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Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

This place is worth visiting because:

  • it is one of the oldest churches in Eastern Europe
  • St. Sophia Cathedral has something in common with St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople
  • it’s mosaics and frescos are almost one thousand years. The mosaic image of Oranta is a unique masterpiece
  • here lies the marble tomb of Yaroslav The Wise – Kyiv’s prince, who built St. Sophia Cathedral
  • this church is included to UNESCO’s world heritage
  • there is a beautiful panorama of Kyiv from it’s 76 m high bell tower
  • here prince Yaroslav’s huge library is concealed
  • there is a legend – till St. Sophia will stay – till Kyiv will stay
  • inscriptions are scratched onto St. Sophia’s walls – ancient residents of Kyiv made them in 11th – 12th centuries. There is an inscription which tells us about prince Yaroslav’s death.
  • it was the main church of the ancient Kyiv State.

Please, feel free to contact our company by the following phone number or via e-mail.
Our company will design the tours that meet Your needs.
+38 (067) 463 46 03
+38 (044) 451 61 71

St. Sophia’s Cathedral – the saint place, which you can’t pass through while walking on Kyiv streets.

This grandiose complex of the National Reserve includes such buildings as

  • the cathedral itself,
  • the bell tower,
  • the refectory metropolitan’s palace etc.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral was founded by Kyiv Prince Yaroslav on one of the highest places in Kyiv. Adornments inside the cathedral were made by Byzantine and Kyiv masters. They created inspired images of the Virgin Mary and the patronesses of Kyiv Oranta, faces of archangels, and evangelists.

After the Ttatars attack in the 13th century, the shrine become desolate and forgotten. Only after three centuries was the temple restored to life. It was rebuilt using new styles from the period of the Ukrainian Hetman Mazepa. During that time most of the cloisters buildings were built. The cathedral was worthy of being the metropolitan’s residence. During ten centuries St. Sophia’s Cathedral walls protected Kyiv and now they invite you to travel through history.

From its founding in the 11th century, St. Sophia Cathedral has been the Kyiv Metropolitan’s residence.

The cathedral itself was built by Prince Yaroslav Mudriy in 1037.

The site chosen for the building is symbolic – it is the place of Yaroslav’s triumphal battle against the Pechenigs (a tribe that attacked Kyiv). As with Constantinople’s main church, the Church was named after Sophia – God’s Wisdom.

St. Sophia is a five-nave Greek-cross plan church that is crowned with 13 domes of different styles.

In 17th century, during the time of Hetman Ivan Masepa, restoration works were undertaken. As a result, walls were painted white, 6 new domes were built, galleries and old domes were raised, a new roof was made, figured pediments and facade were decorated with new details.

The church’s interior is adorned with mosaics and frescos. Mosaics will amuse with their colors and tints, which change according to the available light.

In 18th century the cathedral acquired baroque forms and the walls were painted again. In the 19th century, oil paintings were added to the wall’s appearance.

Only during the 1920’s to 1950‘s was a complete overhaul made on the cathedral. Mosaics and frescos were renovated. The most famous mosaic image is Maria Oranta’s image on a golden background. There are paintings from the 11th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries on the St. Sophia Cathedral walls.

The bell tower was built in 1699-1707. Now it is a four-level building of blue color with white mouldings. There are also lots of different buildings on the cloister’s territory. Such as the refectory church, metropolitan’s palace, St. Sophia’s seminary, Southern gates, Zaborovskiy gates etc.

The National Rreserve “Sophia Kyivska” holds almost all the cultural and historical heritage of Kyiv. It has stood during wars, it has changed a lot – but it still owns it’s greatness and importance.

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev (Ukrainian: Собор Святої Софії, Sobor Sviatoyi Sofiyi or Софійський собор, Sofiys’kyi sobor, Russian: Собор Святой Софии, Sobor Svyatoi Sofii or Софийский собор, Sofiyskiy sobor) is an outstanding architectural monument of Kievan Rus'. Today, it is one of the city's best known landmarks and the first Ukrainian patrimony to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The complex of the Cathedral is the main component the National Sanctuary "Sophia of Kiev" the state institution responsible for the preservation of the Cathedral complex along with several other historic landmarks of the city.


The cathedral's name comes from the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople.

According to a less popular theory, its model was the 13-domed oaken Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, which Yaroslav I the Wise determined to imitate in stone as a sign of gratitude to the citizens of Novgorod who had helped him secure the Kievan throne in 1019.

The first foundations were laid in 1037 but the cathedral took two decades to complete.

The structure has 5 naves, 5 apses, and (quite surprisingly for Byzantine architecture) 13 cupolas. It is surrounded by two-tier galleries from three sides. Measuring 37 by 55 meters, the exterior used to be faced with plinths. On the inside, it retains mosaics and frescos from the eleventh century, including a dilapidated representation of Yaroslav's family.

Originally the cathedral was a burial place of the Kievan rulers including Vladimir Monomakh, Vsevolod Yaroslavich and of course the cathedral's founder Yaroslav I the Wise, although only the latter's grave survived to our days (see picture).

After pillaging of Kiev by Andrei Bogolyubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal in 1169 followed by |Mongolian Tatars in 1240 the cathedral fell into disrepair.

Following the 1595-96 Union of Brest, the cathedral of Saint Sophia belonged to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church until it was claimed by the Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan Peter Mogila (Mohyla) in 1633.

Mogila commissioned the repair work and the upper part of the building was thoroughly rebuilt, modeled by the Italian architect Octaviano Mancini in the distinct Ukrainian Baroque style, while preserving the byzantine interior, keeping its splendor intact.

The work continued under the Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa, and in 1740 the Cathedral was completed to its present form.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and during the Soviet antireligious campaign of the 1920's, the government plan called for the cathedral's destruction and transformation of the grounds into a park "Heroes of Perekop" (after a Red Army victory in the Russian Civil War in Crimea). The cathedral was saved from destruction primarily with the effort of many scientists and historians. Nevertheless, in 1934, Soviet authorities confiscated the structure, including the surrounding seventeenth–eighteenth century architectural ensemble and designated it as an architectural and historical museum.

Since the late 1980s Soviet, and later Ukrainian, politicians promised to return the building to the Orthodox Church. Due to various schisms and factions within the Church the return was postponed as all Orthodox and the Greek-Catholic Churches lay claim to it. Although all of the Orthodox churches have been allowed to conduct services at different dates, other times they are denied access. Most memorable was the funeral of Patriarch Volodymyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchy, when riot police were forced to prevent the burial on the premises of the museum and a bloody clash took place. After events such as those no religious body has yet been given the rights for regular services. The complex now remains a museum of Ukraine's Christianity, with most of its visitors being tourists.

Please, feel free to contact our company by the following phone number or via e-mail.
Our company will design the tours that meet Your needs.
+38 (067) 463 46 03
+38 (044) 451 61 71


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