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 coincidentally, 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.