St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine

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St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery is situated on the central hill of Kyiv overlooking the Dnieper River and the northern part of Ukraine’s capital.  Sviatopolk II of Kyiv was the one who founded a stone church as a central part of the complex around 1100 AD. Stressing that “there were once many medieval churches in Kyiv, but nearly all of them were timber-built; none of these have survived”, the Wikipedia article fails to mention two stone churches in Kyiv that predated the St. Michael’s Monastery: Church of the Tithes, and Saint Sophia Cathedral. Also, Kyiv Pechersk Lavra‘s first stone cathedral is most likely older than the St. Michael’s church.

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The Austrian soldier and diplomat Erich Lassota visited Kyiv in 1594. He wrote a diary of his travels, later published as Tagebuch des Erich Lassota von Steblau, and described the monastery:

“It is a fine building. In the center, it has a round cupola with a golden roof. The choirs are turned inwards and are also decorated with mosaics. The floor is laid out with small, colored stones. As one enters the church through the gates which are directly opposite the high altar, one sees on the left a wooden casket that holds the body of a saintly virgin, Barbara, a king’s daughter: she was a young girl, about 12 years old, as can be judged by her size. Her remains, covered down to her feet with a piece of fine linen, have not decomposed yet as I myself could observe by touching her feet which were still hard and not deteriorated. On her head, there is a gilded crown made of wood.” (The Habsburgs and Zaporozhian Cossacks (1594).

The Syrian traveler and writer Paul of Aleppo visited the Monastery during the summer of 1654. In describing the church, he compared it with St. Sophia in Kyiv and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, writing of St. Michael’s:

“The entire building is of wood, except the magnificent, lofty, and elegant church, which is of stone and lime, and has a high cupola shining with gold. This church consists only of one nave. It is lighted all round with glazed windows. The three churches I have been describing are all of one style of architecture, and of one age.”

Importance of St. Sophia in Kyiv >

The “Kyiv Rus in Heimskringla Sagas and Byzantine Texts” book has little-known facts about the construction of St. Sophia Cathedral and of Pechersk Lavra’s first stone building (spoiler: a Viking in exile has a direct relation to it).

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