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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saint Sophia Cathedral

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is an outstanding architectural monument of Kievan Rus. Today it is one of the cities best known landmarks and the first Ukrainian patrimony to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. In Ukrainian the cathedral is known as Sobor Sviatoyi Sofiyi or Sofiyskyi sobor. In Russian it is known as Sobor Svyatoi Sofii or Sofiyskiy sobor. The details of Saint Sophia Cathedral are explained in world tour guides below.

Saint Sophia CathedralThe complex of the Cathedral is the main component the National Sanctuary Sophia of Kiev the state institution responsible for the preservation of the Cathedral complex along with several other historic landmarks of the city. The cathedrals name comes from the 6th-century Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople meaning Holy Wisdom, and dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God rather than a specific saint named Sophia. According to a less popular theory its model was 13-domed oaken Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod which Yaroslav I the Wise determined to imitate in stone as a sign of gratitude to citizens of Novgorod who had helped him secure the Kievan throne in 1019.

The first foundations were laid out in 1037, but the cathedral took two decades to complete. The structure has 5 naves, 5 apses and 13 cupolas. It is surrounded by two-tier galleries from three sides. Measuring 37 to 55 m, the exterior used to be faced with plinths. On the inside, it retains mosaics and frescos from the eleventh century, including a dilapidated representation of Yaroslavs family, and the Virgin Orans. Originally the cathedral was a burial place of the Kievan rulers including Vladimir Monomakh, Vsevolod Yaroslavich and of course the cathedral's founder Yaroslav I the Wise, although only the latter's grave survived to our days.

After the pillaging of Kiev by Andrei Bogolyubsky of Vladimir Suzdal in 1169, followed by Mongolian Tatars in 1240, the cathedral fell into disrepair. Subsequently the 1595-96 Union of Brest, the cathedral of Saint Sophia belonged to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church until it was claimed by the Moldavian Orthodox metropolitan Peter Mogila in 1633. Mogila commissioned the repair work and the upper part of the building was thoroughly rebuilt, modeled by the Italian architect Octaviano Mancini in the distinct Ukrainian Baroque style while preserving the Byzantine interior, keeping its splendor intact. The work continued under the Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa, and in 1740 the Cathedral was completed to its present form.

Saint Sophia CathedralSaint Sophia CathedralAfter the Russian Revolution of 1917 and during the Soviet antireligious campaign of the 1920s, the government plan called for the cathedral's destruction and transformation of the grounds into a park Heroes of Perekop after a Red Army victory in the Russian Civil War in Crimea. The cathedral was saved from destruction primarily with the effort of many scientists and historians. Nevertheless in 1934 Soviet authorities confiscated the structure from the church, including the surrounding seventeenth–eighteenth century architectural complex and designated it as an architectural and historical museum.

Since the late 1980s Soviet, and later Ukrainian, politicians promised to return the building to the Orthodox Church. Due to various schisms and factions within the Church the return was postponed as all Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches lay claim to it. Although all of Orthodox churches have been allowed to conduct services at different dates other times they are denied access. Most memorable was the funeral of Patriarch Volodymyr of Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchy in 1995, when riot police were forced to prevent the burial on premises of museum and a bloody clash took place. The complex now remains a museum of Ukraine Christianity with most of its visitors being tourists. On 21 August 2007, the Saint Sophia Cathedral was named one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine based on a voting by experts and the internet community.

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