Kiev's Historical Churches (Self Guided), Kiev

Kiev is a city with many beautiful and unique churches and monasteries. Most of them are Orthodox and are noteworthy as grand architectural monuments -- this being one of the differences between the Orthodoxy and other religions. The interiors of the Kiev churches are just as well of a rare beauty and richness.
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Kiev's Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Kiev's Historical Churches
Guide Location: Ukraine » Kiev (See other walking tours in Kiev)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 4 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.6 Km or 5.3 Miles
Author: Cathy
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Saint Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral
  • Cathedral of Prelate Metropolitan Michael of Kiev
  • Saint Catherine's German Lutheran Church
  • Saint Volodymyr's Cathedral
  • Saint Sophia's Cathedral
  • Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral and Monastery
  • Saint Andrew's Church
  • Frolovsky Monastery of Kiev
  • Church of the Theotokos of Pyrogoshcha
  • The Church of the Nativity of Christ
Saint Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral

1) Saint Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral

Saint Nicholas' Cathedral in Kiev is a Roman Catholic temple, second best-known after Alexandr’s Cathedral (built in 1842). This Gothic style temple was built in commemoration of Tsar Nicolai II’s visit to Kiev. The building is fronted by two 60 metre (197 feet) towers with delicate carvings in artificial stone and beautifully coloured glass windows. The cathedral is the first to be built using the bore-and-stuffed piles for added stability on the uneven and unstable Kiev surface. A three story house to the left shows the same architectural style. It used to accommodate the clergy who served at the cathedral.

The construction of Saint Nicholas' started in 1898 and lasted until 1909, upon which the cathedral was inaugurated and got its name. St. Nicholas' had functioned as a religious site until 1938, when the Soviet government ordered its closure and converted the building into the NKVD (security service, preceded the KGB) headquarters. During 1978-1980, the cathedral underwent profound restoration and was turned into the National House of Organ and Chamber Music of Ukraine.

As of 1992, it has hosted various concerts, cultural events and religious masses. The building is still affiliated with the Kiev Municipal Department of Culture, yet the Roman Catholic Church seeks to have it returned to the rightful owner, which is the local Latin rite Roman Catholic community.
Cathedral of Prelate Metropolitan Michael of Kiev

2) Cathedral of Prelate Metropolitan Michael of Kiev

Michael of Kiev was the first Ukrainian metropolitan of the Orthodox Church. He arrived in Ukraine from Russia in 988 to baptise pagans, preach the Bible, and spread the name of God on the newly acquired Russian lands. Michael is credited with building schools and churches all over the current Ukraine and, after his death in 992, was sanctified.

The Cathedral of Prelate Metropolitan Michael of Kiev was built in 1895 as a chapel for the Alexander Hospital, which was built for the poor through public subscription in 1874. Its centre altar was dedicated to Michael of Kiev, while the other two chapels bore the names of Zechariah and Elizabeth. After the 1917 Revolution, the cathedral was closed and the hospital was nationalized and renamed after the Great October Socialist Revolution. On the Easter Day of 1930, the building was destroyed. Its foundation and basement are the only parts that have survived until today. The cathedral’s restoration began in the year 2000 and was completed in 2002.
Saint Catherine's German Lutheran Church

3) Saint Catherine's German Lutheran Church

Saint Catherine's German Lutheran Church was erected in 1857, but was closed down in 1938. For for the next sixty years, it was being used for different purposes, from depot to museum. In 1998 the Church was finally returned to the German Lutheran congregation. Today, this is the largest German Lutheran Church in Ukraine. It can hold up to six hundred people.
Saint Volodymyr's Cathedral

4) Saint Volodymyr's Cathedral (must see)

Saint Volodymyr’s Cathedral is a complex architectonic monument and important religious site in Kiev. Recognized as the “mother church” by adepts of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, St. Volodymyr’s (aka St. Vladimir’s) Cathedral is one of the two most important cathedrals in the city.

The imposing building commemorates 900 years of Christianity in Ukraine. The cathedral's plan, featuring 13 cupolas, was first laid out on paper in 1852. However, due to lack of funds, the architects were confined to just seven cupolas, yet afforded a considerably larger space. Designed in Byzantine style, the cathedral was finished in 1859. Painting of the interior and finishing works took another 37 years. The cathedral was finally opened to the public in 1882 and in 1896 was presented to the Russian Emperor, Nicolas II, and his wife.

Saint Volodymyr’s is an impressive architectural site, topped with seven cupolas of which the tallest one rises to 49 metres. The interior is rich with numerous mosaics, beautifully crafted by Venetian artists. The frescoes were made by prominent Russian painters: V. Kotarbinsky, M. Pymonenko, M. Vrubel, S. Kostenko, V. Vasnetsov and V. Zamyraylo, who used the opportunity to reveal their talent in full splendour on the walls of the cathedral under the guidance of Professor A. Prakhov. The "Holy Mother of God", painted on the alter apse by V. Vasnetsov, is rightfully considered as the world's masterpiece.
Saint Sophia's Cathedral

5) Saint Sophia's Cathedral (must see)

Saint Sophia’s Cathedral is one of the most important cultural, religious and architectural landmarks of Kiev. Built in the 11th century (1011 or 1037, according to various sources), the cathedral was inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and was meant to become a regional centre of Christianity. Initially, the cathedral had five naves and two circling galleries. It was badly damaged during Tatar invasions in the Middle Ages and later, in 1707, was rebuilt in a Byzantine style, most common among the Ukrainian orthodox churches. Over the centuries afterwards, Saint Sophia’s underwent many restorations and improvements.

Today, it boasts 13 cupolas and an impressive interior. Most of the mosaics and frescoes on the inside date back to the 11th century and depict religious and laic scenes, including those featuring Kiev's Prince Yaroslav and his family. The scenes are displayed in an ascending order, with the largest ones and most important from religious standpoint appearing on the domes. About 300 graffiti originated in the medieval period have been uncovered on the cathedral's walls during restorations, providing historians with an invaluable source of information about political and social life of that period.

The cathedral is now a museum and a cultural venue. Because of the tensions between two Ukrainian orthodox rites, it is temporarily not used for religious service. The cathedral was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, along with the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, in 1990.
Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral and Monastery

6) Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral and Monastery (must see)

Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral, one of the city's most impressive architectural monuments, has a rich and tumultuous history. Its foundation was laid in 1108, by the sons of Grand Duke of Kiev, Izyaslav Yaroslavovich. In 1113, the Byzantine style cathedral was inaugurated under the aegis of Demetrius’ Monastery. A series of Mongol attacks in the later centuries inflicted great damage upon the cathedral so that by the 15th century it was in much need of repair. In 1495, the cathedral was renamed Saint Michael's in homage to Archangel Michael, the spiritual patron of Kiev.

Over the course of 18th century restorations, the cathedral was enlarged and its exterior remade into Baroque style. Partially because of that and also due to the Soviet authorities' often unfavourable stance on Christianity, the cathedral was sentenced to demolition in 1934. The edifice was fully restored in 1990, based on the old images and partially relying of the preserved original foundation. The architecture and the interior decorations resemble the original. Some of the old cathedral's relics, such as paintings, mosaics, etc., have been restored or returned to the new building.

Other than the cathedral itself, Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed complex includes a number of religious sites, namely: the Economy Gate (built in 1790), the Bell Tower (1716-1719), and the Refectory of St. John the Divine (1713).
Saint Andrew's Church

7) Saint Andrew's Church (must see)

Overlooking the old neighbourhood of Podil from the top of Andriyivsky Hill, Saint Andrew’s Church is one of the most splendid pieces of Baroque architecture in Kiev. It was built between 1747 and 1754 by a team of foreign and local architects, led by Ivan Michurin, to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The church was meant as a private temple for Russian Empress Elizabeth and thus had no parish or bells to call to masses.

Because of its location on the hill, the church is placed atop a two story stylobate which also acts as a foundation for the building. Shaped as a cross, Saint Andrew’s has one dome and five decorative spires. The interior and exterior were finished simultaneously, thus adding unity to the whole ensemble.

Right from its inauguration and until the recent times, Saint Andrew’s has endured many problems; among them losing the original cupolas to a violent storm in 1815 and closure by the Soviets in the 1930s. In 1992, the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church took over the stylobate, and then assumed a complete ownership of the building on its 255th anniversary. Today, services are still held inside the church but at irregular times.
Frolovsky Monastery of Kiev

8) Frolovsky Monastery of Kiev

The Florovski Monastery is a religious institution and a historic monument of the 15th century. Some historians claim that it already had been in place by the time Mengli Giray, Khan of Crimea, devastated Kiev in 1482. Still, the first written document attesting to the convent’s existence is dated circa the mid 16th century, and was left by Sigismund II Augustus, the King of Poland. Initially, the monastery’s church was dedicated to martyrs Florus and Laurus. In 1711, Emperor of Russia Peter I united the Florovsky monastery with the Ascension Convent. A hundred years later, a violent fire destroyed part of the complex, leaving it in a great need of repair. The latter was done by architect Andriy Melensky. In 1824 the façade was replenished with Ionic columns, added to accentuate the classic style and attain more elegance. In the same year, the 1740 bell tower was rebuilt to include three stories. The first and the second floors were rectangular, but the third one was made round and topped by a dome-shaped roof.

The monastery is still functional and represents an interesting sight for tourists interested in religion and architecture. The tomb of nun Helen, the Icons of Mother of God of Kazan, and numerous ancient religious artefacts, along with the unique interior decoration, make the monastery a definite “must see” for those visiting Kiev.
Church of the Theotokos of Pyrogoshcha

9) Church of the Theotokos of Pyrogoshcha

The Church of the Theotokos of Pyrogoshcha is a small temple in the Podil district of Kiev. Just like many other local churches, it has gone through a series of misfortunes. Built in 1132-1136, it was the first stone church in the area. Its walls were decorated by frescoes and the floors covered with flagstone mosaic.

In the Middle Ages, the church was a place for education and study, a hospital for the poor, and then an archive.

In the course of time, it has sustained many reconstructions, the most notable of which took place in the early 17th century, done by Italian architect Brachi. In the 1870s, there was another restoration, by architect Gryhorovych-Barskyi, which gave the church its Baroque style appearance, and then one more in the 19th century, which brought classicist elements to the ensemble. The most recent renovation took place in 1998.
The Church of the Nativity of Christ

10) The Church of the Nativity of Christ

Sitting on the bank of the river Dnieper in the Podil district, the Church of the Nativity of Christ is an eye catcher replete with elaborate elements and elegant lines. Relatively small, as compared to other religious buildings in Kiev, this church is a must see for anyone who can appreciate a 19th century edifice carefully restored to the original splendour.

The ground on which the church stands today has a long history and seen many religious structures going up and down at the hands of foreign barbarians and local revolutionaries.

The first stone church in this place (preceded by many wooden churches claimed by fires) was reportedly built in 1717 by Roman Tykhonovych, then governor of Kiev. Quite soon it proved too small for a growing community and, in 1744, had to be enlarged, which was again not quite enough. The whole structure was pulled down in the early 19th century and built anew. The new church went down in history as the one in which the body of Taras Shevchenko, prominent Ukrainian poet, was laid for a few hours en route to his burial place in the town of Kaniv. That church was also demolished in the 1930s together with many other religious buildings in Kiev.

In 2002, the Church of the Nativity of Christ was restored by a group of architects under the guidance of Yury Losytsky, based on the original blueprints created by Andriy Melensky.

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