Explore the Ruins of the Church of the Tithes

Not many buildings so old, have endured so much or have been the topic of so much debate than the Church of the Tithes. Originally named the “Church of Our Lady” and now officially known as the “Church of the Assumption of the Virgin”, this fascinating historical attraction no longer stands in its original form. In fact, it no longer stands at all. All that remains today of what was the first stone church in Kiev are a few crumbled ruins.

The Church of the Tithes in Ukraine was originally built under the orders of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great. With his mind no doubt set on increasing the acceptance of Christianity in his homeland and in commemorating the Baptism of Kievan Rus’, Vladimir the Great saw fit to have a stone church built. In order to see the task accomplished, he set aside a tithe of his own income which was then used to finance the massive construction. This is why the church is popularly known as the ‘Church of the Tithes’. Construction commenced in 989 CE and was completed seven years later in 996 CE. It was put together by both local and Byzantine workers and no doubt the original building reflected the skill of these master craftsmen with effortless beauty. The first person to be buried in the church was Vladimir’s grandmother Princess Olga. As the first Christian ruler of Rus’, Vladimir saw fit to have her reburied in this new and impressive Christian church. Later, both Vladimir himself and also his wife Princess Anna were buried here.

The church stood for hundreds of years until at last the city came under attack from the hordes of Batu Khan in 1240. During this assault, the last surviving inhabitants still left in the city huddled together as their beautiful city was ravaged and scorched all around them. Eventually the church also caught fire and burnt to the ground. The only remnant of the building that once stood is the Chernihiv’s Savior Cathedral which was built across the street in 1036 and is said to be an exact replica of the original Church of the Tithes. During the 1630s, the wooden Church of St Nicholas was erected over the ruins of the church, only to be demolished in 1935 by Soviet authorities. Today the Church of the Tithes is the subject of much controversy, since many want to rebuild it while others want it to remain in the past. They argue that no one knows the true dimensions and appearance of the original building, so it cannot be re-created. Others feel that the church should be rebuilt in accordance with more modern architectural styles. Still others are opposed because the construction of a building here now would result in the destruction of a 370-year old linden tree – the oldest tree in the city. Until a decision is made, visitors may continue to explore the original location of the ruins just opposite St Andrew’s Church.

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