Kiev has really impressed me. A couple of months ago when I first started looking into visiting, I forecasted quite accurately a city full of traditional Kievan Rus churches topped with domes more golden than Mr. T’s Starter Kit. While there is so much more to the city than just an abundance of gold domes, I wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to the churches and cathedrals of Kiev. Think of it as a late Thanksgiving feast for the eyes.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral
I was lucky during my first few days in the city because the weather was absolutely perfect for walking around and taking photos. My first encounter with the golden domes of Kiev was at St. Sophia’s Cathedral. This is Kiev’s oldest church and has been historically used as a place for coronations and royal ceremonies since it was adjacent to the Royal Palace. The mosaics and frescoes on the interior are even more astonishing than the beautiful exterior as many of them date back to when the cathedral was built in 1017.
There is a lot to see at the Lavra (which means senior monastery) so I set aside one whole day in order to get the most out of it. Beginning at the top, I was greeted by the stunning Trinity Gate Church. This in itself was worth the journey out of central Kiev.
Once inside, it is churches galore. St. Nicolas’ Church, the Dormition Cathedral, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, the Church of the Raising Cross and the Church of the Conception of St. Ann. The latter two sit on top of a series of caves that are of great importance to the millions of Orthodox pilgrims that flock to the Lavra. 123 mummified monks are down there, preserved in glass cases and covered (for the most part) in religious shrouds. You need to guide yourself down by candlelight and not have any claustrophobic tendencies in order to see this attraction.
St. Andrew’s Church
Unfortunately, St. Andrew’s Church was closed for renovation during my visit but it didn’t stop me from admiring it from up close and afar. This gorgeous Baroque church is another of Bartelomeo Rastrelli’s masterpieces (he also designed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg).
St. Michael’s Monastery
Right down the street from St. Sophia’s Cathedral is St. Michael’s Monastery. Although equally beautiful, I found it less appealing since it is a copy (finished in 2001) of the original that was destroyed by the Soviets.
St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral
Saving the best for last; I first noticed St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral on my way into the city center from the train station. By the end of my time in Kiev, I was admittedly a little churched and cathedraled out, but I forced myself to get over there on my last day since my Lonely Planet book said it had the prettiest interior of all the churches in Kiev. They were right. St. Volodymyr’s wins the title of “My Favorite Church in Kiev”. Unfortunately, I can’t show you why I fell in love with it since no photography was allowed inside, but I can tell you it was full of the most beautiful icons I have seen since being in Ukraine, and gold accents everywhere. I could easily spend a couple of hours staring in awe at the murals and icons.
Have I churched and cathedraled you out yet?