|Churches of Kyiv
| Kyiv... Old yet ever young....
Its glorious history goes back 1,500 years. From times of old it is referred
to as "the mother of all cities of Rus." It is also the city where legend
merges with reality in striking fashion.
Millions of tourists are eager to visit Kyiv, to climb the famous Starokyivskaya Hill, to touch the warm stones of the majestic monuments of the past, and, from the steep slopes of the Slavutich (the ancient name for the Dnieper River), to enjoy the panorama of the new residential districts which now circle the entire city.
The famous St. Sophia Cathedral of Kyiv.... Everyone is immediately struck upon crossing its threshold. The bustle of the present remains beyond the cathedral doors, centuries recede, and visitors are initiated into the distant past. It was a time of prosperity for the Kyivan Rus state, a time when it established and maintained close trading and diplomatic contacts with the countries of the Orient and the West. Many European kings considered it an honor to establish matrimonial ties with the family of the Grand Prince of Kyiv. Rumors of Kyiv's wealth and beauty as well as the high state of the arts reached many countries of the world. A chronicle of the time read: "Kyiv does honor to all the lands of Rus; it is the glory and pride of Old Rus...."
The monuments of the State Historical and Architectural Museum of the St. Sophia Cathedral are often referred to as a chronicle of architecture and monumental painting of the eleventh Ч nineteenth centuries. The Museum includes the St. Sophia Cathedral and the adjoining buildings of the St. Sophia Monastery, the Golden Gates, St. Cyril's Church, St. Andrew's Church and the Refectory of St. Michael's Monastery of the Golden Domes. The most ancient of them belong to the period of the reign of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise (1019Ч1054). In the first half of the eleventh century. Prince Yaroslav extended the borders of ancient Kyiv, and it was he who started the construction of a majestic ensemble of stone buildings. His construction work is mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years under the year 1037: "Yaroslav founded a great town near which are the Golden Gates; he also built the Church of St. Sophia, the metropolitan's church, and then the Church of the Annunciation of the Golden Gates, after which he erected the monasteries of St. George and St. Irene." In these scant words the chronicler wrote of the talent and labour of thousands of anonymous architects and stone-masons, plasterers and painters, wood- and stone-cutters. The buildings of note dating from the period of Old Rus, the state which was the cradle for three fraternal peoples Ч the Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians Ч illustrate one of the most vivid pages in the history of our culture.
For many centuries, architectural monuments of the past have been mute witnesses to and "participants" in historical events. They survived devastating raids of the steppe nomads in the ominous year of 1240, outlived periods of neglect and later restorations in the fourteenth - sixteenth centuries. In the seventeenth century, they witnessed the national-liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people against the Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords under the leadership of Bogdan Khmelnitsky. In the period of cultural rebirth brought about by the reunification of the Ukraine with Russia, these monuments were given a new lease on life.
In 1934, the ancient St. Sophia Cathedral was made an architectural and historical museum. it opened new opportunities for research upon and restoration of the cathedral's architecture and murals. The museum was intended to illustrate the cultural heritage of our people and to serve as a centre of aesthetic and patriotic education of the people. In the period of the Great Patriotic War of 1941Ч1945 the museum suffered great losses. Though the preserve remained intact throughout the occupation, the fascists plundered its archives and funds which preserved among other exhibits the twelfth-century frescoes from St. Michael's Monastery of the Golden Domes. After the war the frescoes, heavily damaged, were returned to the museum.
In the late 1940s, restoration work was resumed. Among those involved in the research were V. Lazarev, M. Karger, V. Levitskaya, Yu. Aseyev, N. Kresalny and S. Vysotsky, to mention hut a few. To work out a reliable method of mural restoration, a specific laboratory was set up under the auspices of L. Kalenichenko, Ye. Mamolat, 0. Plushch. The scientific and res-toration council was headed by Academicians I. Grabar and V. Lazarev. A large group of Ukrainian restorers of monumental painting has matured during the restoration works in the St. Sophia.
The research work in the museum resulted in the reconstruction of a model based on the elev-enth-century appearance of the St. Sophia Cathedral, helped to define the level of the build-ing's floors and decipher the subjects of the mural representations. The wall space was cleaned of dirt and overpaint to restore eleventh-century frescoes and mosaics. A great amount of work was devoted to the study of Old Rus painting technique and to the ancient graffiti, val-uable examples of the ancient Old Rus script, concealed under a layer of later overpaint. Archeological excavations on the grounds of the preserve brought to light new facts on the (indent topography of the locality, and on construction projects carried out in the monastery precincts throughout its history. Remnants of the eleventh-century stone wall were found in the yard of the metropolitan's residence.
The museum collection numbers over 60,000 items, including archeological finds, surveys and drawings of the monuments, articles of decorative and applied art, photographs and architec-tural details of decoration. The museum collection contains fragments of mosaic floors and marble capitals from the Church of the Tithes, authentic mosaics and frescoes from St. Michael's Monastery of the Golden Domes (the twelfth cent.), and samples of gold-thread em-broidery of the eleventh-twelfth centuries, as well as copies of monumental paintings belonging to various architectural ensembles of the Ukraine. A new museum of Ukrainian Architecture has recently been established at the St. Sophia preserve. Extensive research and restoration works have been carried out in the branches of the museum Ч the Golden Gates, St. Cyril's Church, St. Andrew's Church and the Refectory of St. Michael's Cathedral.
Over the course of many centuries, the architectural perfection of the St. Sophia Cathedral, the vivid colors of the mosaic and fresco compositions dating from the eleventh century have never failed to evoke admiration. The creative work of the master-craftsmen from past epochs cannot but provoke unflagging interest.
The number of visitors to the museum grows with every year. Annually more than two million people visit the preserve, including 1,5 million people to the St. Sophia alone. The monuments of the St. Sophia Museum are landmarks of our country's history and culture. They illustrate the talent and artistic taste of our people, reveal new facets of beauty, and show the sources of friendship and unity of our fraternal Slavic nations.
St. Sophia Cathedral
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