerfeld in 1651. At the same time a new carved iconostasis and two aisles of the altar in the outer galleries were built.

    Since 1688 metropolitan Gedeon Svyatopolk-Chetvertinsky on the donations of Moscow tsars started a new, more voluminous rebuilding of St Sophia. At that time the upper stories above the outer galleries, six new domes and eight baroque pediments were built, which concealed the original small domes. The work was supervised by Savva Yakovlev, an apprentice in stone affairs. They were completed by 1695, as evidenced by the image on the plan of Ushakov.

    The newly built cathedral was badly damaged by the fire of 1697 and needed a new restoration. In 1699-1706 it was done by Metropolitan Varlaam Yasinsky on money of Hetman Ivan Mazepa. Exactly at that time ancient mosaics and frescos were whitewashed, the remains of the Western gallery and Western triple arcade with a part of the choir were dismantled, the building was reinforced by powerful buttresses from all sides.

    In 1718-24 new baroque mural painting was executed, in 1739-47 metropolitan Raphael Zaborovsky made next restoration of the cathedral, and in 1747-54 a three-tier iconostasis was built, the lower tier of which is preserved till now. At the beginning of the XIX century the cathedral had 17 altars.

    The beginning of the scientific study of Sophia of Kiev began with the book of metropolitan Evgeniy Bolhovitinov “Description of Kiev Sophia Cathedral”, published in 1825, At the same time with the barbaric “renovation” of the mural, the architect Pavel Sparro performed a fundamental repair of the temple, during which the roof was replaced, the floor was paved with cast iron plates, and the upper tier of the iconostasis, which prevented seeing the mosaics of the altar, was removed.

    During the last reconstruction, carried out in 1882-89 under the direction of Vladimir Nikolaev, dismantled part of the Baroque gables and opened the ancient small domes. The cruciform window in the center of the west facade was removed, and the present narthex in the pseudo-Byzantine style was built in place of the west gallery. At the same time under the floor of the cathedral the channels of calorifer heating were tripled and one more tier of iconostasis was removed.

    In October 1921 a council was held in St Sophia Cathedral, which announced the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. St. Sophia belonged to the UAOC until its liquidation in 1930. In 1934, the divine service was discontinued in the cathedral and the State Architectural and Historical Reserve “Sophia Museum” was founded. The activity of the sanctuary began with vandalism: during 1935-37 eight baroque iconostases of side altars made by Ukrainian masters of XVII-XVIII centuries were disassembled and mostly burnt. The silver gilded Royal Gates of 1747 from the main iconostasis also disappeared. At the same time, creation of the reserve for the first time allowed to carry out researches and restorations of the monument on a really scientific basis.

    According to the former head of the Sofia Reserve Alexei Povstenko, in September 1941 the Soviet military made an attempt to mine the temple, but fortunately it was unsuccessful. In the postwar years, St. Sophia Cathedral is regularly restored and studied. Its rooms maintain a microclimate favorable to the preservation of priceless works of medieval art.

    In 1990 St Sophia Cathedral, as well as Kiev Pechersk Lavra, became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site on the territory of Ukraine.

    Description [ edit ]

    Kiev Sophia Cathedral was one of the largest buildings of its time. The total width of the temple is 54.6 meters, its length is 41.7 meters, the height to the zenith of the central dome is 28.6 meters. The cathedral has five aisles finished with apses on the east, topped with 13 domes forming a pyramidal silhouette, and surrounded on three sides by two rows of open galleries, of which the inner one has two tiers. For a long time it was considered that the galleries were added to the cathedral later, but recent investigations have proved that they were connected to it by a single concept and appeared at the same time. Only the baptistery, built in the western gallery, dates back to the middle of the XII century.

    Saint Sophia Cathedral (Kiev)

    The spatial solution of the central core is cross-dome. It is surrounded on three sides by extremely spacious gallery opening into the temple by triple arcades. Apparently, choirs were intended not only for princely family during liturgy, but also to house basic establishments of Kyiv Metropolis – chambers for solemn events, library with a scriptorium (a workshop for making handwritten books), chancellery, a treasury. Two towers with spiral staircases were built in the western gallery to ascend the gallery.

    Sophia Cathedral of Kiev is a perfect example of the synthesis of arts. The mural painting and decorations are an indivisible whole with the architecture of the temple. In the Kiev cathedral the unusual combination of mosaics and frescoes in one interior is used. In doing so, mosaic images cover only the most important parts of the temple – the main altar and the central dome, the rest of the interior is decorated with frescoes. Remains of frescoes are also found on the facades – in niches and on the pillars of the galleries.

    The floor in the chancel and the central part (chorus) was lined with slate slabs inlaid with mosaics, and in other parts with ceramic tiles. Many elements of decoration were carved from imported Greek marble. Marble were used for the thresholds and columns, the low prelateral railing-temple and the shadowy ciborium above the throne. Slate parapets of the fence of the choir were covered with carved ornaments.

    An outstanding historical source is a set of graffiti inscriptions scratched on the walls of the cathedral by its visitors over the centuries. Among them there are autographs of famous historical figures of medieval Russia.

    Sanctuaries [ edit ]

    • In Kiev’s St. Sophia Cathedral, under the vault of the high place, there is a mosaic image of the Virgin Mary, called “The Unbreakable Wall.” The Mother of God is portrayed full-length with outstretched arms, standing on a golden rectangular stone. Along the arc of the half-vault is a black mosaic inscription in Greek: “ὁ Θεὸς ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῆς καὶ οὐ σαλευθήσεται- βοηθήσει αὐτῇ ὁ Θεὸς τὸ πρὸς πρωΐ πρωΐ – God is in her midst, and will not move: God will help her morning after morning.” (Psalm 45:6). The icon probably received its name because for over 800 years the wall with this mosaic was never destroyed, in contrast to the rest of the cathedral. In 2001, a nunnery was founded in the city of Apsheronsk in honor of the icon.
    • Icon of the Mother of God Sophia – the Wisdom of God (Kiev) . This icon, taken from the Church of Justinian in Byzantium, depicts the union of the Church of heavenly and earthly through the incarnation of the Son of God – the Wisdom of God.

    Throne Feasts [ edit ]

    How to get there [ edit ]

    Address: Ukraine, Kiev, Vladimirskaya street, 24 (metro station “Golden Gate”)

    How to get to St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev:

    1) Take the subway to the “Golden Gate” station, go down to St. Sophia Square along Volodymyrska Street.

    2) Go to Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station, walk down 2 blocks along Sofievska Street to Sofievska Square.

    To the pilgrim [ edit ]

    Since the cathedral building is part of the Sofia Kyivska National Reserve and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is forbidden to be given to any religious organization and to hold services in it.

    However, as before Sofia Kyivskaia attracts an endless stream of pilgrims and tourists from all over Ukraine and other countries. Every year about two million people visit the Sofia Kyivska Reserve to admire the beautiful creation of world culture.

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