Kiev Pechersk Lavra is the cradle of Russian monasticism and one of the most revered monasteries in the Orthodox world. Aside from serving as a lovely subject for your analogue photos, this location also has a very interesting story which dates back to the XI century.
Kiev Pechersk Lavra was built during the XI century. Its first inhabitant was Reverend Anthony (983-1073). About 1051 he settled in Berestov near Kiev, where he began his feat of solitude in a small cave (“pechera”) that he created near the village. For a while, Reverend Anthony lived in solitude, but little by little, rumors about a holy hermit started to spread in Kiev. Soon, the 12 souls who were seeking salvation settled around Reverend Anthony’s cave. Thus began the start of the underground monastery. Reverend Anthony had dug themselves a new home which was closer to Berestov. Meanwhile, his community of followers continued to grow.
One day, the monks appealed to Prince Izyaslav Yaroslavich to give them the high Pechersk plateau for their monastery. The prince graciously agreed and they finally had the location for the future monastery.
The conferred Izyaslav area eventually became known as the Upper Lavra while the location of the cave monastery, was the Lower Lavra. The place were the entrenched followers of Reverend Anthony resided was named the Far Caves while the new home of the Reverend was called the Near Caves.
The first abbot of the monastery has become a true monk, Theodosius; he entered the coenobitic charter of the monastery and wrote about spiritual guidance while actively participating in worldly activities with the people.
At the end of the XI century Lavra has become the largest cultural center of Kievan Rus. It carried out its own annals and has developed an original school for architecture and iconography. In the year 1240 and 1482, Lavra was destroyed by the Mongols and the Tatars, however, it has not lost its role in the spiritual life of the country. In the XVI century, local brothers fought for the preservation of the orthodox traditions in Ukraine then in 1615 they founded the Lavra printing.
Lavra was one of the largest monasteries of the Russian Empire. In the 1920s the monastery was abolished and its territory became a museum. In 1942, occupation authorities have sanctioned the revival of the monastery. After the liberation of Kiev to the Soviet, authorities had to temporarily accept a monastery but the area of the Upper Lavra was still inaccessible to the Church’s life.
In 1961, the monastery once again dispersed. The third stage of the history of the Lavra began in 1988 when the monks were admitted to the Far Caves. A year later, the church was returned to the Caves. Upper Lavra is now being administered by the Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve but the service is regularly held in the refectory of the church and the restored Cathedral of the Assumption.
The main building of the convent ensemble is the magnificent Cathedral of the Assumption. According to legend, the place for the temple had heavenly fire descended on it through the prayer of St. Theodosius. On November 3, 1941, there was a powerful explosion in Lavra and the cathedral was completely destroyed. In the years 1998-2000 the cathedral was rebuilt. Now, a fragment of the masonry historic temple can now be seen through a wrought iron canopy in the middle of Cathedral Square.
In Lavra, the very interesting attractions are the Near Caves (total length – 383m depth to 20) and Far Caves (they are somewhat smaller at only 293m) which is the subterranean church of St. Theodosius, the Nativity and the Annunciation (XVIII century).
In 1990, the ensemble of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra was included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.