Visiting St. Sophia’s Cathedral (Софійський собор) was one of the best experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my travels so far. Constructed somewhere between 1011-1037, it’s Kiev’s oldest church. The cathedral is an exceptional architectural monument once a part of the old city of Kievan Rus’, and is therefore protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The exterior was renovated in the 17th century in Ukrainian Baroque style and there are exposed areas where you can see the original brick structure underneath.
The interior is exquisite, with amazingly well-preserved Byzantine architecture covered in original mosaics and frescoes from the 11th century. The main chamber and altar shine with gold and colour, and the eye-catching mosaic of the Virgin Orans decorates the main apse. Spend time looking up at the domes and walking through the arches into each small chamber and chapel; each is decorated with religious iconography from a time where most couldn’t read and connected with their spirituality through art. I’m not religious but I connected deeply. I half regret not breaking the rules and taking at least one photo of the interior but I didn’t want to get kicked out, so all I have is my incredible memories. In my opinion, a visit to St. Sophia’s Cathedral is an unmissable artistic, architectural and cultural experience!
St Sofia's Cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings in Kiev in all its austerity.The blendwhite facade contrasts very well to the dark green roof at the same time as they complete each other. The building itself derives from 1017 - 1031 when it was built to celebrate prince Yaroslav the Wise's victory over the Perchenegs, a tribe attacking Kiev. The entrance tower we pass through to get into the grounds were built in the 18th century, though.
St Sofia was named after Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, the name of which means Holy Wisdom. And wisdom was gathered at St Sofia in Kiev as well since here was the first library and school in Kievan State. Furthermore was this the place for coronations and other royal ceremonies due to its position adjacent to the Royal Palace. And inside the church we find the sarcophagus to prince Yaaroslav the Wise.
The church is well known for its outstandig frescoes, many of them from the building of the church.
Entrance fee to the grounds is 3 Hryvnia, to the cathedral 50 Hryvnia extra. You can see "everywhere" that the complex should be closed on Thursdays but I visited in fact on a Thursday and I can assure it was open!
It is absolutely prohibited to take photos inside the cathedral, even without flash. Don't try to overcome this prohibition because there are guard ladies sitting all over the place checking you. There are in fact more guards than visitors during normal weekdays!
An important monument in Kiev, the Cathedral with its green roofs and golden domes is quite impressive. The name comes from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The foundations were laid approximately 1011 and it took decades to complete.
This cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1990) and was named after the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. It is Kiev's oldest standing church with the frescoes dating back to 1017!
The grounds are open from 9am until 7pm but the cathedral opens slightly later, at 10am and closes at 5pm.
You can go either in the cathedral or the bell tower (seperate entry) or you can get a full access ticket which allows you to go into both .
The grounds are pleasant to walk around and you will probably find Stephan snging and playing his bandura. He has cds you can purchase - I bought one becauseI found listening to him was beautiful and calming!
There is strictly NO photography inside the cathedral
The bell tower... I hope you have a head for heights!!! The bell tower itself is high but enclosed and has a feeling of being perfectly safe. The (working) bells are there (obviously) and there are lovely archways which allow you to take pictures of the views... however, this is not where it all ends! There are then twisty turny staircases that go up, up, up, up,,,, and the higher you go, the more you can see through those huge, open archways,,,, I started to feel a little palm-sweaty and was not enjoying up ascent and then CLANG! the bells, without warning started clonking and that was enough to make me very very slowly turn around and incredibly carefully and slowly start my descent back bell-level all the time trying not to "soak" in the heady views from those open archways!!! My husband laughed at me for being a chicken... and continued up, up, up,,, however he never got to the top because at some point he too turned around and all I could see was his hand gingerly coming back down the banister!
Sophia Cathedral (Lord's Wisdom Cathedral) is one of the ancient churches in Ukraine.
The cathedral is a state reserve now.
Sophia's Cathedral built in 1037 was the principal temple symbolizing the unity and might of the Old Rus State and one of the largest and most important cathedrals in Europe of that time.
Sophia's Cathedral, a thirteen-domed church, was built in the 11th century in the reign of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, one of the outstanding princes of the feudal state of Kiev Rus.
The cathedral is the one of the oldest Ukrainian churches now.
It is famous for its murals and mosaics dating back to the 11th century.
The entrance fee to the cathedral is UAH 20 ($3)
Till now visitors can observe the well-preserved mosaics and frescoes inside the cathedral and admire its color richness and expressiveness.
Sophia Cathedral has been a state reserve since 1934.
It occupies the era of five hectares.
The state reserve includes the 11th-century cathedral and a number of former monastery buildings – architectural monuments of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Sophia's Cathedral is famous for its mosaics and murals. Splendid is its main dome mural depicting Christ the Savior. The main dome is 4.1 meter in diameter.
The cathedral’s dimensions are: width – 35 meters and length – 37 meters.
The cathedral was called after the Greek word “sophia” meaning “wisdom”.
It was erected when the feudal state of Kiev Rus flourished in the 11th century during the reign of Prince Yaroslav the Wise.
The complex of buildings at the state reserve includes the following buildings:
The Metropolitan’s House
Beautiful Cathedral, one of the original cathedrals in Ukraine and a fine example of orthodox Christianity.
Everything has been restored and when you walk inside the cathedral you really get the feel for the old Kiev times.
THere are 3 fees:
1. To enter Cathedral area - 2 gryvnyas
2. To get inside the Cathedral (Museum) - 15 gravnyas
3. Climb the tower - 15 gravnyas
The prices are approximate (don't remember much and i am sure they changed them already)
You will have an opportunity to join an excursion of cathedral (it comes with the ticket price) but it's in Ukrainian or Russian only. There are no print outs in English, so come prepared with a tourist book at least. No pictures of any kind allowed inside.
St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the greatest monuments of Eastern Europe and has been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It was founded in the 11th century (during the reign of Yaroslav I the Wise) and its name comes from the Greek word for "wisdom". For many years the church was used as the main burial place of Kiev princes. The most impressive are the Byzantine frescos and mosaics which remained until now in the original form intact. It's deffinitely "a must" for every visitor and I also recommand it!
Everyday except Wednesday and Thursday:10.00-18.00 (admission until 17.30)
Wednesday: 10.00-17.30 (admission until 16.30)
normal ticket - 16hr
students, children, seniors - 5hr
belfry - 3hr
St. Sophia Cathedral is one of Kiev's best known landmarks and is on the World Heritage List. The Cathedral was built in 1037 and was one of the largest cathedrals in Europe of that time. The cathedral has been destroyed and reconstructed several times. Some of the great princes of Ukraine were buried in the cathedral. The entrance fee to the cathedral is UAH 20 ($3).
Kyiv’s oldest standing church, St. Sophia’s was built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, who incidentally was laid to rest inside. He commissioned the project to commemorate the site of a victory of Kyivan Rus over the Pechenegs (Asian nomadic tribes) and to glorify Christianity. It was named after the famous St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Constantinople. This majestic 13-cupola sanctuary adjoined Yaroslav’s Palace and became a holy place of worship for Kyivites as well as a political and cultural centre.
For a small fee there's entrance to the Bell tower which has really nice views.
Saint Sophia's Cathedral is one of the four UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ukraine, and in 2007, it was named one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine. The cathedral's name comes from the 6th century Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople, meaning Holy Wisdom, and dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God, rather than any saint named Sophia.
It is believed to be a stone copy of the tenth century, wooden Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, which was built by Yaroslav I 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 original structure was largely destroyed by the invading Tatars in 1240, and the current cathedral was largely built in the 17th and 18th centuries. The structure has five naves, five apses, and thirteen 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 representation of Yaroslav's family, and the Virgin Orans.
Originally the cathedral was a burial place of the Kievan rulers including Vladimir Monomakh, Vsevolod Yaroslavich and the cathedral's founder Yaroslav I, although only the latter's grave still survives.
Look at frescos on St. Sophia’s walls. The painters of St. Sophia in XI century possessed special techniques distinctive from painter from other place in painting frescos – paintings with pigment diluted in the water on plaster. The process of paining frescos was very difficult and time consuming, because the painter could put a color only on a wet plaster, then some time should have passed before it is possible to put next layer of the paint. Generally, a layer of plaster will require ten to twelve hours to dry; ideally, an artist would begin to paint after one hour and continue until two hours before the drying time. Thus, an artist would need to know exactly how much he could paint in those hours, before the plaster dries. Once plaster dried out, the painter could not add anything to the painting.
In some places on the wall you may see layered painting left for tourists.
Photos of St. Sophia frescos
St. Sophia Cathedral is actually museum and no religious services are conducted here. However, once I was present during unauthorized and unexpected religious service of pilgrims.
I came to museum as an ordinary visitor, and while I was walking upstairs I heard someone’s cries, chanting, and murmurs. I looked down and saw a group of pilgrims wearing black clothes and cloaks kneeling in front of icons. Museum’s staff was shocked for several minutes and then they tried peacefully explaining those people that it is a museum, but not a church and they cannot do here what they do. After conversation with pilgrims failed, security was called. Amusing thing was that more security came louder pilgrims were crying something about the freedom of religious views and their love to God. It took quite an effort to push them out of museum.
The lesson is when you are in St. Sophia, don’t sing, cry, and kneel, or you will be kicked out. On the other hand, if you ever see the same scene as I did, keep in mind that you saw something that rarely happens behind St. Sophia Cathedral’s walls, at least in XXI century.
Notice painting upstairs in the dark corner. This painting reflects the themes of the life after death. I didn’t pay much attention to it till the moment when I heard a guide who told about significance of that painting. Overall Sophia’s paintings depicted religious views of Kievan Rus Christians. So the painting of the life after death is important because in its theme it was different from Catholic views about the same subject. I am afraid to give you more details on it, because I don’t remember much from guide’s tour.
If you stay in Kiev only a day, you have to visit Sofiyivs’kyy Cathedral or St. Sophia Cathedral or Sophia. First time I went to this museum when I was a little girl. My mother worked across the street from Sophia and every evening I was there I enjoyed bells ring on Sophia. Then the Cathedral was closed for restoration and Kievans for a couple of years didn’t have a chance to see it inside. I love this place and it was quite painful not to have a chance to see it. When they finished restoration, I was a student and with my monthly payments from University of $3 for excellent grades I could not afford to go there. Fortunately I began working and came to see it again a couple of times. Each time I saw something new, so I want to share things I was amuzed with in St. Sophia.
Notice how walls leaned under the weight of centuries. If you saw old buildings before, you possibly noticed that the walls lean to the side and they are not even any more. This is what happens to Sophia’s walls, if to look carefully, you can determine that this building as very old, despite the fact that its interior is so splendid and new looking.
1 UAH entry is about 20 pence / US 20 cents although every other building has an entry fee once inside the grounds, it is minimal everywhere.
We largely just did this as walk through, all of the monasteries are seen to their best from the outside. Through the 300 year old entrance, the main Cathedral is over 900 years old
Just off the main street, St Sophia's , St Michael's & St Andrew's monasteries create their own little Holy Trinity above independnce Square