Kiev’s Golden Gate Metro Station

In the Zoloti Vorota metro station, today’s harried travelers’ rush through mosaic adorned marble walls and the glow of lit candelabras shine a path on grey granite floors. Centuries ago, however, the epicenter of Kiev was served by another architectural triumph. The Golden Gates of Kiev, an impregnable fortress of brick and stone ramparts with a vaulted passageway from which soldiers of the Kievan Rus kept watch and crowned by a church covered with gilded copper sheets, came to mark the entrance into the ancient city of Kiev.

Besieged by renegade tribes in the year 1036 and distressed by the enemy encampments laying in wait outside his cherished city, King Yaroslav the Wise prayed to the Virgin Mary promising to build a church in her honor if only victory could be secured. After driving the invaders from Ukrainian soil, King Yaroslav ordered the construction of new fortifications which became the Golden Gates.

Falling into ruin through the centuries, the arch itself laid buried until 1837 when brick and stone columns and portions of the central arch were excavated and reinforced. Ornamented with frescos, ceramics and woodcarvings, pieces of the church were later recovered in the 1970s. Though little physical evidence survived detailing the exact dimensions and components of the original Golden Gates fortress, restorations continued through the years. The most recent renovation commemorated the city’s 1,500 year anniversary in 1982 yet; many historians dismissed this modern-day effort as a flight of fantasy rather than a true architectural rendering of the once formidable landmark. Today, travelers can marvel at both the ancient, but restored ruins paired with a modern-day architectural gem, a piece of history above and below ground level.