The Troyitska (Trinity) Church Above the Gate of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery.



Since ancient times, Kyiv has always been a multinational city, and consequently multicultural. Though throughout the ages, Kyiv has predominantly and traditionally been Christian Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Judaic and other communities have peacefully coexisted with the Orthodox Christians. In the communist times, the Soviet atheistic authorities had many churches and houses of prayer either destroyed or closed down. At present, some of the ruined churches have been rebuilt, and in most of the surviving houses of worship religious services have been resumed.

The Uspensky Cathedral of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery.
In the first century AD, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, Saint Andrew , brought the word of Christ to the hills on which the city of Kyiv was to spring up several centuries later.
In 988, Prince Volodymyr, the mighty ruler of the Kyivan State, converted his subjects into Christianity. Since then, most of the Ukrainian people throughout their turbulent history have professed Orthodox Christianity. For about seven hundred years the Ukrainian Orthodox Church had been under the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchy and then in 1686, it was put by force under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchy. In the first decades of the twentieth century began the struggle to get the Ukrainian Orthodox Church free of the supremacy of the Moscow Patriarchy. Under the communist regime many attempts were made to suppress the church altogether.
All of these attempts had failed and the church survived but there have emerged three independent Orthodox Churches: The Ukrainian Autocephalous (that is: independent of patriarchal authority) Orthodox Church (UAOC); the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchy (UOCKP); the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy (UOCMP). Many believers and outside observers regard the division as unfortunate since Ukraine in the past was solidly united in its religious belief in the single Orthodox Church. In fact, there are no differences, dogmatic or canonical, among these present-day Orthodox Churches, other than political. The UAOC and UOCKP have their own patriarchs, they are completely independent, though their independence has not been recognized yet by the whole world's Christian Orthodox community (the recognition of independence can take many years to become complete; the independence of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was not recognized for 70 years, and the independence of the Russian Orthodox Church for 140 years). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy is part of the Russian Orthodox Church and its protector (head) is a member of the Synod of the Orthodox Church. Out of all the Orthodox communities in Ukraine, about 10,000 are Russian Orthodox ones.

St Volodymyr's Cathedral.


Cyril's Church.


St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery.

There are churches of all the three Orthodox confessions to be found in Kyiv. The main centre of the Moscow Patriarchy in Kyiv is the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery (21 Sichnevoho Povstannya St). Pechersk - from the word pechery which means "caves." Lavra (Laura - in English) is a word that defines a monastery as being a very big one and of a very high status. The Lavra Monastery was founded in the 11th century (1051) in the caves by St Antoniy and St Feodosiy (they are among the most revered Ukrainian saints). The central church of the Monastery, the Uspensky Cathedral, was built in 1076 but was ruined in the early years of the Second World War. It is now being rebuilt. The huge territory of the Monastery is subdivided into the Upper Lavra, the Near Pechery and the Far Pechery. Religious services are conducted in a dozen churches to be found in the Lavra Monastery. The central, "cathedral" church of the Lavra Monastery is the Refectory Church of St Antoniy and St Feodosiy situated in the Upper Lavra. The church was built a hundred years ago and some of the interior decoration was done by the Ukrainian painter Ivan Yizhakevych. The services are held every Saturday and on the eve of the Christian holidays (vespers and matins) beginning at 5 p. m., and on Sundays and on Christian holidays (liturgy) beginning at 10 a. m. The service is headed by the Metropolitan of Kyiv and of all Ukraine Volodymyr (Sabodan), who is the Protector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy. The services are held in all the churches of the Lavra Monastery but the time of services at each individual church may differ from the rest. The services in the underground churches are held every day at 5 a. m. The underground galleries ("caves") hold the imperishable relics of the saintly Lavra monks who lived in the 10th through 15th centuries and were known for their great devoutness and powers, given them by God, to heal. The Kyrylivska (St Cyril's) Church is situated in the part of town known as Kurenivka (103, Frunze St.). It is another of the early Christian churches in Kyiv, built in the 12th century.

In the 18th century it went through a major reconstruction as a result of which the exterior acquired a typical Ukrainian Baroque appearance. The interior of the church has remained intact from the earlier times with many of the frescoes preserved from the 12th century. In the early 20th century Mykhaylo Vrubel, a painter of great distinction, painted four icons for the iconostasis of the church and several frescoes, the best known of which is a big mural, The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Though technically it remains "a branch of the Sophia Museum", the UOCMP community has been granted a permission to conduct religious services there (the timetable is the same as in the Refectory Church in the Lavra Monastery).The Volodymyrsky (St Volodymyr's) Cathedral sits right in the centre of Kyiv (20, Shevchenko Boulevard). It is a cathedral church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchy.
It was built in the 19th century (1862-1882). Several architects were commissioned to make the designs and supervise the construction (among them the prominent architect, Academician Beretti). The architectural style is defined as "pseudo-Byzantine-Russian". A group of painters - Ukrainian (Zamyraylo, Pymonenko), Russian (Vasnetsov, Nesterov), Polish (Swedomsky and Kotarbinsky) - decorated the interior of the cathedral with murals. Before the Mykhailivsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral was destroyed by the Bolsheviks in an act of atheistic vandalism in the thirties, the relics of St Barbara, a martyr of the 3rd century AD, were transferred to St Volodymyr's where they have been kept ever since. The Saturday and Sunday services in the cathedral are conducted by the Patriarch of Kyiv and of all Rus-Ukraine Filaret (Denysenko) who is the Protector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchy. Regular services are held every day. During the Patriarch's services, a wonderful choir, made up of National Opera singers, sings in St Volodymyr's. The Church of Arkhystratyha Mykhayila ( of Archangel Michael) is situated in the village of Pyrohiv, not far from Kyiv (it is also the site of the Open Air Museum of Folk Architecture and Traditional Life Styles of Ukraine). This wooden church is one of the oldest wooden churches in Ukraine (only two other churches in Zakarpattya, Western Ukraine, are older). The church was built in 1600. It used to stand in the village of Dorohynka, not far from Kyiv, but as it was considered to be a unique architectural landmark it was decided to move it to the architectural museum. The church was disassembled, taken to Pyrohiv and there assembled again. Up to 1990 it was just a museum piece but then the religious services were resumed. The church produces a great impression by its well-balanced, graceful architectural forms. The iconostasis that dates to the late 17th-early 18th century is a marvel of woodcarving. The services are held on Saturdays and on the eves of Christian holidays starting at 3 a. m. (vespers and matins) and on Sundays and holidays starting at 10 a. m. The church is situated among the low hills of a marvellously picturesque place, with five other churches in the vicinity representing architectural styles of different parts of Ukraine. In addition to the religious service, one can attend traditional folk ceremonies and ancient rites which are associated with holidays and which have recently been resurrected thanks to the efforts of the local Christian community and ethnographers. The Church of Mykola Naberezhny of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is situated in one of the oldest parts of town called Podil (12 Skovoroda St.). It is one of the most remarkable architectural landmarks of Kyiv.


Church of Archangel Michael the Arkhystratyh ("Arch Warrior").


St Mykola's Church at the Askold Tomb.


St Mykola the Naberezhny’s Church ("At the Embankment").


St Mykola's Catholic Church
It was built in the 18th century (1772-1775) to the design of Ivan Hryhorovych-Barsky, a distinguished architect (the Ukrainian Baroque exterior of St Cyril's was also designed by him). .The church is an excellent example of late Ukrainian Baroque, displaying this architectural style to its best advantage. The church has an icon of St Michael dating from the 16th century.The acoustical properties of the interior are quite remarkable and the choirs and singers who perform there during the services fully appreciate it (under the Soviets, the church was used as a concert hall).
The timetable of the services is the same as the one in the Refectory Church of the Lavra Monastery. The Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (UGCC) sprang up at the end of the 16th century as a result of the desire on the part of the Polish authorities (at that time a considerable part of Ukraine was under the Polish domination) to bring together the Ukrainian Orthodox community and the Polish Catholic community. The reconciliation was short-lived but the then created new church outlived the political purpose it was created for and has survived until now. The UGCC combines features of both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations. Under the communist regime the UGCC existed only underground and only after Ukraine's independence it was given its full rights.

The UGCC was allowed to use the Mykolayivska Church at the Ascold Tomb (not far from the Arsenalna Metro station) and the bell tower of the Church of Mykola Dobry in Podil. The Mykolayivska Church, according to some sources, is considered to be the oldest Orthodox church in Kyiv, dating to the 9th century. In fact, the original wooden church was in later centuries substituted for a brick one, which in the Soviet times was used as a park pavilion. In 1998, it was renovated and turned back to its original purpose. In the cemetery nearby, several prominent Kyivans were buried: M. Solovtsov, the founder of one of the first big repertory theatres; T. Nesterov, a pilot who was the first in the world to loop the loop in his aeroplane; V. Tarnovsky, a patron of arts. Since late 16th century, Kyiv has always had quite a large Roman Catholic community, made up mostly of Polish people. Not always the relations between the Catholic and Orthodox communities were very peaceful in the past but no violence was ever reported. At present, there are two Roman Catholic churches functioning in Kyiv, both with rich history behind them. The Dominican Oleksandrivska Church is situated right in the heart of town, at 17 Kostelna Street, close to the Volodymyr Hill, the site of the most ancient part of Kyiv. Soon after it was built (1817-1842), it became the most popular Catholic church in town. The Soviets closed it down, like so many other churches, knocked down crosses from the tops of its domes but did not destroy it, turning it into a planetarium instead (it was a perverted Soviet tradition to turn churches into a sort of popular-science centres: history of religion museums, condemning religion as the "opium for the people"; installing Foucault pendulums* - in the Isaakiyevsky Cathedral in St Petersburg and in the Refectory Church of the Kyiv Lavra Monastery, for example). The Oleksandrivska Church has been restored and the services are held in several languages since the Roman Catholic community of Ukraine is made up of Ukrainian citizens, Polish and other nationals. The Mykolayivska Church (75 Velyka Vasylkivska St.), designed by the prominent Kyiv architect Horodetsky, was built in the early twentieth century in the neo-Gothic style. Horodetsky was a pioneer in the use of cement and the church bears witness to the architect's infatuation with the then new building material. Under the Soviets it had stood just locked for many years.


St Alexander's Catholic Church.


Lutheran Church.


Central synagogue of the Brodskys.

Then it was turned into a concert hall and an organ was installed. At present it is used both as a house of worship and a concert hall where religious choral and organ music is performed. The Protestant community of Kyiv is made up mostly of German Lutherans who can go to worship to the Lutheran Church in the Luteranska Street, in the traditionally most prosperous section of town known as Lypky. The church was built in 1855 for the then German protestant community. After the Bolshevik revolution it was turned, first, into a club of "militant atheists" and later it became a museum depository. In the early nineties, the Lutheran Church once again became a house of worship. Of all the synagogues in Kyiv the biggest one is at 13 Shota Rustaveli Street. Its somewhat unusual architecture (typical of the synagogues built by the Spanish Jews rather than by those who lived in Eastern Europe) and size distinguish it among other synagogues. It was built in 1897 with the money donated by millionaire and patron of arts Brodsky. The communist regime's hostility towards religion affected all the religious confessions and the synagogue was closed and its premises given to a puppet theatre. After the recent restoration it was given back to the Jewish community. There are dozens of Orthodox churches functioning in Kyiv now as well as dozens of houses of prayer which belong to various Protestant communities, the Mormon community, the Krishnaite and other religious communities.

By Andriy Hlazovy and Andriy Pyrohiv

* Foucault pendulum is a relatively large mass suspended from a long wire mounted so that its perpendicular plane of swing is not confined to a particular direction and, in fact, rotates in relation to the Earth's surface. J. B. L. Foucault assembled (1851) in Paris the first pendulums of this type, one of which consisted of a 28-kilogram (62 pound) iron ball suspended from the dome of the Pantheon by a steel wire 67 m (220 feet) long and kept in motion by a mechanism. The rotation of the plane of swing of Foucault's pendulums was the first laboratory demonstration of the Earth's spin on its axis.