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Kiev: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra

Kiev: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra

Designed to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, Kiev's Saint-Sophia Cathedral symbolizes the 'new Constantinople', capital of the Christian principality of Kiev, which was created in the 11th century in a region evangelized after the baptism of St Vladimir in 988. The spiritual and intellectual influence of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra contributed to the spread of Orthodox thought and the Orthodox faith in the Russian world from the 17th to the 19th century.

Kiev : cathédrale Sainte-Sophie et ensemble des bâtiments monastiques et laure de Kievo-Petchersk

Conçue pour rivaliser avec l'église Sainte-Sophie de Constantinople, la cathédrale Sainte-Sophie de Kiev symbolise la « nouvelle Constantinople », capitale de la principauté chrétienne créée au XIe siècle dans une région évangélisée après le baptême de saint Vladimir en 988. Le rayonnement spirituel et intellectuel de la laure de Kievo-Petchersk contribua largement à la diffusion de la foi et de la pensée orthodoxes dans le monde russe aux XVIIe, XVIIIe et XIXe siècles.

كييف: كاتدرائية القديسة صوفيا ومجموعة الأديرة ودير لافرا كييف بيشيرسكا

ترمز كاتدرائية القديسة صوفيا في كييف التي تم تصميمها لمنافسة كنيسة آية صوفيا في القسطنطينية الى "القسطنطينية الجديدة" التي اصبحت عاصمة الإمارة المسيحية الناشئة في القرن الحادي عشر في منطقة تم تنصيرها بعد عمادة القديس فلاديمير عام 988. وقد ساهم الإشعاع الروحي والفكري الخاص بدير لافرا كييف بيشيرسكا على نحو ملحوظ في نشر المذهب الأورثوذكسي في العالم الروسي طوال القرون السابع والثامن والتاسع عشر.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Киев: Софийский собор и связанные с ним монастырские строения, Киево-Печерская лавра

Призванный стать соперником храма Айя-София в Константинополе, Софийский собор символизировал становление Киева – столицы христианского княжества, как «Нового Константинополя». Собор был возведен в XI в., т.е. вскоре после крещения Руси (988 г.) при князе Владимире. Духовное и интеллектуальное влияние Киево-Печерской лавры способствовало распространению православной культуры и православной веры на Руси в период с XVII до XIX вв.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Kiev: catedral de Santa Sofía, conjunto de edificios monásticos y laura de Kievo-Petchersk

Proyectada para rivalizar con Santa Sofía de Constantinopla, la catedral Santa Sofía de la capital ucraniana es el símbolo de la “Nueva Constantinopla”, denominación dada a la capital del principado de Kiev, creado en el siglo XI en una región evangelizada después del bautismo de San Vladimir en el año 988. La influencia espiritual e intelectual del monasterio de Kievo-Petchersk contribuyó considerablemente a la propagación de la fe y el pensamiento ortodoxos en el mundo ruso entre los siglos XVII y XIX.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Sint-Sophia kathedraal en bijbehorend Kiev-Pechersk Lavra kloostercomplex

De Sint-Sophia kathedraal van Kiev werd ontworpen om te wedijveren met de Hagia Sophia in Constantinopel. De kathedraal symboliseert het 'nieuwe Constantinopel', de hoofdstad van het christelijk vorstendom Kiev dat in de 11e eeuw werd gebouwd in een - na de bekering van Sint Vladimir in 988 - geëvangeliseerd gebied. Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is van uitzonderlijke betekenis binnen het nationale Oekraïense erfgoed. De oude kloosterstichting speelt een zeer belangrijke rol in het geestelijke en intellectuele leven van de Russische wereld. Het droeg bij aan de verspreiding van het orthodoxe geloof en gedachtegoed in de Russische wereld van de 17e tot de 19e eeuw.

Source: unesco.nl

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© Federica Leone
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings and Kiev-Pechersk Lavra represent two outstanding complexes of cultural heritage monuments from the Middle Ages and Early Modern period (Kievan Rus’ and Hetmanate Periods).

The property consists of two separate components: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and its related monastic buildings and the monastic complex of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra with the Church of the Saviour at Berestovo.

Saint-Sophia Cathedral, located in the historic centre of Kiev, is one of the major monuments representing the architectural and the monumental art of the early 11th century. The Cathedral was built with the participation of local builders and Byzantine masters during the reign of the Great Prince of Kiev, Yaroslav the Wise, as the main Christian Church of the Kievan Rus’ capital. The Cathedral has preserved its ancient interiors and the collection of mosaics and frescoes of the 11th century is unique for its integrity. Its masterpieces include the Pantocrator, the Virgin Orans, the Communion of the Apostles, the Deisis and the Annunciation. The architecture and monumental art of the Cathedral had a wide influence on the architecture and decoration of the Kievan Rus’ temples. Monastic buildings constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries in the Ukrainian Baroque style surround the Cathedral. The architectural ensemble includes the bell tower, Metropolitan’s house, the refectory, the Zaborovsky gate, the south entrance tower, the cells of cathedral elders and the seminary encircled by a stone wall. Over the centuries, the Cathedral and monastic buildings have expressed a unique harmony of architectural and natural forms,   and national spirit and have held a significant place in the traditional historic landscape of Kiev.

The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is an architectural ensemble of monastic buildings situated on the plateau overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper River. The ensemble was formed over many centuries in organic combination with the landscape, and acts as a general urban dominant. Founded by St. Anthony and St. Theodosy in the 11th century, the monastery became a prominent spiritual and cultural centre that made a significant contribution to the development of education, art and medicine. The architectural ensemble of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra comprises unique surface and underground churches from the 11th to the 19th centuries, in a complex of labyrinthine caves that expands more than 600m, as well as domestic and household buildings from the 17th to the19th centuries. The architectural ensemble acquired its modern aspect as a result of construction activities in the 17th to the 18th centuries in the heyday of the Ukrainian Baroque. The main monuments of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra ensemble are the Dormition Cathedral, the Trinity Gate Church, the Great Bell Tower, the Church of All Saints, the Refectory Church, the monastery defensive walls with towers, the cave complexes of St. Anthony (Near) and St. Theodosy (Far) with surface churches, the Exaltation of the Cross and the Nativity of the Virgin and the Church of the Saviour on Berestovo.

For centuries, the Kiev-Pechersk Monastery, with relics of saints buried in caves, has been one of the most important Christian pilgrimage centres in the world. 

Criterion (i): Kiev: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev­Pechersk Lavra represents a masterpiece of human creative genius in both its architectural conception and its remarkable decoration.

Saint-Sophia Cathedral is a unique monument of architecture and monumental art of the early 11th century having the biggest preserved collection of mosaics and frescoes of that period. The Cathedral’s architecture is distinguished by supplementary naves added to the five-nave core and pyramidal spatial composition of the cross dome church. The monumental decoration of the Cathedral composes an ensemble unique for its conceptual design that reflects the major theological ideas of the time and is an outstanding example of Byzantine art. The huge pantheon of Christian saints depicted in the Cathedral has an unrivalled multiplicity among Byzantine monuments of that time. The mural paintings of the Cathedral also include a complex of unique secular frescoes in the stair towers made in the tradition of Byzantine art.

The ensemble of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is a masterpiece of Ukrainian art that was definitely formed during the Baroque period. It integrates unique surface and underground buildings and structures of the 11th-19th centuries combined with a rich landscape.

Criterion (ii): The property is a result of the cultural interaction of the Kievan Rus’, the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe. Architecture and monumental painting at the property reflect the changes of Byzantine architectural and artistic traditions that acquired a new sense under the influence of local vision. It revealed, in spiritual tradition as well as in architectural planning, encompassing the tradition of underground Orthodox cult architecture of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. The Dormition Cathedral was an example for the construction of similar churches in the Eastern Europe region during the 12th to15th centuries.  

Criterion (iii): Kiev: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev­Pechersk Lavra bears exceptional testimony to the centuries-old Byzantine cultural traditions of neighbouring countries in general and of Kievan Rus’ in particular. Over the centuries the property had a major spiritual influence in Eastern Europe.

Criterion (iv): Saint-Sophia Cathedral is a unique edifice that reflects in its architecture and mural decoration the peculiarities of churchwarden order. The construction of the Cathedral laid the foundation of an architectural school that influenced the cult architecture and monumental art of Kievan Rus’ and then of Eastern Europe.

Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is an exceptionally valuable architectural ensemble formed over the course of almost nine centuries, which reflects changes in stylistic trends in architecture, as well as the process of the improvement of engineering structures. 


All important elements and attributes necessary to convey the Outstanding Universal Value are contained within the boundaries of the property and are preserved.

According to the original design, Saint-Sophia Cathedral was built as a dominant architectural element of the urban environment open to a wide and overall view. In the 19th century, the setting of the Cathedral changed due to the modification of the traditional urban fabric.

The integrity of the ensemble of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra suffered during the Second World War, when the Dormition Cathedral, the main Lavra church, was almost entirely destroyed, with the exception of its southeast tower. In 1999-2000, the Cathedral was reconstructed according to the architectural forms of the period of the Ukrainian Baroque in the late 18th century.

With regards to the hydrogeological conditions, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra caves require a constant monitoring over the state of their preservation and the implementation of preventive measures.

Rapid urban development, particularly from high-rise buildings, and the lack of protection and planning mechanisms can threaten the immediate surroundings of the property. The integrity of the property in terms of spatial links between its components and their relationship with the surrounding urban and monastic river landscapes also requires a structured planning to address any potential threat. 


The property’s attributes reflect its Outstanding Universal Value. All built elements are restored by using original materials.

Reconstruction works undertaken at Saint-Sophia were awarded the “European Gold Medal for the Protection of Historic Monuments” in 1987. Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings are used as a museum for educational purposes and for state events.

Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is used for museum purposes as well as for religious practices that correspond to its original purpose.

Although the dominance of the silhouette of the ensemble has been diminished by urban development, the traditional panoramas and silhouettes of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra along the Dnieper River are preserved. 

Protection and management requirements

Kiev-Pechersk Lavra was declared a “State historical and cultural reserve” in 1926 and Saint-Sophia Cathedral with Related Monastic buildings in 1934.

The property is managed according to the relevant legislation, including the Laws of Ukraine “On Protection of Cultural Heritage”, “On Protection of Archaeological Heritage”. In addition, various Decrees of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine are providing the site-specific legal framework for the protection, conservation and use of the property.

The National Conservation Area “Saint-Sophia of Kiev” and the National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserve are managed by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, which is now responsible for the unified operational management of the whole property.

According to the national legislation Plans of the Territory Organization of both components of the property (National Conservation Area “Saint-Sophia of Kiev” and Kiev-Pechersk National Historical and Cultural Reserve) were developed. These plans define the boundaries and regimes for the buffer zone of the property, the action plan for restoration, conservation and protection of the property. The above-mentioned plans correspond to the Conservation Plan. Moreover, annual plans of restorations of monuments, territories and engineering systems of the property are approved at the national level.

In order to secure the preservation of the Varangian caves, a draft conservation program and an action plan have been developed for those sections of the caves that require preventive and rehabilitation measures.

To address conservation and management challenges, the Management Plan will need to be fully operational. Enforcement of legislative and regulatory measures will be crucial to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is sustained. Planning tools will need to be coordinated to ensure that a policy, based on studies of the urban landscape and defined views, is in place to control development within the buffer zone and its wider setting.

Long Description

St Sophia, a Greek-cross church, is one of the major edifices representing the culture of Eastern Christianity in the 11th century, inspired by Byzantine models. the stylistic features of its decoration were spread throughout Kievan Russia in the 11th century by the icon painters working in Kiev. Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is of outstanding significance in the Ukrainian national heritage, and the ancient monastic foundation plays a very important role in the spiritual and intellectual life of the Russian world.

The construction of St Sophia Cathedral was begun in the first half of the 11th century, probably in 1037 by Yaroslav the Sage. It was meant to replace Kiev's very first church, the Dessiatinnaya (Our Lady of the Tithes), built by his great-grandmother Duchess Olga in 952. Conceived in opus mixtum, with 12 columns dividing the interior into five naves, the church represents a perfect fusion between symbolic image and architecture: the big central gilt cupola and twelve smaller cupolas which crown it evoke Christ and the 12 Apostles in a pyramidal composition so strongly expressed that it was not diminished in the restoration of the onion domes in the 18th century

A complex of monastic buildings surrounds the church. Built originally of wood in 1633, the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1697 and reconstructed in stone. The four-storey bell tower, overhung by a gilt onion cupola, the Metropolitan's house, the refectory, the west gate, the tower at the south entrance, the Brothers' building, and the seminary were built. A stone enceinte encircled these buildings, which are typical of Ukrainian Baroque style, the influence of which can also be seen in contemporary restoration work on the cathedral. Designated an 'Architectural and Historical Reserve of the State' in 1934, St Sophia was spared the widespread devastation of the Second World War. It is now administered as a monument museum.

In a wooded area on two hills overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper River is Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, a monastery complex consisting of numerous monuments and grottoes. Now the area is surrounded by the urban agglomeration of Greater Kiev, which has undergone rapid expansion since 1980.

The Lavra boasts very ancient origins and rapidly became the seat of a community governed by the abbot St Theodosius. With the support of the Princes of Kiev, the monastery immediately began to prosper. Devastated by the Mongols and the Tatars, Lavra was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century and afterward. A print shop was founded in 1615, mainly issuing devotional literature and history. The Lavra played a highly important intellectual role: these were times of great prosperity, when pilgrims flocked to the site, and the grounds were filled with numerous Baroque monuments. The Clock Tower and the Refectory Church are two of the main landmarks in a monastic landscape totally transformed by the construction or the renovation of numerous churches. Declared a 'Historical and Cultural Reserve' in 1926, the Lavra was very severely damaged in 1941 when its oldest edifice, the Dormition Cathedral, was almost fully destroyed.

Today the major elements of the very old historic heritage are Trinity Church, whose 12th-century structure is hidden by the extremely rich Baroque decor, and especially the catacombs, which include the Near Caves and the Far Caves, whose entrances are respectively at All Saints' Church and at the Church of the Conception of St Anna. Over the years the monks' cells became a necropolis where hundreds of their mummified bodies have been preserved.

Most of the monuments of the Lavra had new cultural functions in 1926: the Metropolitan's residence is now the State Museum of Ukrainian Decorative Folk Art, the printshop houses the Book and Bookbinding Museum, the Refectory Church is a museum of Christianity, and the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross is the museum of the history of the catacombs.