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Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra
Old postcard. Picture by Yaroslav Kuznetsov

There are many Ukrainian lands loved by religious people. One such sanctuary is the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, whose domes have been overlooking the slopes of the Dnipro for a thousand years. Do you want to see a shoed flea, ancient manuscripts, Scythian gold and theatre costumes surrounded by magnificent baroque architecture? Then welcome to Lavra!

Architectural Pride of Ukraine

According to legends, Pechersk Lavra was founded in caves looking over the Dnipro River in 1051 by Venerable Anthony. Later, under Venerable Theodosius, a wooden monastery was built. The cave monastery quickly became famous and in the 12th century it attained the status of Lavra (head monastery in Greek). Princes and nobles came here to pray. It was the centre of chronicle writing: chroniclers Nestor, Silvestre and Nikon all worked here. The history of Kyiv would be much less documented without Kyiv-Pechersk Patericon (13th century).

With increase in importance, threats of attack grew. At the end of the 12th century, defence walls were built around the monastery. Unfortunately, they did not stop Khan Batyi: in 1240, Lavra was destroyed. The walls and towers of the monastery remaining today, date from 1698-1701. The Great Lavra Bell tower, 96.5 metres high, (1731-1745) looms over Kyiv proudly. Kyiv’s then-highest structure was built according to plans by architect Johann G. Schädel from 1731 to 1744.

In the course of time, the authority of the monastery grew. In the 18th century, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was a mini-state: a number of monasteries in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus were subordinated to it. Once, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra owned three cities, seven towns, 200 villages and hamlets, more than 70 thousands serfs, two paper factories, two farms, eleven brickyards, six glass factories and more than 160 distilleries throughout Ukraine.


In 1926, Lavra was converted into a state history and culture museum, and masses stopped being celebrated. The biggest loss from Soviet times was the Assumption Cathedral (1073-1077) bombed in November 1941. The renovation of the Cave Monastery started in 1988.


Since 1990, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 1996 the reserve was decreed a national monument. Trinity Church, the Assumption Cathedral (renovated in 2000), the Refectory Church and the labyrinth of the Near and Far Caves, with their relics of saints, are real masterpieces of world architecture.

A few words about the Near and the Far Caves of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. First mentioned in 1051, they are a complex system of underground tunnels 2 to 2,5 metres high and up to 1,5 metres wide. The tunnels accessible to visitors in the Near Caves are 228 m long, in the Far Caves, 293 m long. There are three underground churches in each of the labyrinths.

The reserve includes the ancient church of the Saviour on Berestov where archaeologists found 78 tombs, including that of the son of Prince Volodymyr Monomakh: Kyiv Grand Prince Yuriy Dolgorukyi, the founder of Moscow.


Museum Town

And what about the reserve museums! As early as 1922, a Museum of Cult and Household was created in Lavra. Unfortunately, valuables from Lavra churches were not included in the museum fund: they were deported to museum collections in Moscow and St.-Petersburg. After the war, a town of museums developed on the territory of the monastery. For example, the State Museum of Books and Printing of Ukraine (open since 1975), is located on the premises of Kyiv’s first printing house from the 17th century. Its 3 000 exhibits include rare ancient printed books and manuscripts, including Epistles and Alphabets from 1574, the Ostrog Bible from 1581, with its ancient covers decorated with precious stones and metals.

The Lavra Museum of Microminiatures by Mykola Syadristy is unique. The craftsman produced more than one hundred miniatures with tools he created. There is a rose 0,05mm thick inside a hair, the world’s smallest chess piece on the edge of a pin and a flea with golden shoes: these are real wonders! Of course, the exhibits can be seen only through microscopes.

No woman will stay indifferent to the Museum of Historic Treasures of Ukraine. In the nine halls of the building dating from the 18th century you see golden jewellery and adornments from Scythian mounds, medieval silver bowls, pearl and emerald necklaces, earrings with gem pendants, ancient coins and medals... The Scythes were probably very strong: it is not easy to wear gold-plated clothes. Some required more than 500 golden plates, and there were also bracelets, shoes embroidered with gold, golden dishes and gilded weapons. The main museum’s treasure is a golden Pectoral from the 4th century B.C. (a chest adornment of a Scythian king). This symbol of ancient Ukraine weighs 1 kg 150 g!

Despite any attempt, it is not possible to get see all the treasures of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in one day. This is good: it gives a reason to return often!



Photo by Yaroslav Kuznetsov
Photo by Yaroslav Kuznetsov

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra of the Holy Assumption: 21 I. Mazepy Str., Kyiv, tel.: +38044 290 4648; www.lavra.kiev.ua. Open daily from 9:00 to 19:00. Entry: adults UAH20, students UAH10. Tickets to each museum are sold separately.


Museum of Microminiatures: tel.: +38044 290 1396, www.microart.kiev.ua/en/galery.html.


Museum of Historic Treasures of Ukraine: tel.: +38044 290 1396. Open daily 10:00 – 16:45, except Monday. Entry: UAH12.


State museum of books and printing: tel.: +38044 290 2210. Open daily 10:00 to 18:00 except Tuesday. Entry: UAH10.


Museum of Ukrainian decorative arts: tel.: +38044 254 3642, www.mundm.iatp.org.ua. Open 10:00 to 17:00 except Tuesday. Entry: UAH10.

Getting around: Nearest metro: “Arsenalna”. You can also take bus #24, trolley #38, or microbuses # 406, 520, or 527.



UIA offers non-stop daily flights to Kyiv from most of Western Europe’s largest cities. Panorama Tours offers packages to Kyiv. For details, please visit www.panorama-tours.eu or contact us at reservations@panorama-tours.com.ua.

Buy tickets on line at www.flyUIA.com. For more information, call us in Kyiv at +380 44 581 5050.

KyivStar, MTC, Life:) and Beeline cellular service subscribers can dial 566. The call costs UAH 1 per minute for KyivStar and Life:) subscribers, UAH 0,95 per minute for Beeline subscribers and is billed as a call to a city phone for MTC subscribers.


© Blacky

© Panorama Magazine


More Old Postcards

Lavra's Gate

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