The entrance to the complex is through the bell tower on Sofiyska Square. Tickets can be purchased after entering the bell tower. For my visit, I decided to buy a full ticket for 63 UAH. It gave me admission to the all exhibits, the cathedral, and the bell tower. Admission to the grounds only is 3 UAH. The complex is closed on Thursdays.
I first visited the St. Sophia Cathedral. It’s the oldest cathedral in Kiev, founded in 1011 by Vladimir the Great. It was named after Hagia Sophia of Constantinople. The cathedral has had a long history, being turned into a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for a brief period after the Union of Brest in 1596, and slated for destruction by the Soviets in the 1920s. When the Soviets promised to return the cathedral to the Orthodox Church in the 1980s, claims by the Catholic Church and schisms within the Orthodox Church caused several problems (see the end of this post). Since 1995, the cathedral has remained a museum.
The cathedral was intended to be a burial place for Ukrainian royalty. Buried inside were Yaroslav the Wise and possibly his wife Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden; Vladimir II Monomakh and his first wife, Gytha of Wessex; Vyacheslav I; and Vsevolod I. Not all of the graves survive to this day.
The mosaics and frescoes inside are original and spectacular. Photos aren’t allowed, and several very large and gruff old Ukrainian women were watching like hawks and barking at those who tried to snap one in secret.
Next, I went to the Metropolitan’s residence.
On display inside was some works of art and antique furniture.
Then it was off to wander the grounds. I saw the monastic cells, school, the bakery, and two gates to the complex. The Zaborovskyi Gate, which is behind the Metropolitan’s residence, was built in 1746.
The Consistory, which served as an ecclesiastical office, had a small exhibit that was of no interest to me. Across from it is the Refectory Church, which wasn’t open.
Finally, I climbed the bell tower for some great views of Kiev. It was built in the 17th century.
Once at the top, I was able to get fantastic views of some of the buildings in the complex.
Also on the square, to the right of the bell tower, is the tomb of Patriarch Volodymyr of Kiev (1925-1995). He was the patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate, which was founded in 1992 after a schism with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. The original plan was to bury him next to St. Sophia Cathedral, but violent confrontations took place between clergy, people of different denominations, and right-wing nationalists during the funeral. Two people were killed in the clashes, and the decision was made to bury him outside of the complex.