TEMPLES OF DIFFERENT RELIGIONS IN KIEV
Some temples and monasteries of Kyiv have survived to this day and have very ancient history. The variety of religious institutions does not interfere perfectly coexisting with each other and enrich others with their traditions and achievements. Arabs and Volga Bulgars (Muslims by religion) also arrived in Kyiv with trade missions (as evidenced numerous finds of Arab coins that emerged from the mints of Baghdad, Kufa, etc.), but their permanent settlements in medieval Kyiv were not found.
The first settlements of Muslims in Kyiv arise in connection with the Tatar domination on the territory of the former Kyivan Rus. They created their own state – the Golden Horde (founded by Khan Baty in 1242 after his return from the campaign to Central and South-Eastern Europe). One of the Khans of the Golden Horde, Uzbek, adopted Islam as a state religion (around 1320). The Kyiv chronicle of 1331 mentions the double rule in Kyiv “Prince Fedir with the Baskak” (baskak is the plenipotentiary representative of the khan on the conquered lands). After the Mongol invasion (in 1240), life in Kyiv focused on Podil, therefore the baskak-governor chose as his residence the dominant height, the Yurkovytsia mountain. West to it was a small settlement of the Tatars. Nowadays there is a microdistrict with the name of the Tatarka on the site of the former Tatar settlement, on the site of the old mosque there is a new ar-Rahma. At this mosque, there is a “Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine” (Lukyanivska Street, 46).
But few people know that another historical area is connected with Tatars in Kyiv. This is Lypky. Now there is a romanticized version about the origin of this name from the lindens that grew there. But our guides during the excursion will tell you that the Tatars, who fled with Khan Tokhtamysh from Tamerlane (Timur), to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were called “lypky”. Tokhtamysh and his Tatars-lypky spread out their tents on the Dovha Nyva – a vast field between the Pechersky Monastery and Khreshchatyk. Since then, Dovha Nyva has beared a new name – Lypky.
Kyiv is the spiritual centre of Orthodoxy. This mission was determined by history itself. Even the founder of the city Kyi visited the capital of Christianity – Constantinople, where, according to the chronicler, was received with honour by the emperor himself. But the true capital of the Orthodox state Kyivan Rus- Kyiv became only in the era of Prince Volodymyr, who received the epithet “The Baptist” in history. Chronicle informs us about the fluctuations of the Prince in the choice of faith (between Islam, Judaism and Christianity). He could choose any of these religions, but his choice fell precisely on the Christianity of the Eastern rite. German chronicler XI century Adam of Bremen writes that in the time of Yaroslav the Wise (the son of Volodymyr the Baptist) in Kyiv there were already 400 (!) churches. The vast majority of them were wooden, but there were also stone majestic structures, which weren’t inferior in size and beauty to the Constantinople temples. It is not for nothing that Adam of Bremen called Kyiv “the decoration of the East, the rival of Constantinople.” According to archaeology, in Kyiv there were over 40 monumental stone structures (cathedrals, churches, palaces, rotundas). Most of these structures were later destroyed by conquerors, and those that preserved (Sophia of Kyiv, St. Michael’s Golden-domed Cathedral, etc.) came to us in a considerably rebuilt form. Some temples and monasteries of Kyiv have an ancient masonry, which are opened for viewing, and which gives us a presentation of how beautiful these buildings were.
Vydubytsky Monastery is located in the Vydubytsky tract, on a hill above the Dnieper. According to the legend, the pagan idol of Perun, thrown into the Dnieper by Prince Vladimir, was “poured out” on the shore. The origin of the name came after underground monastery, which later “poured out” on the surface. Vydubytsky Monastery was founded in the XIth century by Vsevolod Yaroslavich, the Son of Yaroslav the Wise, the Prince. The main temple of the monastery was laid in 1070, which was partially preserved to the present day. In 1696 -1701 years. St. George’s Cathedral was built in the monastery, where the relics of St. George, Barbara the Great Martyr, John, etc. are represented. Today there is a shelter for elderly clergy, a school for children from low-income families, workshops, a school of church singing and a clinic in the monastery. Previously, there was a cemetery on the territory of the monastery. 13 graves have been preserved until now. There is a well on the territory there, in which one can get healing water.
The St. Sophia’s Cathedral is the greatest architectural structure, built by Yaroslav the Wise the Grand Prince in 1037. It preserved until now not only the richness of ancient architecture, but also the picturesque decoration of the 11th century, mainly mosaics and frescoes. Religious and state ideas of that time were embodied in the artistic image of Sophia of Kiev. The ensemble of mosaics is decorated with the main altar of the St. Sofia’s Temple. Entering the Cathedral, the glance is captured by the majestic figure of the praying Virgin of Oranta (Divine Wisdom), located in the vault of the altar. Frescoes of St. Sophia’s Cathedral are an interesting source of information about the life of the prince’s court and that way of life. They are the only preserved collection of paintings from the period of Kievan Rus. There are graffiti, i.e. ancient Russian inscriptions, which are the most important document of the dating of murals, on the walls of the cathedral. Apparently, the central part of the building works was performed in the 40’s, and in the galleries – in the 60s of the 11th century. Along with the famous ensembles of Ravenna, Venice, Montreal, Daphne, Palermo, ancient Constantinople, they occupy a prominent place in the treasury of world culture. St. Sophia Cathedral is included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
St. Cyril’s Monastery is the second church after St. Sophia’s Cathedral, preserved from the times of Ancient Rus in its original form. It is a unique monument of architecture and monumental painting. The church was founded by the prince of Chernigov Vsevolod Olgovich in the first part of the 12th century and was the ancestral family vault of the Olgovichi. The church is named after St. Cyril, the patron of the prince. According to the origins the first burial place (of Vsevolod’s wife) dates back to 1179. In 1194 the prince of Kiev Svyatoslav Vsevolodovich was buried here. Frescoes of the 12th century, paintings of the 17th century and oil frescoes of the 19th century still exist in this church. During the restoration in the 17th-18th centuries the church acquired the features of Ukrainian Baroque. Nearly 800 square meters of Old Russian frescoes, which have no analogues in any of the monuments of the Orthodox Christianity, have been preserved till this time. A special place among the oil paintings made during the restoration in the 19th century takes the works of the famous Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel, whose Mother of God is compared with the Sistine Madonna. There are a lot of excursions in the church every day.
Zverinets Caves and Archangel Mykhail Monastery is an ancient Russian abode, it was presumably founded in the XI–XIIth centuries on the territory of the Zverinets that were the hunting grounds of Vsevolod the Kiev prince. It was destroyed in 1096–1097 by the Polovtsi. The caves of the monastery were found at the end of XIXth century. The monastery was partially rebuilt in 1913. A cave church and a small cell were found not far from the entrance to the caves, an underground corridor with 40 tombs is represented to the left of it. Ancient Russian drawings and inscriptions, including the famous Zverinets Cross have been preserved on the walls. The Archangel Mykhail Monastery was established on the basis of the Zverinets Skete in 2009. Two churches were built: the Zverinets Venerable Fathers Cathedral, the Mother of God Icon Cathedral. The caves of the monastery are a monument of archeology of national importance. According to one version, the library of Yaroslav the Wise could be kept in the caves of the skete. Caves are visited not only by pilgrims, but also by tourists.
The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra was founded in 1051 by St. Anthony, the Monk, settling in the caves of the future Pechersk Monastery. It is from the caves that the monastery takes its name. At the request of St. Antony, Izyaslav, the Prince gave the monastery the territory, which includes the whole mountain above the caves. In 1062 the monastery was called Pechersk. the territory of the monastery has begun to be built since the end of the XIth century. It was in the walls of the Caves Monastery in 1113 that Nestor the Chronicler wrote “The Tale of Bygone Years” – the main source of modern knowledge about Kievan Rus. The monastery received the status of the monastery in 1688. The Lavra is an honorary title, which was given only to large and significant monasteries. The Kiev-Pechersk Monastery becomes a spiritual and cultural-enlightenment centre. The territory of the monastery includes Near and Far Caves. Today there are museums, unique shrines on the territory of Lavra, as well as there the relics of saints in the caves.
St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral built in 1909 to commemorate the Emperor St. Nicholas’ II visit to Kyiv. Construction of a foundation for concrete piles was proposed for the first time and reinforced concrete was widely used in the construction. In the 1930s it was closed and looted, and the clergy was repressed. Warehouses of goods were located in the building. The cathedral suffered greatly from artillery shelling and fire in 1943. Since 1980 the cathedral began to operate as a concert hall of the House of Organ and Chamber Music. The cathedral is unique for its acoustics and organ (it has up to 4 thousand pipes) and was custom made.
The Brodsky Synagogue was built in 1898 with the donations of the Kyiv millionaire Lazar Brodsky (he also built the Bessarabian market, the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, the Paton Institute and the operetta theater). In 1926, the building was transferred to the club for a trade union of handicraftsmen. Since 1955, a children’s puppet theater was located there, in 1997 the building was transferred to the Jewish community of Kyiv. Since the Jews were not allowed to build religious buildings in the central part of Kyiv, the draft of the synagogue was rejected by the provincial authorities. It was allowed to accommodate living and household premises for ritual purposes. Then Brodsky and Kyiv rabbi Evsei Zukkerman decided to play smart by sending a complaint and a drawing of the side facade of the synagogue, from where the building looked like a household premise to St. Petersburg. And the Senate gave its permission. The building was built in a year, construction was carried out by Lev Ginzburg’s best construction company in the city. There is a museum in the hall of the synagogue where one can see the work of the Israeli sculptor Frank Meisler, the fragment of the Torah scroll of the 2nd-5th c., a copy of the key from the opening of the synagogue in 1898, ancient books, bales, tefillins, mezuzah, candlesticks.
The Kyiv Mormon temple – the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, built in the suburbs of Kyiv – Sofiivska Borshchahivka village. It was opened in 2010 and is considered the third largest temple in the world and in Eastern Europe. The area of the building is striking in its scale – these are three 5-meter floors, which is 2 thousand sq.km.. The height of the spire reaches 42 m, at the peak of which rises the gilded statue of the angel Moroni. The facade of the building is lined with light granite, the windows are decorated with stained glass windows with a picture of spikelets. The interior of the church is also rich in decoration – a marble floor, high vaults, paintings with Jesus in gilded frames. Inside are equipped halls for rituals and rooms for training. In addition to the church, on the territory is the Parish – a prayer house for worship. The territory itself is decorated with trees, flower beds and fountains. There is a hotel for guests.
The Kyiv temple of Krishna Consciousness is a Hindu temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, located on the Zoryanyi Lane, 16. It operates since 1992 and is called “New Navadvipa Mandir”. It is considered to be the largest temple in Ukraine. This spacious 6-storeyed brick building with large windows was built in stages, starting from 1992 until 2014. Inside is an amazing altar room with circular balconies and a black and white marble floor, at the end of the hall there is an altar decorated with flowers from carved wood, which set the deities of Chaitanya and Nityananda. At the entrance to the temple there is a cafe where you can taste vegetarian food. Near the temple is the Kyiv Theological Academy of Vaishnava Education. The temple is open daily. Sundays are held Sunday festivals, which anyone can visit. From the temple there are direct video broadcasts on the Internet.
Ar-Rahma Mosque is the first and only mosque in Kiev, which means mercy. It is built next to the old Muslim cemetery, which is not operational nowadays. The construction was started in the mid-1990s on the money of the Muslim community. The solemn opening of Ar-Rahma Mosque was only in 2011. The architecture of the mosque and 27 meters high minaret attract with its beauty and unusualness. There are library, women’s room, training classes, playgrounds, Sunday school and hobby groups on the territory of the mosque. There is a relic in the mosque, that is a copy of the fabric scroll, where the names of all spiritual leaders of Sufism are written.