Kyiv Pechersk Lavra
Ivana Mazepi St. 21
Lighting up the picturesque banks of the Dnieper with the shine of its golden domes, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is one of the best known and most popular of the capital’s sights. In any weather or season, it remains an attractive destination for thousands of visitors, making an equally powerful impression on both locals and tourists. For the former group, the Lavra is a powerful spiritual landmark, the most honored Orthodox church in Eastern Europe; the latter, it is a unique cultural monument, recognized by UNESCO.
The Lavra’s history began in 1051, when the monk Antony settled in a nearby cave on the hill. His followers came to the Dnieper soon after. They enlarged the underground cloister, and when it could no longer accommodate all the monks, they started to construct a temple above ground. That is how the future Lavra’s main temple – the Cathedral of the Holy Dormition – appeared on the territory. At the same time, the Trinity Gate Church was built above the gates of the main entrance. The church still stands today, and it is now famous for its original frescos and beautiful altar.
Developing and growing gradually, the monastery turned into the ancient state’s cultural center. Famous writers, scientists, historians, and artists lived here. It was a place of knowledge – Orthodox pastors were taught in the Lavra, and the first print shop and library in Rus were opened on its territory.
Since the 13th century, the Lavra has gone through several tragic periods of history. Its buildings were destroyed, plundered, and burned several times. The complex’s reconstruction began only in the 18th century. The Cathedral of the Holy Dormition and the Trinity Gate Church were decorated in the (popular at that time) baroque style during the reconstruction. The 96.5-meter (310 feet) high Great Lavra Belltower appeared on the territory of the monastery at that time, as well. It remained the highest point in the capital until the middle of the 20th century.
Today, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is divided in two parts: the Upper Lavra, which is a recognized historic and cultural monument, and the Lower Lavra, which is a monastery under the commands of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Upper Lavra’s main sight is a model of the Cathedral of the Holy Dormition, built in 2000, which commemorates the church that was destroyed during World War II. It is among the most beautiful churches in Ukraine.
Several museums operate on Upper Lavra’s territory. These include the Folk Crafts Museum, the Printing and Books Museum, and the Theater, Music, and Cinema Museum. Two, however, deserve special mention. The first is Nikolai Syadristy’s Miniatures Museum, where you can see the smallest book in the world of Taras Shevchenko’s poems, as well as a hoofed flea. The second noteworthy landmark is the Historical Treasures Museum, which has one of the richest collections of golden art, including the famous Scythian creations.
The Lower Lavra is famous for its chain of caves, in which lie the remains of Lavra's saints, including the cloister's founder Antony and Nestor the Chronicle. The entrance to the Near Caves is inside the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross, and the entrance to the Far Caves - in the Church of the Conception of St. Anne.
Important! When visiting the caves and churches of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, women have to cover their heads and wear long skirts covering the knees (you may rent a skirt at the entrance to the caves).
A tour guide service, where you can buy a two-hour excursions in one of several languages (375 UAH for a group of 10 people), is situated at the entrance to the territory of the Upper Lavra. Tours of the Lower Lavra are available only in Russian (25 UAH per person).
Hours of operation: Upper Lavra - 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. (April to September), 9.30 a.m. - 6 p.m. (October to March); Lower Lavra - from dawn until sunset; entrance to the caves: 8.30 a.m. - 16.30 p.m.
Price of admission: Upper Lavra - 20 UAH (admission to museums is extra); Lower Lavra - free.