In the entire history of the past years, our ancestors left behind many architectural masterpieces that have been admired by more than one generation. And the main value in the list of the cultural heritage of Ukraine is the Pechersk Lavra – a majestic and unique in its kind sacred relic of the era of Kievan Rus, which has syrvived till today.
Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was founded in 1051 by the monk Anthony, who came from Athos. Having settled in caves, Anthony established the first prayer communities. Such an event very soon attracted the attention of citizens. Prince Izyaslav, son of Yaroslav the Wise got interested too. Izyaslav transferred the land near the caves to the community and also donated funds for the construction of the church and cells. In 1062 the church was named Pechersk.
The monastery was actively replenished with the brethren, and the first above-ground temple of the Dormition of the Mother of God appeared. In an effort to retire and pass the reins of power, Anthony moved to live on another slope, where he settled in a cave cell. Soon other monks began to settle near him. Thus the Near and Far Caves arose.
Having become famous not only in Kievan Rus, but also beyond its borders, the Pechersky Monastery becomes a spiritual, cultural and educational center. One of the significant events was the stay of Nestor the Chronicler, who wrote “The Tale of Bygone Years”, which is considered to be the primary source of the current information about Kievan Rus.
The second wave of prosperity of the Pechersk monastery falls on the turn of the XVI – XVII centuries. Thus, in 1615, the first printing house in Kyiv was opened, typography appeared, and the first church-liturgical book, named the “Hierarch” was published. It is noted that the publishing house of the Pechersk Printing House was distinguished by the highest printing technology.
Today, the building of the printing yard is the Museum of Books and Printing, which has up to 60 thousand exhibits. Here you will see the old printing presses, paper and fonts, learn the history of the book craft. In the courtyard there is a workshop-foundry.
One of the eminent superiors was Archimandrite Petro Mohyla. He opened the first school on the territory, paid special attention to education and tried to bring the Pechersk printing house to the main positions in public life. The book “Requiem” was not only the apogee of his works, but also became widespread in the Orthodox world. Petro Mohyla was buried near the main entrance of the Assumption Cathedral.
In 1688, the title of the monastery was assigned to the Pechersk monastery. At the beginning of the XVIII century, in order to strengthen the city, the Pechersk citadel was founded on the basis of the monastery buildings, which became part of the fortress fortifications. Kyiv Fortress is a historical and architectural monument of military engineering art and is considered one of the largest stone and earth fortresses in the world. A museum complex was created on the basis of the Hospital fortification, where remains of ramparts with a defensive wall and caponiers are preserved. In addition, the Prison Museum is operating in the Diagon Caponier.
Ivan Mazepa made an important contribution to the defense capacity of the Pechersky Monastery and to the construction of new buildings of the Citadel. Thanks to his funding, stone walls and towers were built, as well as churches were restored: the Assumption Cathedral and the Trinity Gate. The Church of All Saints was built too. The coat of arms of hetman was installed Mazepa on its facade.
By the middle of the XVIII century the architectural composition of the Lavra was fully formed. Its area reached up to 30 hectares, and the bell tower with a height of 96.5 m became the highest structure in Kyiv. A hospital, overnight stay for pilgrims and a two-year public school for children of employees and citizens were opened there. The monastery was revered by many famous personalities, including nobles and persons of the royal dynasty, who made generous gifts and donations for its maintenance.
The necropolis of Lavra that has been formed over the centuries should also be mentioned. During the entire existence of the monastery, the abbots of the church, the princes of Kyiv and Lithuania, and outstanding military leaders, especially those of noble family were buried here. Among the famous names buried here are Kochubey, Vishnevetsky, Stolypin. The cemetery is considered to be the oldest necropolis in Kyiv.
With the advent of Soviet power, the monastery was nationalized. Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was approved as a historical reserve and transferred into a museum platform. Colossal damage was caused during the Second World War – the Assumption Cathedral was blown up. The only surviving ground building is the Trinity Church (1106-1108). The artistic painting of the facade of the Trinity Church is recognized as a valuable monument of national visual art of the 18th century.
In 1988, the object was returned to the church community. Since 1990, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Later the seminary, the printing house were renewed, and the Assumption Cathedral was reconstructed. Now the publishing department, sound and video studios, icon-painting, sewing and candle workshops, guest houses and refectory for pilgrims are operating here. Festivals, concerts, exhibitions, fairs are constantly held for parishioners.
The Pechersk Lavra, as before, is the most visited place. The lower part is a functioning monastery. In the caves there are six ancient temples and relics of more than 120 saints are kept, including those of Ilya Muromets and Nestor the Chronicler. The length of underground labyrinths is over 300 m, the depth is up to 15-20 m. Every day hundreds of believers come to worship the holy relics. Nearby there are wells with healing water. Near and far caves are not only sacred places, but unique monuments of antiquity, attracting the attention of foreign tourists.
The upper part is a historical and cultural reserve, which is one of the largest museum complexes in Europe. The reserve includes 144 objects of architecture, the Museum of the History of the Lavra, the Museum of Treasures, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Exhibition of Microminiatures, as well as the Museum of Theater Music and Cinema.
If you wish, you can visit the Belfry and climb the observation deck at an altitude of 32.6 m by overcoming 374 steps. From the height of bird’s eye, a beautiful view of the surroundings, the Dnieper, and the Left Bank will open.
Excursion duration is 2-3 hours.