St. Sophia Cathedral

St. Sophia Cathedral is one of Kiev’s most important and well-known landmarks. The cathedral complex is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list along with Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

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.

Bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Bell tower

Bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Bell tower

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.

St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine

St. Sophia Cathedral

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 SwedenVladimir II Monomakh and his first wife, Gytha of WessexVyacheslav I; and Vsevolod I. Not all of the graves survive to this day.

St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine

St. Sophia Cathedral

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.

St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine

St. Sophia Cathedral

Next, I went to the Metropolitan’s residence.

Metropolitan's residence at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Metropolitan’s residence

Metropolitan's residence at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Metropolitan’s residence

On display inside was some works of art and antique furniture.

Metropolitan's residence at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Metropolitan’s residence

Metropolitan's residence at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Metropolitan’s residence

Metropolitan's residence at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Metropolitan’s residence

Metropolitan's residence at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Metropolitan’s residence

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.

St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

St. Sophia Cathedral complex

Bakery at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Bakery

Zaborovskyi Gate at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Zaborovskyi Gate

Southern Gate at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Southern Gate

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.

Consistory at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Consistory

Refectory Church at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Refectory Church

Refectory Church at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Refectory Church

Finally, I climbed the bell tower for some great views of Kiev. It was built in the 17th century.

Bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Bell tower

Bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Bell tower

Bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Bell tower

Bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Bell tower

Once at the top, I was able to get fantastic views of some of the buildings in the complex.

St. Sophia Cathedral from the bell tower in Kiev, Ukraine

St. Sophia Cathedral from the bell tower

Refectory Church from the bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

Refectory Church from the bell tower

I was also able to see several Kiev landmarks, including Maidan Nezalezhnosti and St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.

View of Sofiyska Square from the bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

View of Sofiyska Square

View of Kiev from the bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

View of Kiev

View of Maidan Nezalezhnosti from the bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

View of Maidan Nezalezhnosti

View of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery from the bell tower at St. Sophia Cathedral complex in Kiev, Ukraine

View of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery

St. Sophia Cathedral is located on the beautiful Sofiyska Square. A monument of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, a Cossack hetman, is at the end of the square opposite the cathedral.

Sofiyska Square in Kiev, Ukraine

Sofiyska Square

Bohdan Khmelnytskyi monument at Sofiyska Square in Kiev, Ukraine

Bohdan Khmelnytskyi monument

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.

Tomb of Patriarch Volodymyr of Kiev in Kiev, Ukraine

Tomb of Patriarch Volodymyr of Kiev

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