St. Sophia’s Cathedral – Oldest Cathedral in Kiev
St. Sophia’s Cathedral is not only the oldest cathedral in Kiev, but by far the most spectacular. It is visited by hundreds of tourists each year and is known as one of the popular attractions in Kiev. Admission to the Cathedral of St. Sophia must be paid for at the entrance, but your ticket opens up an experience that is not limited to the cathedral. Inside the gates waits a breathtaking world of buildings, a museum and historical treasures.
Once visitors have laid their eyes upon the majestic 13-domed St.
Sophia’s Cathedral, the exclamations of awe and wonder fill the air. Built
in 1037, the cathedral is a looming legacy of Prince Yaroslav the Wise. And
coincidently, Sofia, in the Greek language, means “wisdom”. It would take
two decades to complete what the Prince had started, leading to additional
structures being added over the following years. The Cathedral of St. Sophia
was constructed with five apses and naves, with lavish galleries surrounding
the center of the cathedral. Although the plinths that decorated the
exterior walls are no longer visible, the interior still exhibits
well-preserved frescos and various mosaics. Both these features are dated
back to 11th century.
In the year 1240, the cathedral started to fall into disrepair, but in
1633, restoration to the cathedral began. Under the supervision of Octaviano
Mancini, an architect from Italy, the exterior of the cathedral was renewed
with Ukrainian Baroque renovations, while the interior remained untouched.
Complete renovations and construction came to an end in 1740. The Bell Tower
was added during the years 1744 to 1752, with finishing touches such as the
gilded cupola, taking place in 1852. Approximately four kilograms of gold
was used to decorate the dome. The 18th century Refectory has been
transformed into a museum where visitors will be able to view fascinating
exhibits such as models of Kiev, which show how the city looked before the 1240
invasion by the Mongols and between the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.
This extraordinary cathedral and adjoining buildings have seen many
ceremonies, greeted famous dignitaries and witnessed events take place
within the walls of the cathedral complex. It was also the center of
controversy when the Soviet government proposed to tear down the cathedral,
to make space for a memorial park. Fortunately, historians fought for the
cathedral’s survival and it is now a World Heritage Site. The St. Sophia’s Cathedral is a significant landmark in Kiev, representing the turbulent
history of the city and the beauty of the architectural splendor of
centuries gone by.