Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra Tour (Self Guided), Kiev

Some sources say that Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra (Sichnevogo Povstannya Street, 25) was initiated in 1051, when Reverend Anthony arrived there. He, together with some of his followers, built an entire complex composed of caves and monasteries. When the monks moved to a monastery which is on Lavra's territory, the caves were utilized as burial sites. Nowadays it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra Tour Map

Guide Name: Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra Tour
Guide Location: Ukraine » Kiev (See other walking tours in Kiev)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: Cathy
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Complex of Southern Gate of Pechersk
  • Refectory Church
  • Holy Dormition Cathedral
  • Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures
  • Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art
  • Great Lavra Bell Tower
  • The Holy Trinity Church
  • All-Saints Church
  • Church of the Saviour at Berestove
Complex of Southern Gate of Pechersk

1) Complex of Southern Gate of Pechersk

The Complex of Southern Gate of Pechersk is an extremely interesting complex of religious structures, dating to various periods, and museums, highlighting different aspects of the Ukrainian history and culture. The most important part of the complex is, by far, the Pecherska Lavra Monastery - a religious site of the 11th century, established circa 1051, by the monks who lived in the so-called Far Caves. The monastery, which is also the residence of the Metropolitan of Kiev, is considered to be the most important religious place in Ukraine. Other buildings within the complex include the Church of the Conception of St. Anne, built in 1679, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, built in 1696, and the Exaltation of the Vivifying Cross Church, built in 1700.

The Debosquette Wall, a fortification wall built for protection in the 18th century, and the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary are the two other buildings forming the Complex of the Southern Gate of Pechersk.

The complex extends over a relatively large area of uneven terrain to walk on which comfortable hiking shoes might be necessary. Women must also wear head scarves when entering the churches.
Refectory Church

2) Refectory Church (must see)

The Refectory Church is a part of the Pechersk Lavra Historic-Cultural Preserve and has a dual function - a refectory for monks of the Pechersk Lavra Monastery and for the adjoining church of the Saints Theodosius and Anthony. The Refectory Church was built in 1893-1895, at which time over a thousand monks inhabited the monastery.

The outside architecture shows elements of antique Byzantine style (large, sturdy dome), while the marble icons, decorating the interior, are Neoclassic. The interior paintings, done by a group of local painters under the leadership of Ivan Yizhakevych, reflect Modernist influences.

Imperial Russia's Prime Minister, Pyotr Stolypin, assassinated in Kiev in 1911, was buried at the Pechersk Lavra with the religious service held at the Refectory Church.

The location offers visitors spectacular views of the Far and Near caves, as well as of the nearby Dnieper river. Shadows of the city, stretching over the opposite bank, add more charm to the setting.
Holy Dormition Cathedral

3) Holy Dormition Cathedral (must see)

Considered the most important religious site in Kiev, the Holy Dormition Cathedral is a part of the Pechersk Lavra Historic-Cultural Preserve and was declared world heritage site by UNESCO in 1991.

The beginning of monkhood in Kiev is closely associated with this place. One of the caves at the Pechersk Lavra Monastery was once home of the Christian priest Illarionov who in 1051 became the Metropolitan of Kiev. After he vacated the cave, it was occupied by Venerable Anthony, an ascetic who sought isolation in order to serve God without any distraction. Despite his intention, the presence of Anthony soon became obvious and started to draw people like a magnet. Some of these people came for an advice, others sought to become monks themselves. Eventually, a community of people dedicated to God was established. At some point, Anthony left the caves for an isolated dwelling on the opposite hill (known today as the Near Caves), while other monks remained in the old settlement (the Far Caves) and gradually organized themselves into a community with strict regulations, residential quarters and places of worship. The Holy Dormition Cathedral was the first praying facility built by the monks, sometime between 1062 and 1074. The wooden structure was destroyed in the following century by foreign invaders. The church was rebuilt in 1470, by Prince Semen Olegovich, only to be destroyed again in 1482. Over the centuries, the monks, inhabiting the caves, have endured many hardships - devastating invasions, property expropriation and persecution. After the 1980s, little by little, life at the monastery got back to norm with the help of the government. In 2000, the Holy Dormition Cathedral was inaugurated and the monastic life was once again strengthened. Today, the monks are preoccupied with ensuring that the prayer here doesn't stop ever again.
Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures

4) Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures (must see)

The Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures, part of the National Historical Museum, is located inside the Pechersk Lavra Monastery. Also known as the Museum of Scythian Gold, this is one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in the city. Its exhibits are extremely valuable - cast in gold, platinum and silver, and inlaid with precious stones: sapphires, emeralds, pearls and rubies.

Tourists can admire the collection of Scythian artefacts discovered at the Tolstaya grave; among them are decorated swords, gold plates and jewels. By far the most spectacular exhibit on display is the "Scythian pectoral", a breast decoration made of gold and depicting scenes of Scythian life in much detail. The pectoral weights about 1 kg and is dated 4th–3rd century B.C.

Matching it in importance is the Glodoskiy treasure, believed to have belonged to the nomadic tribes which invaded the country in the 7th-8th centuries. It contains 1kg of silver and 2.5kg of gold items. The treasure was accidentally discovered by a schoolboy in the Kirovograd region.

Other exhibits include religious artefacts: mitres, and religious books decorated with precious stones. Gold and silver-clad icons complete the 14th–16th century religious collection. Precious items from all over Ukraine and Russia presented in the museum, alongside exhibits from Western Europe, offer visitors a broad palette of styles to enjoy.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 10 am - 5 pm
Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art

5) Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art (must see)

The Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art is one of the largest museums in Kiev, featuring over 75 thousand exhibits, spread across a 1,500 sq. metre space. Started as a department of the City Antiquity and Art Museum in 1899, the Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art Museum is now a stand-alone institution, part of the Pechersk Lavra Complex. It is housed in the former Metropolitan's residence and the Annunciation Church. The museum comprises exhibits made by local craftsmen, folk painters and artisans. The collection is divided into two main sections: one featuring objects dating before the 20th century; and the other displaying items from the Soviet and more recent periods.

The exhibits vary in terms of functionality and materials they are made of. Among them are textiles, embroideries, weaved carpets, different types of decorative sewing, leatherwork, painted icons, Easter eggs, wood and bone carvings, wood paintings, glassware and porcelain items. A special place has been given to local painters, Katerina Bilokur and Marija Primachenko. An extensive collection of Ukrainian folk costumes, dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, is exhibited permanently. Also deserves mention is the collection of painted fabrics. Although relatively small, compared to other sections of the museum, it contains artefacts from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, most of which are unique. The museum's collections are regularly updated. Temporary exhibits are also hosted, from time to time.

Operation hours: Monday, Wednesday - Sunday: 10 am - 6 pm
Great Lavra Bell Tower

6) Great Lavra Bell Tower (must see)

The Great Lavra Bell Tower is one of the most impressive elements of Kiev's skyline. With four tiers, each measuring 96.5 metres in height and seven metres in foundation, the Bell Tower is the main belfry of the Pechersk Lavra Historic-Cultural Preserve and its highest structure. It was built between 1731 and 1745 to a design by Johann Gottfried Schädel.

Each of its tiers is distinct. The first one is relatively simple, with eight metre thick walls to ensure a proper support. The second tier has 32 Doric columns; the third is decorated with 16, while the fourth one contains only eight columns. On the third tier is an observation platform from where visitors can admire a bird's eye view of the Ukrainian capital. Also there are bells, three of which (smaller ones) are originals that have survived since the 18th century. The fourth bell had to be replaced in 1903. The belfry's clock was engineered by A. Enodin, inspired by the Kremlin clock in Moscow. The bells chime every quarter of an hour, with an approximate 10 second precision.

The tower is topped by a golden gilded dome culminated by a Christian cross.
The Holy Trinity Church

7) The Holy Trinity Church (must see)

The Holy Trinity Church is located beside the Pechersk Lavra Gate. Apart from being an active place of worship, the church is acknowledged as an architectural and historic monument whose distinct design and beautifully painted walls largely add to its artistic value. The church was built in the 11th century, between 1106 and 1108. Initially, it was meant as a fortification structure, overseeing the Pechersk Lavra Gate. To ease access inside, at some point, a narthex was built along one of the walls. A remarkable piece of Kievan Rus architecture, the church was rather austere in appearance, well hidden behind the monastery walls.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the building endured thorough reconstruction, with its outer style changed to classical Ukrainian Baroque. The front walls were painted in oil and frescoes were added for decorative, as well as religious, purposes. In line with the frescoes, the iconostasis was also replaced with a new one, carved in lemon tree and gilded. Also at that time an impressive chandelier, with sixteen arms, was installed.

A monument of its time, the Holy Trinity Church is one of the most beautiful and authentic religious sights in Kiev.
All-Saints Church

8) All-Saints Church

The All Saints Church is a relatively small, Ukrainian Baroque temple situated near the Ekonomichna Brama (the Economy Gate) in Kiev. The church forms part of the Pechersk Lavra Historic-Cultural Preserve and, as such, represents great historical and artistic value.

It was built in 1696–1698 by Ivan Mazepa, hetman of Ukraine (governor second in command, after the monarch) and active nationalist. His generosity to the project afforded the All Saints Church lavish decoration by some of the best Ukrainian artists of the time. As a token of gratitude, the church bore Mazepa’s coat of arms on its façade until he was denounced by Imperial Russia as a traitor (for siding with the Swedes at the Battle of Poltava in 1709) and his coat of arms was replaced by an icon. The coat of arms returned to its place only in 1991, after Ukraine had gained independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

One of the masterpieces inside the church is the iconostasis, dating to 1741, carved in wood and gilded. In 1906, the church’s walls were redecorated by a group of 22 painters, led by Ivan Yizhakevych. The group succeeded in creating an integral mural painting which today can be admired by the church visitors. Several older paintings were also uncovered and restored.
Church of the Saviour at Berestove

9) Church of the Saviour at Berestove

The Church of the Saviour at Berestove is one of the oldest religious structures in Kiev, originally built around the 12th century AD. Historians say its construction was ordered by Vladimir Monomakh (1113–1125), ruler of Kievan Principality, and was the biggest religious site of the time in the city. It boasted three naves, same number of apses and reportedly three domes, too. The structure was grandiose and innovative in terms of both, presumably Gothic design and applied construction materials. The original church was ravaged by invading Mongols in 1240. In 1482, Khan Meñli I Giray took his toll and destroyed much of what was left of the building.

In 1640-1642, Orthodox Metropolitan Petro Mohyla rebuilt the church having incorporated its old western wall, which survived almost intact, into the new building. The church was further renovated and decorated in the 18th and then in early 19th centuries, having its style brought closer to proto-Baroque or the so-called Ukrainian Baroque. In 1909, the façade was cleansed to reveal original 12th century frescoes. In the 1970s, more 12th century frescoes were uncovered and restored.

The Church of the Saviour at Berestove forms part of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra Historic-Cultural Preserve which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991.

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