St Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery
Looming over the Podil neighborhood stands the St Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery, located on the banks of the Dnieper River. It was constructed to overlook the merchant and commercial district of the city, which is now the historical section of the city of Kiev. Sviatopolk II Iziaslavych first built the monastery in the middle ages, while the refectory of St John the Divine was constructed in 1713. Over the years new buildings were erected and restorations done, making St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery, which is still in use, one of the most historic and popular attractions in the city.
It is said that Sviatopolk II Iziaslavych commissioned the construction of the monastery which is believed to have been constructed between the years of 1108 and 1113. He dedicated the monastery to patron saint Michael the Archangel who is considered the patron saint of victories and warriors. Between the years 1716 to 1719 the bell tower of the monastery was constructed, while the Economic Gates were erected in the year 1760. During the eighteenth century the exterior of the monastery was renovated to the Ukrainian Baroque architectural style, but the interior was fortunately left untouched in its Byzantine style.
In the 1930s the Soviet regime made the catastrophic decision to demolish the cathedral, which was eventually reconstructed after the Ukraine gained independence. The destruction of the original monastery was seen by the locals as a crime. Specialists tried to remove the mosaics quickly before the demolition but were not able to complete their mission, and there is still some skepticism surrounding the authenticity of the mosaics. None-the-less, the forty-five square meters of mosaic was distributed between the State Russian Museum, the State Hermitage Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery. The remainder was used in the Saint Sophia Cathedral. The magnificent silver royal gates, the golden domes, poods of silver and anything else valuable was either sold, destroyed or sent to other locations.
After gaining independence, Ukraine set about reconstructing the monastery to restore the history of the site. During excavations of the site, a wonderful collection of over two hundred and sixty artifacts were discovered, and a portion of the once gleaming cathedral was still standing. The monastery now features a bell tower, mosaics, baroque icons and frescoes, and of course works of art that were created by local artists. The St Michael’s Golden Domed Cathedral was opened in 1999 and consecrated in 2001. Its original frescoes were recovered and sent to Kiev for preservation. Even though the monastery no longer consists completely of its original structures, it is still a very respected historical site and breathtaking structure to explore.