Kiev Pechersk Lavra, an enchanting golden topped cathedral and monastery situated in the capital city of Ukraine, is built atop a vast and complex system of caves used for a variety of purposes. The Monastery of the Caves is open to the public for tours and regular visits, which allow guests to view the museums as well as a number of relics, artifacts, and of course, the gorgeous design and architecture of the buildings within the monastery complex. Paying a visit to the monastery during a trip to Kiev is an unforgettable opportunity to see one of the most unusual religious cloisters in the world, and it's one of the best things to do in Kiev.
Originally settled by a single monk, called Antony, in the eleventh century, the caves at the Kiev monastery became the site of the Antonite monks who had become his disciples. The land on which the monastic complex is standing was given to the order by the reigning Prince Iziaslav I of Kiev, and the original monastery structure was designed and constructed out by architects from Constantinople. Since its beginnings, an assortment of other buildings has been added to the campus over the centuries, resulting in a huge facility—Kiev Pechersk Lavra is large enough to be a small city.
Within the complex of the Monastery of the Caves there are numerous monuments, including the Church of the Saviour at Berestove, the Gate Church of the Trinity, the Great Lavra Belltower, and, of course, the caverns below the complex, as well as a variety of other churches, chapels, and structures. Located outside of the actual fortifications of the Kiev Monastery, the Church of the Saviour at Berestove was built as a place of worship in the eleventh century and then converted into a mausoleum to serve the Monomakh dynasty.
Set atop the entrance of the monastery is the Gate Church of the Trinity. Dominating the skyline, the Great Lavra Belltower was raised in the mid-1700s and was the tallest freestanding bell tower in the world at the time. The caves, often regarded the most intriguing feature of the complex, have been used for a number of purposes, including living quarters for monks and burial chambers for spiritual leaders, and they are the reason behind the name Monastery of the Caves.
Also featured at the Kiev monastery are several museums, including the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, the Book and Print History Museum, the Museum of Ukrainian Folk Art, the Theater and Film Arts Museum, and the Museum of Micro-Miniatures. At each of these museums, visitors will have a chance to gain a bit of insight into the history and the culture of the surrounding area and of Ukraine.
One of the most unusual museums in the complex is the Museum of Micro-Miniatures, featuring the work of the master of micro-miniatures, Mykola Syadristy; some of the highlights at this museum, many of which must be viewed with a microscope, include the world’s smallest book, a chess set crafted of gold which sits on the head of a pin, and several minute photographs of famous individuals.
Tons of history, a brilliant array of architecture, and the mystique of the hidden complex within the underground tunnels caves are all part of the experience at the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. One of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine, this site is well worth visiting when you’re traveling through Kiev, particularly if you’re interested in architecture or the medieval history of Ukraine.