Chernihiv is famous for it’s three monasteries: Eletsky Monastery, St. Elias Monastery, and Trinity Monastery. The monasteries are south of the city center. Eletsky is about a 10 minute walk while Trinity and St. Elias are a good 25 minutes away. All three monasteries are part of the Ancient Chernihiv National Architecture and Historical Reserve.
Eletsky Monastery is one of the most historic in the Ukraine. It was founded in the mid-11th century by Sviatoslav II Yaroslavich of Kiev. The monastery was raided by the Mongols and Tatars in 1239 and lay in ruins until the 16th century when it was reconstructed and fortified. The Poles destroyed it in the 17th century and it had to be rebuilt again. Once the Soviets took over, it was shut down and didn’t reopen until Ukraine gained independence.
I tried to go inside the Assumption Cathedral and the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, but neither were open. The monastery also has a set of caves which are said to be older than the ones at Kiev Pecherska Lavra.
St. Elias Monastery was next. It was founded in 1069 by St. Anthony of Kiev, who was also a founder of Kiev Pecherska Lavra. The Church of St. Elias was built at the entrance to the caves in the 12th century. The complex was destroyed in 1239 and merged with Trinity Monastery during its reconstruction (see below).
Inside, I visited the Caves of St. Anthony. They’re unique because all of the rooms are located on four levels, one above the other. The caves contain the cells of the monks, chapels, burial places, and churches. Admission is 20 UAH as of October 2016.
I made the mistake of paying for a photo pass. There wasn’t much to see inside the caves and people were taking pictures without buying the pass in the first place. Although I was glad I went into the caves, they weren’t nearly as interesting as Kiev Pecherska Lavra. If you’ve seen Pecherska Lavra, you can skip these caves.
Next, I walked uphill through a beautiful forested park to Trinity Monastery. It was the nicest and busiest of the complexes in Chernihiv. Founded in the 11th century by St. Anthony of Kiev, it was destroyed along with the other monasteries in 1239 and rebuilt in 1649 by Ukrainian architect Lazar Baranovych. The monastery housed a very important printing press and library with more than 11,000 books.
Holy Trinity Cathedral is the biggest building in the complex. It was built in 1679 and has seven cupolas. Inside are the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernihiv and St. Laurentius the Elder.
Other buildings in the complex include Vedenskaya Church and the Stephanovic Chapel-Tomb.
While the cathedral was interesting, climbing up the bell tower was the highlight of my visit. For a small admission fee, it gave me a great view of the cathedral, the city, and the surrounding area.
On my long walk back into town, I stopped by the Memorial to the Soldiers and Liberators of the Ukraine. It’s a huge monument with statues of Ukrainian heroes on the lower level.
Climbing the stairs to the upper level leads to an obelisk and an eternal flame.