The golden domes of Kiev churches can be seen everywhere. Kiev certainly deserved its name “The Jerusalem of the lands of Rus'”. For centuries Kiev’s churches were the only buildings to be constructed of stone. Today, like many centuries ago, they still amaze us with their beauty and grandeur.
How many churches are there in Kiev? A lot… I couldn’t even find an exact number. People always strive to see something they have never seen before. That’s why Kiev and Kiev churches have always attracted many travelers, pilgrims, and even invaders. They could see Kiev’s golden domes and hear the bell’s chime, from a distance of three-day’s travel from the city.
In the last years, since Ukraine became independent, the number of churches in Ukraine has increased by 170 percent. Including some built in Kiev. While you’ll have a lot of Churches to choose from, this page presents only those Kiev churches and cathedrals which have the most outstanding features and are unique samples of Ukrainian architecture.
Let’s start our journey. Our first stop is the Cathedral of Saint Sophia – the oldest of the standing Kiev churches, which dates back to the 11th century.
The Cathedral of Saint Sophia.
The St. Sophia’s Cathedral was founded in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, in commemoration of the victory over the Pecheneg tribe. It took two decades to complete the construction of the St. Sophia’s. The grandiose ensemble became a major cultural and political center of Kievan Rus’. It was a site of anointing and crowning the Kievan princes, for receiving ambassadors, and a burial place for the Kievan rulers.
Kiev churches. Saint Sophia Cathedral.
The structure of the cathedral has 13 golden domes, 5 naves, 5 apses, and 260 square meters of mosaics and 3,000 square meters of fresco painting from the 11th century.
Today the St. Sophia’s Cathedral building is a part of the Museum, which includes the adjoining buildings of the St. Sophia’s Monastery, the Golden Gates, St. Cyril’s Church, St. Andrew’s Church and the Refectory of St. Michael’s Monastery of the Golden Domes.
A few years ago, the Metropolitan Museum hosted an exhibition called “Glory of Byzantium”, dedicated to the middle Byzantine period (843-1261). It included the art works from 24 countries. A separate gallery of the exhibition has been devoted to the Kievan Rus’ state. Ukrainian museums provided the unique art works dated to the 12th century.
After the exhibition many people asked “Where did these works come from? Where is this country Ukraine located?” One curious fact about that exhibition it that the insurance estimate of the Ukrainian art works was so high, that the Metropolitan Museum was forced to borrow money from the British Museums to be able to provide it.
Now you have your chance to see those art works from Kiev churches and museums which cost that much.
Address: 01034, Kiev, 24, Vladimirskaya st.
To go there: Metro station “Golden Gate” or “Independence Square”
Working hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. Wednesday – 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Thursday – day off.
Kiev Churches. Kievo-Pecherska Lavra.
Kievo-Pecherska Lavra or Kievan Cave Monastery is not just one of Kiev churches. Lavra is the history of our state. It was founded in 1051 by monks Antoniy and Feodosiy. It originated from the caves, peschera in Russian, which gave the monastery its name. Lavra occupies a huge territory of 22 hectares and is located on two large hills and the valley between them.
Kiev churches. Kievo-Pecherska-Lavra.
The highest hill is the site of the Higher Monastery. The smaller hill is the location of the Far Caves and numerous gold and white churches. The Near Caves with a whole ensemble of buildings occupy the valley.
To have a better idea about Lavra you can check Lavra’s official website or read opinion of those people who share their experiences at TripAdvisor: Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor
The monastery developed rapidly. In the 12th century Lavra became a leading religious, spiritual, educational, and cultural center of Eastern Europe. It had the icon-painting studios, a superb library, its own print shop, and a scriptorium where works of ancient and contemporary foreign writers were translated into Slavic.
Lavra’s architectural complex is a precious gemstone in the family of Kiev churches. The majority of the structure is built in the Ukrainian Baroque style. In 1990 Kievo-Pecherska Lavra Monastery was enlisted on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
During its long history, Lavra has been submitted to invasions, fires, vandalism, and spiritual neglect. One especially hard time for Kievo-Pecherska Lavra started after the October Revolution in 1917. As a result, the monastery was closed down completely in 1926 by the Soviet authorities and Lavra was turned into a state Historical-Cultural Preserve.
From the period of the Second World War to 1961, a monastery was allowed to function at Lavra. It had over 100 monks, though prior to the Revolution of 1917 there were over 1,200 monks. In 1988 the Far Caves of the monastery were ceded to the Orthodox Church.
Within the grounds of Lavra there are also a few different museums:
The Museum of Historical Treasures. It has one the richest collections of golden articles in the former Soviet Union countries.
The Museum of Micro Miniatures. Artist Nikolay Syadristy has created about 100 miniatures with instruments he made himself. I suspect, it will be one of the most amazing things you’ve ever seen.
The Museum of Ukrainian Decorative and Applied Art. Its exposition presents Ukrainian folk art of the 17th to 20th centuries.
The Museum of Ukrainian Books and Printing. The collection includes manuscript volumes from the times of Kievan Rus’.
The State Museum of Theater, Music and Cinema. The museum’s collections feature unique exhibits of theater, music and cinema history.
Address:01015, Kiev, I.Mazepi st.,23.
Phone: 295-94-57, 254-3427
To go there: Metro station “Arsenalnaya”
Working hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m.
Kiev Churches. St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
St. Andrew’s Cathedral stands at the top of Andriyivskyy Descent (Andriyivskyy Spusk). It is often called “a swan song” of the famous Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The cathedral was built in 1749 – 1754 at the behest of the Russian Empress Elizabeth.
Kiev churches. Saint Andrew’s Cathedral.
It is impossible to miss the Cathedral, it catches the eye of visitors straight away. St. Andrew Cathedral is one of the most beautiful of Kiev’s churches. The building has very unusual architecture with strict proportions, amazing forms, and perfect lines. Located on the steep slope of the Staro-Kievskaya Hill, it has an observation platform where wonderful views on the Old Podol can be observed.
St. Andrew’s Cathedral occupies a very special place among Kiev’s churches. You will feel it once you’re there it just has some unusual spiritual aura. If you have the time, it is not a bad idea to visit their concerts of classical and chamber music on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday at 7.30 p.m. To get a better idea about Kiev churches, the famous Andriyivskyy Descent (Andriyivskyy Spusk) and St. Andrew Cathedral, you can read reviews of people who saw them in their own eyes and share their impression at the popular travel site TripAdvisor. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
Address:01034, Kiev, 23, Andriyivskyy Descent(Andriyivskyy Spusk).
Phone: 278-58-61, 278-12-21
To go there: Metro station “Golden Gate”
Working hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m.
Thursday from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. Wednesday – day off.
Service: from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m., from 5 p.m. till 7 p.m.
Musical concerts : Friday, Saturday, Sunday – 7.30 p.m.
Kiev Churches. Mykhalovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral.
Mykhalovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral is located just opposite Saint Sophia Cathedral. Originally it was built by a grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, Prince Sviatopolk Izyaslavovich in 1108. The Cathedral has been built in honor of Archangel Michael, the guardian angel of Kiev. Kiev churches. Mykhalovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral
Today his bronze statue is “guarding” an Independence Square. Unfortunately, nobody asked people whether they want him to be a guard there. Poor and innocent Archangel Michael was “awarded” with a lot of offensive nicknames for being there. The most decent of them is “Betman”. Well, let’s go back to the St. Michael’s Cathedral.
Among Kiev churches St. Michael’s Cathedral was the second largest one. St. Michael’s Golden Domed Cathedral was destroyed in 1934 through 1936 by the Soviet regime due to the construction of the new Ukrainian SSR capital center when the Ukrainian government moved from industrial Kharkov to ancient Kiev. You can find that story at the Ukraine-Capital page.
Fortunately the Cathedral had been reconstructed from scratch in 2000. The St. Michael’s Golden Domed Cathedral was 822-years old before it was destroyed. Today a twelve-year old (2012) St. Michael’s Cathedral attracts millions of tourists and locals every year. The Cathedral looks a little bit too new and shiny, but is still very beautiful, though lacks that special spirit which surrounds St. Sophia or Lavra.
New times, new laws of life… If you would like to think about it or just take a rest, you can sit on the bench in the nearby “Vladimirskaya Gorka” park. It is quiet and has positive energy.
Kiev Churches. St. Vladimir’s Cathedral.
St. Vladimir’s Cathedral commemorates the 900th anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus by Prince Vladimir the Great of Kiev. The Cathedral was founded in 1862, but it took almost 30 years, from 1862 to 1896, to finish it. The design was executed in Byzantine style initially by the architects I. Schtrom, P. Sparro, R. Bemhardt, K. Mayevsky, and V. Nikolayev. However, the final version of the design belongs to A. Beretti.
Kiev churches. St. Vladimir’s Cathedral.
What is remarkable about St. Vladimir’s Cathedral? Why do we distinguish it from the rest of the Kiev churches, many of which are significantly older? The Cathedral is a striking combination of perfect architecture and unique mosaics and frescoes.
The mosaics were executed by masters from Venice. There were many famous artist who created amazing interior of the cathedral: S. Kostenko, V. Kotarbinsky, M. Nesterov, M. Pymonenko, P. Swedomsky, V. Vasnetsov, M. Vrubel, V. Zamyraylo, and others.
Russian artist Victor Vasnetsov has the leading role in this talented team of artists. His painting of the Holy Mother of God impresses by its internal spiritual light and at the same quite earthy beauty of the regular women.
Similar to all Kiev’s churches, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral went through hard times.
From 1917 till 1938 more than 40,000 churches in the USSR were demolished or confiscated by the state. How did St. Vladimir’s Cathedral manage to survive? There is always a thin line between tragedy and farce. St. Vladimir’s had been converted into…an Anti-Religious Museum. Thanks to that fact, we are still able to enjoy its majesty and beauty today.
Address: 20, Taras Shevchenko Boulevard.
To go there: Metro station “Universitet”
Working hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m.
Service: Daily from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m.
St. Cyril’s Church.
Saint Cyril’s Church was built in 1146 and named in honor of Saint Cyril, one of the most eminent Orthodox saints. The church has always been considered as a family burial site for the family of Princess Olga.
Throughout the years of its existence, St. Cyril’s Church has undergone periods of deterioration, reconstruction and architectural alterations. Fortunately the renovations in the 17th and 18th centuries didn’t change the design of the main building too much. The ancient architectural forms are easily recognizable through later modifications.
Perhaps St. Cyril’s Church would still remain just an old church, but in the 1860s under the eighteenth century plaster about 800 sq. meters of fresco painting from the 12th century were discovered.
Extensive restoration work was carried out under the supervision of Professor A. Prakhov. At the request of church authorities, the ancient frescoes were re-painted in oil by Mikhail Vrubel. Teachers and students of the Drawing School of Kiev were also engaged in the restoration process.
Through their work they created extremely expressive masterpieces which made St. Cyril’s Church one of the most famous of Kiev’s churches. In May 1929, St. Cyril’s Church was proclaimed a museum. An icon, The Virgin and Child, painted by Vrubel for St. Cyril’s Church is considered among the finest female portraits created by any artist.
When the icon was finished, people noticed that the Virgin’s face had a striking resemblance to professor Prakhov’s wife. An outstanding artist Mikhail Vrubel was never again invited to work in Kiev churches. Such a romantic story connected to the St. Cyril’s Church.
Address: 04112, Kiev, 12, Eleny Teligy st.
Phone: 468-11-26, 417-22-68.
To go there: Metro station “Dorogozhichy”+ trolleybus #103 to “Kirilovskaya church”
Working hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. Thursday from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m.
Kiev used to be named “the city of 200 golden domes.” Today it looks like there are even more of them. Kiev’s churches create unrepeatable and unique images of this ancient and forever young city. Even if you manage to visit only those which are described on this page, you can proudly say:
“I’ve seen the most beautiful Kiev churches!”