By The Roads Of The Upper Town
Our trip around the city of Kyiv begins from the Golden Gates. The more so as the Metro station “Golden Gates” is situated almost in the heart of the city, which was called the upper town for centuries. Most of Kyiv Metro stations are beautiful – exquisitely old-fashioned “University” and “Khreschatyk,” the stylized stations of new lines. But “Golden Gates,” undoubtedly the most beautiful station of Kyiv subway executed in Rus’-Byzantine style, is a wonderful prelude to our trip through the princes’town.
During the times of Volodymyr – first great rulers of the young and quickly expanding Kyivan empire – the main entrance to the capital was the gate located at the crossroads of present-day Volodymyrska and Velyka Zhytomyrska streets. In 1037, under Yaroslav the Wise, there was built a new principal entrance to the city, the Golden Gates. Kyiv turned into a powerful fortress encircled by a ditch 15 meters wide and 8 meters deep. A wooden bridge was thrown across the ditch, which was to be burnt down in case of an enemy approach. The second tier of the gates was adorned with the little elegant Annunciation Church. The Golden Gates were not just a defensive, but rather a ritual structure, and the width of their gateway (7.65 m.) was the same as that of the nave of St. Sophia Cathedral built shortly before. It was a great honor to enter into the city through the Golden Gates, and Bohdan Khmelnytsky with his Cossacks had this honor when they arrived in Kyiv in 1648. Unfortunately, the Golden Gates today is just a beautiful plaster cast, in a sense-a “case” hiding the real remains of the gates. In 1982, when this “case” was built, not all Kyivites were delighted with the project. With time, however, people got accustomed to it. Nearby there is a picturesque public garden and a monument to Yaroslav the Wise.
In Yaroslav’s time a striking panorama of numerous temples and palaces opened up before the eyes of a traveler entering the Golden Gates. Today the picture is different, but beautiful all the same. The best way to Sofiivska Square is to walk along Volodymyrska Street, where you can see buildings of the late 19 th century: in their time Jaroslav Halek wrote there his famous “The Dashing Soldier Shvejk, ” the popular singer AleksandrVertinsky composed his songs, and the prominent Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov painted his “Epic Heroes.» Characters from Kuprin’s and Bulgakov’s works met at the local coffee-houses located also in this street. The gloomy gray building on the right side, the Security Service of Ukraine, is not quite in harmony with the rest of the buildings in “bourgeois” style. Before the war it was occupied by NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs), during the war, by Gestapo, later, by KGB…
St. Sophia Cathedral is the main point of interest in Sofiivska Square. It was founded by Yaroslav the Wise in 1017, and completed between 1032 and 1037. The construction site for the main cathedral of the princely city was chosen not by mere chance: the four main roads leading to Kyiv met exactly in this place. It is a littie-known fact that a cloister had existed there long before Rus’was baptized: it had been founded by a devout Christian, Princess Olga, great grand-mother of Yaroslav the Wise, so this place had been already “prayed for.” The cathedral obtained a special status right away: princes were enthroned there, the burial service was read for them, and they were buried there. The temple was built using a special technology: stone-work alternated with very strong thin brick, and the mortar was made of lime and ceramic pieces. Present-day outward appearance of the cathedral has nothing to do with its original appearance – now it is a typical baroque of the 17 th-18 th centuries, when the temple was radically rebuilt. The model of St. Sophia Cathedral of the princes’ time can be seen inside the temple. However, the main thing is to see its frescoes and mosaics. The Virgin Orans, the protectress of Kyiv and Kyivites, is the most noteworthy of all the mosaics.
Walking through its arch we come to Sofiivska Square with a monument to Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the center. The monument was erected exactly in place where the hetman and his Cossacks were welcomed in 1648. The monument’s first project was proposed by M.Mikeshin in 1868, but it took twenty years to raise money for it, and the monument was inaugurated in 1888.
Not far away there is St. Michael’s Monastery of the Golden Domes. The monastery and St. Sophia Cathedral make up a wonderful architectural ensemble. Unfortunately, St. Michael’s Cathedral of the Golden Domes is not the original of the 12 th century, which was blown up in the 1930 s, and reconstructed in 1997-2000. Now it looks like it was after restoration in the 18 th century, like a Ukrainian baroque temple.
Kyiv’s another symbol, monument to Volodymyr the Great, is located below in the park, Kyivites’ favorite Volodymyr’s Hill. It was created by the famous Petersburg sculptors V. Demut-Malinovskyand P.KIodt and inaugurated in 1853. The expressive figure of Prince with a cross in his hand on a high pedestal looks particularly impressive from the side of the Dnieper. Near the monument there was laid out a park, which became Kyivites’ favorite Volodymy’s Hill. It is berhymed by poets and described by writers, every year Kyiv high-school and university graduates spend there the whole night. It has a beautiful view down the Dnieper River, Pechersk district and European Square.
Kyiv’s another architectural relic is St. Andrew’s Church situated close by (23 Anriivsky Descent). According to an old legend set forth in the “Chronicle of Bygone Years” twenty hundred years ago Apostle Andrew the First Called mounted a cross in that place, and uttered prophetic words, saying that there would be a great and glorious town there, and blessed the picturesque hills over the Dnieper. It was built by request of Empress Elisabeth I who laid the first stone in its foundation in 1744, during her stay in Kyiv. Relatively little and restrained as compared with other emperor’s reations, St. Andrew’s Church is considered perhaps the most refined masterpiece by B. Rastrelli. The Moscow architect Ivan Muchurin was a direct performer of the project. Because of Kyiv’s steep slopes a socle had to be cut into the hill as the ground floor of the temple. This two-storied structure is presently occupied by a theological seminary. Cast-iron stairs lead to the entrance of the church.
The temple is adorned with a wonderful wood-carved and gilded iconostasis, murals and paintings by prominent artists. Today St. Andrew’s Church is a museum, a functioning church, and a concert hall at the same time. It is distinguished for its extraordinary acoustics and refined chamber music concerts. To attend such a concert will be an unforgettable memory of Kyiv.
Our next stop is Lviv Square. In princely times it was the border of Yaroslav’s town. Beyond the border there were thickets, where, according to bylinas and fairytales, Kyiv’s dragon behaved like a hooligan.
Yaroslaviv Val Street leads into the depth of the old city. The name of the street makes it clear that it ran along the fortress rampart of ancient Kyiv (“val”= rampart).The names of many streets in this area are associated with olden days: Reitarska (Rider’s St.), Striletska (Rifleman’s St.) … At the close of the 17 th century a Russian garrison was quartered there (previously it was stationed in Podil district, but soldiers pestered the local merchants so much that the latter persuaded Moscow voevode to move it to some other place, as far as possible).Then we pass by an original building-castle (1 Yaroslaviv Val St.) with a tower, spire and Gothic gate guarded by two winged demons, and return to the place wherefrom we started our tour – to the Golden Gates.
Universities, parks, museums…
Under Yaroslav the Wise and during the ensuing centuries here passed the border of the upper town. However, Podil, Pechersk, Vydubychi, Dorohozhychi and other neighboring settlements existed as well, being part of the city of Kyiv. At the close of the 18th – early 19th centuries Kyiv began to expand very quickly, becoming a political, administrative and cultural center of the South of the Russian Empire. In the latter half of the 19th century Kyiv turned into a rich commercial city of a European scale, the”sugarcapital”of the empire. Within a few years many sumptuous cottages sprang up in place of formerly neglected grounds and suburban woods.
The National Opera House of Ukraine is situated nearby the Golden Gates, in 50 Volodymyrska Street. This structure is very typical of that epoch. The magnificent and a little pompous temple of art was built in 1901. It is one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe, and the famous singer Feodor Shaliapin, after performing there, enthusiastically stated that similar acoustics existed only in Grand Opera and La Scala. The building is also well known for the fact that during a performance, the Russian prime minister the reformer, Peter Stolypin, was mortally wounded there in 1911.
Volodymyrska Street is one of the oldest and longest streets of Kyiv joining the ancient prince’s town with the “new” Upper town. Within one quarter between the Opera House and University one can see a number of exquisite structures of the late 19th -early 20th centuries: Presidium of the Academy of Sciences (55 Volodymyrska St.). the conference hall of the Academy, Teachers’ House (57 Volodymyrska St.) in which Central Rada (Council) worked in 1917-1918. Near the building there is a monument to Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Head of Central Rada. Later a monument to another Ukrainian patriot, Viacheslav Chornovil, was erected not far away.
On reaching the crossroads of Volodymyrska Street and Shevchenko Boulevard we proceed straight to the University. In 1834, when present-day National T.H. Shevchenko University was founded (60 Volodymyrska St.), it was named in honor of St. Volodymyr – hence its black and red color (colors of the ribbon of St. Volodymyr imperial order). It is difficult to enumerate all the celebrities who studied or taught at the university. It is enough to say that the name of Taras Shevchenko is closely connected with it. On each side of the large building there are two University libraries built in the same classic style.
In front of the University there is T. H. Shevchenko Park with a monument to the great Ukrainian poet, Kobzar Its cozy alleys are a favorite place of Kyiv mothers with babies, and also of amateur chess players – a spontaneous chess-dominoes club has been in existence there for many decades.
Walking from the park down the stairs we come to a short, but well-known Terescheko Street. The Tereschenkos was a glorious dynasty in prerevolutionary Ukraine. Descendents of serfs as they were, they became multimillionaires and “sugar emperors.” However, they became famous due to their charity activities rather than their millions: they donated money to hospitals for the poor, orphan’s homes, schools, Polytechnical Institute and St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral. In the 1870s they acquired plots of land where now runs the street named after them. There are three wonderful museums in this street and all of them are closely connected with the biography of the Tereschenko family.
After Ukraine was declared an independent state, Museum of Western and Oriental Art was named after Bohdan and Barbara Khanenko (15 Tereschenko St.). Khanenko’s collection is not a rival of the Louvre or Hermitage as regards its volume, but it contains unique masterpieces; and the building of the museum in itself is an architectural relic.
Museum of Russiaan Art (9Tereschenko St.) is also situated in Tereschenko Street and was created to a large extent on the basis of the Khanenkos’ collection. Bohdan and Barbara were friends with the famous Russian Maecenas and collector Tretiakov who helped them acquire many unique masterpieces from the emperor’s collection.
T.H. Shevchenko Museum (8T.Shevchenko Boulevard) is situated not far away, at the crossroads of Khanenko St. and Shevchenko Boulevard. The elegant palace in the Italian Renaissance style was built for Kyiv’s head Pavlo Demidov who acquired for himself a beautiful Italian title of count San-Donato. However, before long the palace became Mykola Tereschenko’s residence.
From the “museum streets” we go up T. Shevchenko Boulevard, pass by the “yellow building” of the University (formerly the famous First city gymnasium; among its graduates were such celebrities as Bulgakov, Paustovsky, Bogomolets, Sikorskyi), and proceed to St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral (20 T. Shevchenko Boulevard).
Opposite the cathedral there is the University’s Academician Fomin Botanical Garden. It is not large by the area (22 hectares), but is a really unique natural research center with more than 8,000 species of plants. Its picturesque slopes and gullies are yet another romantic corner in the very center of Kyiv.
If we go down the main alley of the garden we get to the intersection of Tolstoy and Tarasivska streets, to the old district of Pankivschyna, which was often called “the Latin Quarter of Kyiv” by analogy with “the Latin Quarter of Paris.” After the foundation of St. Volodymyr’s University there appeared rent houses there, which were rented mostly by professors, students and later by Ukrainian intelligentsia. Lesia Ukrainka, Mykhailo Hrushevcky, Mykola Lysenko, Panas Saksahansky, Mykhailo Starytsky and many other prominent figures of national culture resided in this district. Small cozy streets Tarasivska, Mykilskko-Botanicha, and Pankivska – remain a place for leisure walks today as well.
Strongholds Of Power
Volodymyrsky Descent is short, but rather steep (it is hard to believe that the first tram in the Russian empire was put into action in this street more than a hundred years ago). On reaching European Square you will see the old building of Philharmonic Society noted for its excellent acoustics and the fact that such outstanding musicians and singers as Liszt, Chaikovsky, Lysenko, Rakhmaninov, Skriabin, Sobinov, Shaliapin performed there, and in 2002 the late Pope John Paul II met with Kyivites. On the right there is a massive structure of the Ukrainian Home (formerly Lenin Museum), a place for arranging exhibitions, presentations, conferences, and whatever you like – the only thing which is needed is to have enough money for its rent. European Square (it is its pre-revolutionary name, and it sounds today quite relevant) is the beginning of Khreschatyk Street, the main thoroughfare of the city. However, we proceed to Pechersk – from Philharmonic Society, passing by wonderful parks over the Dnieper, up Hrushevsky Street, and further.
The first park on our way is Khreschatyi (in the past it was named Merchant’s, Proletarian, and Young Pioneer’s). Already in pre-revolutionary times it was an entertainment place, where orchestras played, people danced, and the passenger dirigible “Kiev,” the first one in the Russian empire, rose into the sky. Recently a charming structure, a real fairy-tale palace appeared in the park – the new building of Kyiv Puppet Theater. In Soviet times it was placed in Kyiv’s Central Synagogue in 13Shota Rustaveli Street. In 1997 the synagogue was returned to orthodox Israelites, and puppets and puppeteers found themselves in the street. Now, in return, they have at their disposal perhaps the most beautiful puppet theater in the world. Further we have to cross “Kissing-bridge. The name is unofficial, it is simply because loving couples like to stop there, on the openwork cast-iron bridge wherefrom opens up a wonderful scenery. The bridge was designed by the young engineer Yevhen Paton and has another unofficial name invented by less romantic people -“Devil’s bridge, “for there is a real abyss beneath. Under the bridge begins picturesque Petrivska Alley named so in honor of Peter I (and by no means in honor of the Bolshevik G.Petrovsky a monument to whom was cunningly placed nearby in 1970). The “Dynamo” stadium named after the famous soccer coach Valeriy Lobanovsky is situated close by.
The City Park is another charming locality of the city, where you can see in its alleys small, but lovely monuments to Lesia Ukrainka and Maria Zankovetska.
In summertime performers of classic, jazz or modern music from Ukraine and from abroad give concerts there on the open stage. In the past the park was named Czar’s park.
Mariinsky Palace is another adornment of Kyiv. This masterpiece by B. Rastrelli was part of the project that included St. Andrew’s Church and envisaged the creation in Kyiv of structures for imperial visits. It was built from 1744 through 1752. The baroque palace served as a residence for VIPs visiting Kyiv, from
Catherine II to Field Marshal Kutuzov. In 1819 the palace was damaged badly by fire, and was restored only half a century later. At beginning 20 th century the palace was given the name Mariinsky in honor of Empress Maria Aleksandrovna who cared for its restoration. Today the former imperial residence serves for official receptions and banquets of the higher state level. The park around the palace is also called Mariinsky.
Beside the palace there is the building of Verkhovna Rada (the Supreme Council) built in the 1930 s. It was there that independence of Ukraine was declared, Constitution adopted, and President Yuschenko inaugurated. It is the seat of people’s deputies determining the fate of the country.
Almost in front of it there is another stronghold of power, the building of the Cabinet of Ministers, built also in Stalin’s time. It is a real temple of totalitarianism – gray, gigantic in size, with a Cyclopean colonnade – any Pharaoh would have been bursting with envy.
Further in the depth of Lypky, in Instytutska Street, there is the magnificent neo-Renaissance building of the National Bank (1902-1905, two upper stories were added in 1934). Not far away, in Bankova Street, there is the majestic building of the Administration of the President of Ukraine (in Soviet time headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Ukrainian SSR). Pechersky Lypky is one of the most interesting districts of the city noteworthy for many other architectural relics. In the past this picturesque locality was called Klov; today this name has been preserved by the wonderful baroque 18 th century Klovsky Palace located in Pylyp Orlyk Street. One day there was a linden grove there, which gave a new name to the area (“Lypky” is derived from the word”lypa”=linden). It appeared in the 19 th century, when the grove was cut down to make room for villas resembling palaces and fairy-tale castles, and little estates with parks built by Kyiv aristocracy in the new fashionable district. Many of them have been preserved to our time: “Building with Caryatids,” “Chocolate Building,”the”House of Weeping Widow”… Similar masterpieces can be hardly enumerated: almost every building in Lypska, Shovkovychna, and Pylyp Orlyk streets is a work of art. However, the best known among them is the “Building with Chimeras,” which is located opposite the President’s palace. Its architect, Vladislav Gorodecki, was the author of dozens of brilliant works in Ukraine, Poland, and Iran, among them the Roman-Catholic Church of St. Nicholas, the National Art Museum, and the aforementioned Karaite praying house in Kyiv, the railway station and the palace of the Shah of Iran… However, he didn’t have a home of his own until he was forty. The construction of his house he turned into another adventure story: to begin with, he chose a steep slope, which in the opinion of specialists was absolutely unfit for any kind of construction (an experienced colleague of his even made a bet with him, saying it was impossible); then he used quite a new building material – concrete; and, finally, turned the building itself into a chimerical tale in stone.
It took two years to raise the building. He was assisted by the famous Elio Sala, the author of animal sculptures, real and fantastic, and zoomorphic ornaments that decorated the facade. From the side of the street one can see only three stories, while in reality there are six – three other stories were cut into the slope; in order to secure the building’s safety on the dangerous slope 50 piles were driven into Kyiv’s perfidious ground. The interior was distinguished for ostentatious smartness: the architect reserved a modest ten-room apartment to himself; the remaining seven (on six floors!) were rented by the wealthiest citizens of Kyiv. Now the building is at the disposal of the Administration of the President.
The stairs descending beside Gorodecki’s house lead to Ivan Franko National Academic Ukrainian Drama Theater, one of the best theaters in Ukraine. In the quiet public garden near the theater there is a nice sculpture devoid of any pomposity; it represents the great actor of this theater, Mykola Yakovchenko, sitting on a bench in a natural pose, with his dachshund Fanfan beside.
Not far away, in the Passage, there is a similar monument: it shows a well-dressed, mustached gentleman sitting at a coffee table and smoking a pipe beside an old coffee-house; before him there is a coffee cup and his book “V.V.Gorodecki. In the Jungle of Africa.”
Gorodecki Street that starts from the theater leads down to Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square). Once there was Liadski Gate in this place through which Baty-khan’s horde burst into Kyiv in 1240. Today Maidan is known for different reasons. First it was the main scene of the “Orange Revolution” of 2004; second it is a place for concerts, various musical and political shows, round-the-clock and all-the-year-round, and youth festivals; third Maidan has the greatest density of monuments per hectare in the city. In Soviet time the only huge monument to Lenin in company of a soldier, sailor, and somebody else stood in the square. Today monuments are galore: to Kyi, Schek, Khoriv and their sister Lybid; to Cossack Mamay; the Independence memorial – a 60-meter high column with the statue of a woman on top, holding a branch of guilder-rose in her hands; a model of the historical Liadski Gate; a pseudo-baroque statue of the protector of Kyiv, Archangel Michael.
Many people do not like such a conglomeration of monuments. However, be that as it may, Maidan remains the center of important events in the capital.
Khreschatyk Street, the main thoroughfare of the city, has been changed to a large extent over the last few years. In the evening it is lit up with street lamps, advertisement hoardings, and windows of numerous shops. It is hard to believe that two hundred years ago it was an out-of-town water-logged waste ground, whoii- first clay-walled and wooden huts of petty bourgeoisie began to appear. By the end of the 19 th century it was already the main street of the city. In autumn 1941 Khreschatyk actually stopped to exist: mined beforehand its buildings were blown up by Soviet underground. Most of the buildings could not be restored, only a few, including the main department store, survived. After the war Khreschatyk was rebuilt in a pompous style, according to socialist conception of luxury: with colonnades, stucco-work, and numerous statues. Khreschatyk is the shortest metropolitan main street in Europe, being only 1200 meters long. At the same time it is perhaps the widest, in some places it is up to 130 meters wide. Ukrteleradio, Kyiv city counsel, and a great many offices, shops, restaurants, and coffee-houses are situated in Khreschatyk Street.
Prorizna Street with the Young Theater and a funny “monument” to Panikovsky, a character from the famous novel “The Golden Calf” by 1.1 If and Ye. Petrov, Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street with Lesia Ukrainka Russian Drama Theater, and T.Shevchenko Boulevard connect Khreschatyk with the Old town.
Bessarabska Square (Bessarabka) terminates Khreschatyk Street. In the 19 th century it was a market place trading in wines, fruits and tobacco from Bessarabia (present-day Moldova and southern Odesa oblast). Built in 1910-1912, the covered market is the richest (regarding the assortment of food products) and the most expensive market in present-day Kyiv. Before the revolution of 1917, beyond Bessarabka (Baseina and Shota Rustaveli streets) there was a Jewish quarter. There you will find the building of the Main synagogue, a monument to the writer Sholom-Aleikhem who lived there for a long time. There is a memorial plaque saying that Golda Meir, the future Prime Minister of Israel, was born there.
A few blocks of buildings upward and we get to Pechersk district again, where the building of a huge defensive citadel was started in 1831. The fortress was supposed to be the greatest in the world; there was even a project for an underground railway communicating numerous forts for transportation of soldiers and ammunition. It is said that Nicholas I was the author of the idea, and after his death construction work stopped. The idea itself smacked of paranoia – the nearest frontier was located hundreds of miles away… Finally the fortress turned into a prison and ammunition depot. Most of the structures of the uncompleted fortress have been preserved, and today it is an interesting museum. The acme of a tour around Pechersk district is certainly the famous Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.
This name was given to Kyiv by our ancestors. The inventory of Kyiv’s spiritual treasures always began with Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Numerous ordeals fell to its lot: it was ruined by the Mongol horde and communists, but remained the greatest sanctuary of the country for almost a thousand years.
Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, one of the best-known monasteries of the Orthodox world, was founded in 1051 by Reverends Anthony and Theodosius. The monastery quickly grew up and in the 12 th century it already assumed the name of Lavra (the title given to the most revered Orthodox monasteries).The main and first stone temple in the territory of Lavra – the Assumption Cathedral -was built in 1073-1089, other wonderful churches appeared later.
Historically Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra formed as an architectural complex of three parts: the upper Lavra, the Near Caves on the slope of a hill, and the Far Caves on another hill. It took 16 years to build the Assumption Cathedral. Many secrets of its builders have not been clued hitherto – their technology of producing thin bricks, extremely strong mortar (the only thing is known that they added white of egg). With time such walls turned into a real monolith.
In the 17 th century the cathedral was reconstructed in Ukrainian baroque. In April 1718 Lavra suffered heavily from a conflagration. The interior of the cathedral perished, with the exception of the holy icon delivered to Kyiv by Byzantine architects. The temple was restored in hetmanite or Mazepa’s baroque a few years later and has preserved its outward appearance to our time. The interior was decorated with murals on biblical themes and subjects from the history of Ukraine.
The iconostasis was carved by Hrigoriy Petrov and painted by Yakym Hlynsky.The holy gates were created by Mikhail Yurevych, icon settings, by Lavra goldsmiths, in particular by the famous Ivan Ravych. The church was decorated with sacred objects and relics anew. The Greek image of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the wonderworking icon of God’s Child – painted by an armless, mouth painting artist – were held in profound respect among the faithful.
Shortly after, in 1731-1734, the Great Lavra Bell Tower was raised beside the cathedral. Its founder, Johann Gotfried Schadel, considered the tower the highest masterpiece of his creations. It is 96 meters high and is the symbol of Ukrainian capital city. They say the bell tower has bent and is slowly falling. It really inclined for 62 cm. (obviously the impact of the Dnieper quick ground), however, this inclination has remained unchanged for a long time.
Visiting the Caves is the main aim for pilgrims who have been coming here for ages. Imperishable relics of many Pechersk saints are lying there, among them SS. Anthony and Theodosius, the healer Agapit, Nestor the chronicler, the epic hero Illia Muromets and many others. The total number of burial places with imperishable relics is one hundred and eighteen (according to other data – one hundred and sixty).
The sanctuary on the slopes of the Dnieper experienced the ordeals of the previous century. In the late 1920s the Bolsheviks closed the monastery and plundered it. On November 3,1941, during Nazi occupation, the Assumption Cathedral was blown up under rather enigmatical circumstances. In Soviet time the Germans were accused of this crime. Today, however, thue uk-many proofs to the effect that the cathedral, as well as Khreschatyk Street, was blown up by Soviet underground (in order to annihilate several Nazi leaders during reciting the liturgy).
In 1988-1990, after a long post-war difficult life, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was returned to the Church after all. In 1999 a grandiose reconstruction of the Assumption Cathedral was started. It was completed two years later, acquiring the outward appearance of the 18 th century.
Among other historical relics of the Upper Lavra and the Near Caves there are the Trinity Gate Church, St. Nicholas Church, and the Church of All Saints with the Economic gate (all the churches were restored at the expense of Ivan (vlazepa).The Refectory Church (of a later date) is noted for the fact that nearby its walls there are the graves of the Cossack chieftains Iskra and Kochubey, and Peter Stolypin, Prime-minister under Nicholas II (Iskra and Kochubey informed Peter I of Mazepa’a negotiations with the Sweeds, and Mazepa executed the informers).The main temple of the Near Caves is the little three-domed Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Several unique underground churches are located in the territory of the Near Caves as well.
The Far Caves are also known for their burial okaces, underground churches and a picturesque architectural ensemble-the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin (1696) and the Kovnir bell tower (named so in honor of its builder, the serf architect Kovnir). This 42-meter-high structure is justly considered one of the best masterpieces of Ukrainian baroque.
A number of museums are located in old monastery buildings -the most interesting of them being the Museum of Historical Treasures. Its rich collection is known world-wide for its famous Scythian gold pectoral. Other Lavra museums are also worthy of notice. Quite nearby, behind the monastery walls, there is the old Church of our Savior at Berestove, which became the burial-vault of Prince Yuriy Dolgorukyi, the founder of Moscow killed by the boyars in Kyiv he had seized. “Berestove” was the name of the wooden country-castle of Kyiv princes.
Not far away from Lavra, on the Dnieper slopes, there was buitt a huge complex of the Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War with a gigantic metal statue of”Motherland.”This monument is perhaps the most unpopular with Kyivites – beside the golden domes of the Lavra temples this coarse “woman with a sword” (the politest nickname of many others) looks gross and out of place. At the same time the recently renewed museum exhibition is very interesting, and a few years ago an international jury recognized it the most original military museum in Europe.
In front of the Holy Gates, the main entrance to Lavra, there are the premises of the Old Arsenal and some other neighboring buildings, where there has been started a project driven by too much ambition, under the name of “Art Arsenal.” It will be a cultural center containing museums, various expositions, a library, etc. However, this megaproject is rather far from completion.
On the Dnieper slopes our trip comes to the end. Unfortunately, many interesting and beautiful sights remained beyond the borders of our itineraries.