The Churches of Kiev

Kiev Travel Blog

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Architecture made popular after an attempted rape, Kiev

We spent this morning on the train from the Crimea to Kiev. Kiev is the capital of the Ukraine, and is a surprisingly vibrant and wealthy. 5 million people live in Kiev (although only 2.6 million are registered), giving it 10% of the Ukrainian population. The city is ancient, once the capital of Kievian Rus 1000 years ago, ruling over a swathe of Eastern Europe from the Baltics to the Black Sea, but it was built of wood and burnt down frequently, so almost nothing is left of the original city. The city was also quite small until recently (with 70 000 people in 1834), and only grew large as a sugar refining city in the 1840s. Due to its 778 day occupation by the Nazis in WWII it was designated a Soviet Hero City.


In the afternoon, after arriving, we were taken on a city tour.

St Sophia, Kiev
We started with Kiev National University, founded in 1834. The main building is painted dark red, the legend is that it is painted red with shame for the cruelty of the Tsars after Alexander III exiled 183 students from Kiev to Siberia for protesting.


From the national university we went to St Sophia, built from 1017 to 1031 CE. It is no longer a functional church, being turned into a national museum in 1934, although they have a service in it once a year on August 24th for independence day. The church is a world heritage site due to the 11th century paintings they recovered inside, under layers of newer paintings, with 3000m2, more than any other church. The complex also includes the bell tower, built in the 18th century during the major renovation of St Sophia, and “Little Sophia” a small church that was the one most commonly used, as St Sophia itself was too cold.

The square in front of St Sophia, Kiev
The outside of St Sophia was extensively modified in the 1630s, from the original Byzantine style (it was once built as a copy of Istanbul’s Ay Sophia, but three times smaller) to the current baroque style. Inside, along with the 11th century paintings, we can see scratches on the walls, done by bored parishioners listening to a long service in a language they didn’t understand (Old Slavic) while standing up – this graffiti has actually been of great value in historic cultural and linguistic studies. Saint Sophia includes the sarcophagus of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (978 to 1056). The bones have been confirmed as his by scratch marks on his ribs and a broken hand (gained during battle) and the characteristic bone formations showing that he was lame. His skull, however, is missing, as it was lent to a sculptor (Gerasimov) to recreate his facial image, who was deported to Siberia.


From St Sophia we walked down to St Michael’s, the church facing St Sophia down a long boulevard.

Monument to the Ukrainian leader who made the Ukraine subservent to Russia in order to fuel a pointless war against Romania and Turkey
St Michael’s was built in 1108, but later completely destroyed. It was rebuilt from 1996 to 2000. The best thing about St Michael’s is the colour, a perfect sky blue. The builders wanted it painted in traditional Ukrainian blue, a washed out periwinkle blue, for which they usually paint on sky blue and let it fade for one year. However for St Michael’s they bought high quality sky blue paint from Germany, which has not faded at all.


After St Michael’s we walked down to St Andrei’s and Andriyivsky Uzviv, and then caught a bus to a look out over Kiev. The look out is a monument to the unification of Russia and Ukraine, with a steel arch and a statue commemorating Homo soveticus, now complete with a Matrix amusement ride.

St Michael's
From the lookout we could see many of the 86 parks of Kiev, including the large park on an island of the Dnipro River, running through the city, founded in the 16th century and so having Chestnut trees nearly 500 years old and being more forest than park.


Finally we had our last group dinner, and Lydia, John and myself went out for beers afterwards with Jason and Julia.

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Architecture made popular after an…
Architecture made popular after a…
St Sophia, Kiev
St Sophia, Kiev
The square in front of St Sophia, …
The square in front of St Sophia,…
Monument to the Ukrainian leader w…
Monument to the Ukrainian leader …
St Michaels
St Michael's
St Sophia, Kiev
St Sophia, Kiev
The Belltower of St Sophia, Kiev
The Belltower of St Sophia, Kiev
St Michaels
St Michael's
St Michaels
St Michael's
St Andreis
St Andrei's
Monument to Homo soveticus and the…
Monument to Homo soveticus and th…
Kiev
photo by: Biedjee