Monastery of Kiev Caves Tour, Kiev

Monastery of Kiev Caves Tour (Self Guided), Kiev

Some sources say that Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra (Monastery of Kiev Caves Tour) 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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Monastery of Kiev Caves Tour Map

Guide Name: Monastery of Kiev Caves Tour
Guide Location: Ukraine » Kiev (See other walking tours in Kiev)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: Cathy
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Gate Church of the Trinity
  • Great Lavra Bell Tower
  • Mykola Syadristy Micro-Miniatures Museum
  • Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art
  • Refectory Church
  • Holy Dormition Cathedral
  • Near Caves and Church of the Elevation of the Cross
  • Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures
  • All-Saints Church
  • Church of the Saviour at Berestove
Gate Church of the Trinity

1) Gate Church of the Trinity

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.
Great Lavra Bell Tower

2) Great Lavra Bell Tower

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.
Mykola Syadristy Micro-Miniatures Museum

3) Mykola Syadristy Micro-Miniatures Museum

The Museum of Micro-Miniatures in Kiev is unique in a sense that it features a collection of microscopic works created by a single man, Mykola Syadristy. And it's not surprising, since those able to “shoe a flea,” quite literally, do not come in numbers. The most striking part of these exhibits is that all of them are made by hand, using the technology customized for each and every item.

It is only here that you can find artifacts so tiny and manufactured with such a great precision. The presented miniatures are truly mind-boggling and can truly expand one’s vision of what human hand can do. Among these are the world's smallest working electrical motor – the size of 1/20 mm, which is almost 20 times smaller than a poppy seed; a rose branch 0.05 mm-thick inserted inside a human hair; a whole caravan of golden camels placed in the needle ear; or a fragment of the Oginski Polonaise orchestral score engraved on the glass chrysanthemum petal measuring only 2x5 mm.

Practically each of the art pieces here is one of a kind and impossible to imitate. Never mind imitating, seeing them as such, with the naked eye, is not possible either. Try hard as you can to make out without a microscope the beautiful bas-relief portrait of the ballerina Maya Plisetskaya placed on the small part of a cherry stone, 3x4 mm; or a windmill made from 203 golden parts, small enough to fit on half a poppy seed. These are just a few wonders displayed at this remarkable place in the Kiev Pechersky Lavra.
Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art

4) Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art

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.
Refectory Church

5) Refectory Church

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

6) 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.
Near Caves and Church of the Elevation of the Cross

7) Near Caves and Church of the Elevation of the Cross

The Near Caves or the Caves of Saint Anthony are historic caves and a network of tunnels of the medieval cave monastery of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv. The Near Caves have a total length of 383 metres and are 5 to 20 metres deep.

The Near Caves were founded when in 1057, Saint Varlaam was appointed as the first hegumen (abbot) of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra by Saint Anthony. Monk Anthony withdrew himself from the monastery and later settled on a new hill, where he dug out a new underground cell, now called the Near Caves.

The Near Caves contain the underground Church of Saint Anthony, the Church of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple, and the Saint Varlaam Church. The caves also have a total of 79 surviving burials, among them being Nestor the Chronicler, the icon artists Alipy and Grigory, the doctor Agapit, the prince-ascetic Nikolai Sviatosha, the holy martyr Kuksha, as well as the remains of the epic hero Ilya Muromets. During the examination of the remains, it was established that Ilya Muromets had died from a stab wound. According to a legend, a force of angels transported him from the place where he had died to the Lavra caverns.

The Near Cave's main temple is the Church of the Elevation of the Cross (Khrestovozdvizhenska), which was constructed in the Ukrainian Baroque style from 1700-1704. The church's carved icons of 1769 have survived to this day. From the 19th century, the church served as a burial vault for the Kyiv Metropolitans. The old refectory of the church is connected to the brother's cells, a Neoclassical style building with a four-column portico dating from the 1830s.

At the foot of the hill stands the Near Cave's belltower, which was designed and constructed by architect Stepan Kovnir in 1760. Also, the headstones of a number of well-known Kyivans can be seen in front of the Khrestovozdvizhenska Church, namely, the headstone of the general-governor Aleksandr Bezak, which was designed by architect Mikhail Ikonnikov in 1860).

Beneath the Near Caverns, two old draw-wells were recently discovered. According to the legend one of them was dug by Saint Anthony and the other by his best-known disciple, Theodosius of Kyiv. Beside the draw-wells, a chapel was built, now known as the Church of the Life-Giving Spring, built in honour of the Icon of the Mother God.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures

8) Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures

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.
All-Saints Church

9) 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

10) 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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