St. Sophia Cathedral is included in the list of cultural heritage of Ukraine and is a real masterpiece of world art. The magnificent building, erected in the XI century, served as the main cathedral and the center of the main events of the country. Within its walls, anointing of princes, consecration to the metropolitan, meetings with ambassadors, as well as viche were held. Here, the first library was founded, annals were kept, and books were translated.
The cathedral is dedicated to the Wisdom of God – Sofia. An artistic image embodied the multifaceted meaning put in the symbol, which explains the scale and complex architecture of the structure. The interior features a medieval model of the Universe, while the exterior represents an image of the City of God – Heavenly Jerusalem. The value of the cathedral is in its picturesque decor, consisting of a complete ensemble of mosaics (260 m2), frescoes (3 thousand m2) and fragments of mural painting.
The frescoes of Sophia of Kyiv as the primary source of data on the Dutch dynasty are an exceptional collection of paintings from the time of Kyiv Rus. Remains of ancient Rus graffiti became a memo of writing and the most important historical document. Sofia’s mosaics and frescoes are the rarest memorials of monumental art of the Medieval Age, which occupies a significant place in the fund of world culture.
Inside, in the arch of the altar you will Oranta – Our Lady, the image of which is considered to be the highest level piece of mosaic art. The uniqueness of the work is in the fact that Oranta from different angles looks like it is pictured in different poses – standing, bowing in prayer or on her knees. On the central dome, you will see Christ the Almighty and four archangels, one of which is mosaic, the others are oil works (M. Vrubel, XIX century). The walls and columns depict images of saints.
The mosaic is performed on a gold background. It is abundant in colors and rich shades. The color palette is striking in the number of shades used (177!), which confirms a high development of smalt technology in Kyiv Rus. Nowadays, masters using the methods of the XI century are not able to produce such a variety of colors.
Graffiti of St. Sophia Cathedral keeps the knowledge of Kyiv Rus, thus confirming the level of development of writing. So, some writings are made not only in Cyrillic, but also in the Glagolitic alphabet. Some of the significant ones are a record of the death of Yaroslav the Wise, the signature of Vladimir Monomakh and the alphabet. Today, graffiti is considered to be one of the most likely sources of the Old Rus language. The analysis of the inscriptions showed that they are inherent in many features of the modern Ukrainian language.
The territory of Sofia of Kyiv was the burial place for princes and higher clergy. Here were the tombs of Yaroslav the Wise and Vladimir Monomakh, whose marble sarcophagi have survived to this day (other tombs have been lost). This necropolis is the oldest one. It covers the longest period in the history of the state (XI-XX centuries.)
At the brick of the XVII-XVIII centuries the temple was reconstructed, thus adding to the construction characteristic features of Ukrainian baroque. An original view can be seen from the side of the altar, where a initial decor of the facades is partially exposed. At the expense of Hetman Mazepa, a bell tower was erected. Its height is 76 m. The bell from 1705 times has been preserved, which today can be seen on the 2nd tier. This is the largest bell among those preserved in Ukraine. It bears the name of “Mazepa” (weight – 13 tons). Until the mid 1760s a refectory, a bakery, a metropolitan’s house, a south tower, a western gate and other buildings were added.
Since 1934, and until now, Sofia of Kyiv has been a historical and architectural reserve comprising 77 architectural monuments. The museum complex is one of the largest ones in Ukraine, which also includes the main points of the tourist routes of the capital – Golden Gate, St. Cyril and St. Andrew’s Churches. An ensemble of St. Sophia Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The reserve provides sightseeing tours around the territory, as well as thematic tours dedicated to graffiti, painting and the necropolis of St. Sophia. In the south tower, you will see unique authentic mosaics and frescoes of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral (XII century), preserved after its destruction in 1937. You will also love an excursion to the bell tower, where you will learn about important events that took place near the walls of the church, and also see Kyiv from high up in the sky. A panorama of the Upper City opens from the observation deck.
In addition, the building of the Refectory offers an exhibition on the formation of the state, its heyday, its role in the political life of Europe, and birth of Christianity in Kyiv Rus. In the Refectory, you can see fragments of the mosaic floor of the Church of the Tithes, the tomb of the XI-XII centuries, as well as the history of the study of ancient Kyiv architectural monuments. The Metropolitan’s Residence houses an exposition that features the interior and utensils of the chambers of the chief clergyman during the XVIII-XIX centuries. The bakery houses exhibition halls now.