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Pechersk Lavra

Situated on a hill overlooking the Dnieper river, the ancient Orthodox monastery of Pechersk Lavra, also known as the “cave monastery”, is both a National Cultural Preserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (together with Saint Sophia Cathedral). The nearest metro stops are Pecherska and Arsenalna.

The foundation of the sacred place is credited to an Orthodox monk of the early 11th century named Anthony. He had been coming from Greece, but was originally from the Kievan Rus and upon his return home, he had settled in a cave here and soon attracted a flock of disciples, thus creating a religious community. Iziaslav I., Grand Prince of Kiev, later gave Anthony’s followers the whole mount the caves were located on as a present. Upon receiving this gift, the monks started constructing several buildings to accommodate a monastery, starting with a cathedral. Over time, Pechersk Lavra has grown considerably and today, it takes quite a while and solid walking shoes to discover all there is to see. Since the last years of the Soviet Union, the monastery has been in clerical use again and today, there are again monks living in the caves of Pechersk Lavra. 

Kiev Pechersk Lavra

 

 

Among the buildings worth seeing on the perimeter is the Cathedral of the Dormition. This is the building occupying the space the original cathedral from 1073 had. After having been rebuilt in Ukrainian Baroque style in the 18th century, it was deliberately destroyed by the Nazi occupants in 1941 and rebuilt to reflect the baroque architecture as closely as possible in the 1990s. The iconic images on the white facades of the Cathedral are notable, as well as the gilded cupolas and ornaments around the windows.  

The first church building visitors will encounter however is the Gate Church of the Trinity, originally built in 1108 atop the actual gates and many times reconstructed and remodeled since then. This structure is adorned with a light blue facade and frescoes on the outside. It has one large golden dome with a large cross on top. Its main purpose was to aid in protecting the monastery - there are rooms for guards right inside the entrance - but for a while, it was the main church of the complex, when the Cathedral of the Dormition had been unusable. The paintings inside the building mostly are from the middle of the 18th century, when the monastery’s artists took care of providing artwork for the interior. Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Church of the Saviour

There are numerous other churches spread over the entire area. Another example is the All Saints Church, whose interior walls have been painted by art students in the early 20th century. Further of note is the Church of the Savior, recognizable by its golden domes on green roofs. Being located outside of the monastery fortifications, it is not technically a part of Pechersk Lavra, but belongs to the World Heritage site. In fact, it used to be a monastery of its own. It was originally constructed in the early 12th century, a few remains of that time are still in place. Especially noteworthy is the inside of the church, where bright-colored, large frescoes cover all walls and the ceiling.   

Pechersk Lavra also contains one of the most striking elements of the Kiev skyline. The Great Lavra Bell Tower stands almost 97 meters tall, including the cross on top of the gilded dome and was constructed 1731-1745. The tower consists of four stories, each becoming smaller in diameter, with the top three adorned with columns. The bells are located on the third tier, where there is also an observation platform affording a nice view of the city and the river. Remarkably, the tower was mostly unharmed when the nearby Dormition Cathedral was destructed in 1941.

As the whole Pechersk Lavra area is very large and not always easy to navigate - especially for foreigners without Ukrainian or Russian language skills, it is recommendable to book a guide when paying admission fee. The rates for both admission and guided tour are, as compared to Western standards, very low and it pays to have all attractions explained.

 

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