St. Sophia of Kiev is the main cathedral in this city and it has been a dream of mine to finally be able to visit it. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, this beautiful cathedral was built by Prince Yaroslav the Wise. Its location was also the site of the battle with the Pechenegs.
St. Sophia Cathedral – the heart of Kiev. This is the main cathedral of the city along with being its most famous monument. According to tradition, St. Sophia Cathedral was built by Prince Yaroslav the Wise at the site of the battle with the Pechenegs. This victory finally secured the capital from the raiding nomads and that was immortalized by the construction of the cathedral. Churches dedicated to St. Sophia, the Wisdom of God were built during the Yaroslav era across the Kievan Rus’. It was inspired by St. Sophia in Constantinople and now there are only three cathedrals dedicated to St. Sophia on former Kievan Rus’ territory: Kiev (Ukraine), Veliky Novgorod (Russia) and Polotsk (Belarus).
The official date of birth of the cathedral is considered to be in 1037 A.D. when it was first mentioned in “The Tale of Bygone Years”. However, graffiti on the walls of the cathedral dictate that it was completed in 1032. It was long thought that the grand Cathedral of St. Sophia was built for 50-75 years. Historians now believe that the construction of the cathedral took about five years.
Under the cathedral’s arches at the side aisles reigns a mysterious twilight. It contrasts with the solemn atmosphere of the dome, bathing in sunlight through the windows of the central chapter of the cathedral. From the “shell” of the main altar apse, stares a beautiful and terrible Orans – Virgin inviolable wall. Painted by the ancient mosaics, it still showcases purity and freshness. Meticulous critics have estimated that the 6-foot figure of Mary has up to 177 shades of different colors, including 19 shades of red, 21 blue tints, 23 shades of yellow and as much as 34 shades of green! Of the 640 m2 Sophia mosaics only 260 m2 survived.
St. Sophia Cathedral is famous not only for its mosaics and frescoes. In addition to the artistic merits of works of ancient painters, it also holds valuable information about the period of construction of the cathedral.
In the northern side aisle there is a white marble sarcophagus in which the first wife of Yaroslav, the princess Ingegerd (Irina) found peace, and in 1054 – the governor himself. There are suggestions that the tomb is much older than the cathedral – it could be made by Byzantine craftsmen in the IV A.D.
In the history of the St. Sophia Cathedral it has gone through massive restoration three times. The first time was during 1848-1853, the second time in 1953-1954, and the third, on the eve of the 1500 anniversary of Kiev.
I’m sorry that there are no indoor pics in my article, photographing inside the cathedral is strictly prohibited.