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Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Kiev Pechersk Lavra or Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery which gave its name to one of the city districts where it is located in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Since its foundation as the cave monastery in the Lavra has been a preeminent center of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. Together with the Saint Sophia Cathedral, it is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery complex is considered a separate national historic-cultural preserve (sanctuary), the national status to which was granted on March 13, 1996. The Lavra also not only located in another part of the city, but is part of a different national sanctuary than Saint Sophia Cathedral. While being a cultural attraction, the monastery is currently active. It was named one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine on August 21, 2007, based on voting by experts and the internet community. Currently, the jurisdiction over the site is divided between the state museum, National Kiev- Pechersk Historic-Cultural Preserve, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy) as the site of the chief monastery of that Church and the residence of its leader, Metropolitan Volodymyr. In the late 2010 a monitoring mission of UNESCO was visiting the Kiev Pechersk Lavra to check on situation of the site. According to the Minister of Culture Mykhailo Kulynyak the Kiev’s historic site along with the Saint Sophia Cathedral is not threatened by the “black list” of the international organization.

Etymology and other names

The reconstructed Cathedral of the Dormition, as seen in 2005.

The word pechera means cave. The word lavra is used to describe high-ranking monasteries for
monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Therefore the name of the monastery is also translated as
Kiev Cave Monastery, Kiev Caves Monastery or the Kiev Monastery of the Caves.

Foundation and early history

Up-close view of the Great Lavra Belltower with its four tiers in 2005.

According to the Primary Chronicle, in the early 11th century, Anthony, an Orthodox monk from Esphigmenon monastery on Mount Athos, originally from Liubech of the Principality of Chernihiv, returned to Rus’ and settled in Kiev as a missionary of monastic tradition to Kievan Rus’. He chose a cave at the Berestov Mount that overlooked the Dnieper River and a community of disciples soon grew. Prince Iziaslav I of Kiev ceded the whole mount to the Antonite monks who founded a monastery built by architects from Constantinople.

Buildings and structures

The Near Caves of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. Sketch by the Dutch artist Abraham van Westerveldt  made in 1651.

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra contains numerous architectural monuments, ranging from belltowers to cathedrals to underground cave systems and to strong stone fortification walls. The main attractions of the Lavra include Great Lavra Belltower, the notable feature of the Kiev skyline, and the Dormition Cathedral, destroyed in World War II, and fully reconstructed in recent years. Other churches and cathedrals of the Lavra include: the Refectory Church, the Church of All Saints, the Church of the Saviour at Berestove, the Church of the Exaltation of Cross, the Church of the Trinity, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, the Church of the Conception of St. Anne, and the Church of the Life-Giving Spring. The Lavra also contains many other constructions, including: the St. Nicholas Monastery, the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary, and the Debosquette Wall.

Great Lavra Bell-tower

The Great Lavra Belltower is one of the most notable features of the Kiev skyline and among the main attractions of the Lavra. It was the tallest free-standing bell-tower at the time of its construction in 1731-1745, and was designed by the architect Johann Gottfried Schädel. It is a Classical style construction and consists of tiers, surmounted by a gilded dome. Its total height is 96.5 meters.

Gate Church of the Trinity (Pechersk Lavra)

The Gate Church of the Trinity is located atop the Holy Gates, which houses the entrance to the monastery. According to a legend, this church was founded by the Chernihiv Prince Sviatoslav. It was built atop an ancient stone church which used to stand in its place. After the fire of 1718 the church was rebuilt , its revere facades and interior walls enriched with ornate . Stucco work made by master craftsman V. Stefaovych. In the XVIII th century a new gilded pear-shaped dome was built , the facade and exterior walls were decorated with stucco-moulded plant ornaments and a vestibule built of stone attached to the north end. In the early XX th century fronts and the walls flanking the entrance were painted by icon painters under the guidance of V. Sonin . The interior of the Gate Trinity Church with murals by the early XVIII century painter Alimpy Galik is of great artistic value.

The All Saints Church

The All Saints Church erected in 1696-1698 is a fine specimen of Ukrainian baroque architecture. Characteristic of the church facades are rich architectural embellishments. In 1905 students of the Lavra art school painted the interior walls of the church. The carved wooden iconostasis is multi-tiered and was made for the All Saints church in the early XVIII th century.

Church of the Saviour at Berestov

Side view of the Church of the Saviour at Berestove seen with its campanile, designed by architect Andrei Melenskyi in the Classical style. The Church of the Saviour at Berestove is located to the North of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. It was constructed in the village of Berestove at the turn of the 11th century during the reign of Prince Volodymyr Monomakh. It later served as the mausoleum of the Monomakh dynasty, also including Yuri Dolgoruki, the founder of Moscow. However being outside the Lavra fortifications, the Church of the Saviour at Berestove is part of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra complex.

Caverns

Imperishable relic of saint Ilya Muromets in Kiev Pechersk Lavra

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra caverns are a very complex system of narrow underground corridors (about 1-1½ metres wide and 2-2½ metres high), along with numerous living quarters and underground chapels. In 1051, the monk Anthony had settled in an old cave in one of the hills surrounding the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. This cave apparently grew, with numerous additions including corridors and a church, and is now what we know as the Far Caves. In 1057, Anthony moved to a cave near the Upper Lavra, now called the Near Caves. Foreign travellers in the 16-17th centuries had written that the catacombs of the Lavra stretched for hundreds of kilometres, reaching as far as Moscow and Novgorod, which had apparently brought about to the knowledge of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra around the world.

 Museum

Orthodox pilgrim in Kiev Pechersk Lavra – women must cover their head while entering Lavra. The Kiev Pechersk Lavra is also one of the largest Ukrainian museums in Kiev. The exposition is the actual ensemble of the Upper (Near Caves) and Lower (Far Caves) Lavra territories that houses many architectural relics of the past. The collection within the churches and caves include articles
of precious metal, prints, higher clergy portraits and rare church hierarchy photographs. The main exposition contains articles from 16 to early 20th centuries which include chalices, crucifixes, and textiles from 16-19th centuries with needlework and embroidery of Ukrainian masters. The remainder of collection consists of pieces from Lavra’s Printing House and Lavra’s Icon Painting Workshop. The museum also provides tours to the catacombs, which contain mummified remains of Orthodox saints or their relics.

Museum on the lavra territory are:

- Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine
– Book and print history museum
– Museum of Ukrainian folk art
– Theater and film arts museum
- Museum of Miniatures 

- State historical library

Your private professional guide will help you to feel the atmosphere of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra , discover its most exciting places. This trip might become one of the best and most unforgettable events for you and in order not to be frustrated.

Contact us for booking your private professional guide

*click on the links bellow to get more information about some kind our services:

- Private Guide

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