Domes, Mosaics and Carvings at the St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral

The St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral lies in the centre of Kiev, which is the main city of Ukraine. It is also considered as the ‘mother cathedral’ to the 'Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchy', thus making it one of two very important Ukrainian Orthodox churches. Like most churches it has a variety of names that it is commonly referred to, such as: Volodymyrsky Cathedral, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral and Vladimirsky Cathedral, and acts as one of Kiev’s key landmarks.

It was in 1852 that the suggestion was made by the metropolitan Philaret of Moscow to design a unique Cathedral to memorialize the 900th anniversary of the baptisim of ‘Kievan Rus’. As a consequence, by 1859, just seven years after the suggestion was put forward, the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr came into existence. Construction of the cathedral was mainly through the contributions of people who belonged to the Russian Empire, amassing a fund of over 100, 000 rubles by the start of construction.

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra, commonly known as the ‘Monastery of the caves’, gathered a staggering one million bricks, which was then presented to the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr as a gift. The predominant architectural style of St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral was that of the enchanting Byzantine design, which is essentially a continuance of Roman architecture. This saw a wide range of changes from the classical orders, with mosaics replacing carved decorations, brick replacing stone and the erection of complex domes. The architects who originally created the design for St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral were I. Schtrom, R. Bemhardt, P. Sparro, V. Nikolayev and K. Mayevsky. It was, however, left to architect A. Beretti to revise the original design, to which he added a traditional six-pieced, three-apse temple crowned by seven cupolas. Interestingly, the highest point of the religious building is that of the cross situated on the main dome, measuring an unbelievable height of 49 meters.

Much of the Byzantine style can be seen in the colorful interior of the St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral, from mosaics created by professionals from Venice to Frescoes created by famous painters such as V.Kotarbinsky, S. Kostenko, M.Pymonenko, and M. Nesterov, P. Swedomsky, M. Vrubel, V. Zamyraylo and V. Vasnetsov, under the direction of Professor A. Prakhov. V. Vasnetsov became the primary painter of the “Holy Mother of God”, which later became the center piece for the alter apse and is regarded greatly as a masterpiece of fine art around the world.

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