Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Києво-Печерська лавра)
National Historic-Cultural Sanctuary / Monastery
none View of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra
View of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra
Name origin: Monastery of the caves
Country Ukraine
Capital city Kiev
District Pechersk Raion
Municipality Kiev City
Landmarks Great Lavra Belltower, Gate Church of the Trinity (Pechersk Lavra), Church of the Saviour at Berestove, Near Caves
River Dnieper
Area 235,400 m² (2,533,825 sq ft)
Authors Theodosius of Kiev, Anthony of Kiev
Style Ukrainian Baroque
Founded Cave monastery
 - established 1 State Sanctuary
 - established 2 Reinstatement of Monastery
Date 1051
 - date 1 29 September 1926 (1926-09-29)


 - date 2 1988
Management Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy)
Government Ministry of Culture of Ukraine
Leader Metropolitan Onufriy (Monastery)
 - Leader 1 Marina Hromova (Sanctuary)
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Name Kiev: Saint Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kiev Pechersk Lavra
Year 1990 (#14)
Number 527
Region Europe and North America
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv
Recognition Seven Wonders of Ukraine[2]

Kiev Pechersk Lavra or Kyiv Pechersk Lavra[3][4](Ukrainian: Києво-Печерська лавра|: Kyievo-Pechers'ka lavra, Russian: Киeво-Печерская лавра: Kievo-Pecherskaya lavra), also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery which gave its name to one of the city districts where it is located in Kiev.

Since its foundation as the cave monastery in 1051[5] the Lavra has been a preeminent center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. Together with the Saint Sophia Cathedral, it is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[6][nb 1] The monastery complex is considered a separate national historic-cultural preserve (sanctuary), the national status to which was granted on 13 March 1996.[8] The Lavra is not only located in another part of the city, but is part of a different national sanctuary than Saint Sophia Cathedral. While being a cultural attraction, the monastery is once again active, with over 100 monks in residence. It was named one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine on 21 August 2007, based on voting by experts and the internet community.

Currently, the jurisdiction over the site is divided between the state museum, National Kiev-Pechersk Historic-Cultural Preserve,[9] and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) as the site of the chief monastery of that Church and the residence of its leader, Metropolitan Onuphrius.

Etymology and other names[]

Lavra Kyiv

Panorama of the monastery (southward view)

Uspensky Sobor

The reconstructed Cathedral of the Dormition, as seen in 2005.

The word pechera means cave. The word lavra is used to describe high-ranking male monasteries for monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Therefore, the name of the monastery is also translated as Kiev Cave Monastery, Kiev Caves Monastery or the Kiev Monastery of the Caves (на печерах).

Foundation and early history[]

According to the Primary Chronicle, in the early 11th century, Anthony, an Orthodox monk from Esphigmenon monastery on Mount Athos, originally from Liubech of the Principality of Chernihiv, returned to Rus' and settled in Kiev as a missionary of monastic tradition to Kievan Rus'. He chose a cave at the Berestov Mount that overlooked the Dnieper River and a community of disciples soon grew. Prince Iziaslav I of Kiev ceded the whole mount to the Antonite monks who founded a monastery built by architects from Constantinople.

Kievo-Pecherska Lavra Belltower

Up-close view of the Great Lavra Belltower with its four tiers in 2005.

Near Caves

The Near Caves of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. Sketch by the Dutch artist Abraham van Westerveldt made in 1651.


  • 1051-1062 Antoniy
  • 1062-1063 Varlaam
  • 1063-1074 Theodosius (joined the Studite Brethren)
  • 1074-1077 Stefan I Bolharyn
  • 1077-1088 Nikon the Great (before schima Hilarion)
  • 1088-1103 Ioann

In 1096 Cumans led by khan Boniak attacked Kiev and the Cave Monastery.

  • 1108-1112 Theoktistos, became a bishop of Chernihiv
  • 1132-1141 Pimen the Singer

In 1159 the monastery received stauropegic status and since then was known as lavra.

  • 1171-1182 Polikarp Pechersky (the first archimandrite)
  • 1593-1599 Nykifor Tur
  • 1624-1627 Zakhariy Kopystenski
  • 1627-1633 Peter Mogila
  • 1656-1683 Innocent (Giesel)
  • 1710-1714 Afanasiy Myslawski
  • 1715-1729 Ioanikiy Seniutovich

Buildings and structures[]

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra contains numerous architectural monuments, ranging from bell towers to cathedrals to underground cave systems and to strong stone fortification walls. The main attractions of the Lavra include Great Lavra Belltower, the notable feature of the Kiev skyline, and the Dormition Cathedral, destroyed in World War II, and fully reconstructed in recent years. Other churches and cathedrals of the Lavra include: the Refectory Church, the Church of All Saints, the Church of the Saviour at Berestove, the Church of the Exaltation of Cross, the Church of the Trinity, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, the Church of the Conception of St. Anne, and the Church of the Life-Giving Spring. The Lavra also contains many other constructions, including: the St. Nicholas Monastery, the Kiev Theological Academy and Seminary, and the Debosquette Wall.

Great Lavra Belltower[]

The Great Lavra Belltower is one of the most notable features of the Kiev skyline and among the main attractions of the Lavra. 96.5 meters in height, it was the tallest free-standing belltower at the time of its construction in 1731–1745, and was designed by the architect Johann Gottfried Schädel. It is a Classical style construction and consists of tiers, surmounted by a gilded dome.

Dormition Cathedral[]

Успенський собор - Catedral de la ASuncion 2

Restored Dormition Church

Built in the 11th century, the main church of the monastery was destroyed during the World War II couple of months after the Nazi Germany troops occupied the city of Kiev and the controversial 1941 Khreshchatyk explosions that destroyed the city's main street. According to the Soviet authorities, the temple was destroyed by the advancing German troops, while at the same time German authorities hanged the blame onto the withdrawing Soviet troops who did practiced the tactics of scorched earth and blew up all the Kiev bridges over Dnieper as well as being accused in the 1941 Khreshchatyk explosions.

It should be noted that since 1928 the monastery was converted into a museum park by the Soviet authorities and after its return no efforts were provided to restore the church. The temple was finally restored in 1995 after Ukraine obtained its independence and the construction was accomplished in two years. The new Dormition Church was consecrated in 2000.

Gate Church of the Trinity[]

The Gate Church of the Trinity is located atop the Holy Gates, which houses the entrance to the monastery. According to a legend, this church was founded by the Chernihiv Prince Sviatoslav II. It was built atop an ancient stone church which used to stand in its place. After the fire of 1718 the church was rebuilt, its revered facades and interior walls enriched with ornate stucco work made by master craftsman V. Stefaovych. In the 18th century a new gilded pear-shaped dome was built, the facade and exterior walls were decorated with stucco-moulded plant ornaments and a vestibule built of stone attached to the north end. In the early 20th century the fronts and the walls flanking the entrance were painted by icon painters under the guidance of V. Sonin. The interior of the Gate Trinity Church with murals by the early 18th century painter Alimpy Galik is of great artistic value.

Refectory chambers with Church of the Saints Anthony and Theodosius[]

Trapezna lavra

Refectory Church

The refectory chambers with the Church of the Saints Anthony and Theodosius is the third in a series of temples. The original temple was built in the 12th century and no drawings or visual depictions of it remain. The second temple was built at the time of the Cossack Hetmanate and was disassembled by the Russian authorities in the 19th century. It was replaced with the current temple, often referred to as the Refectory Church of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

The All Saints Church[]

The All Saints Church erected in 1696–1698 is a fine specimen of Ukrainian baroque architecture. Characteristic of the church facades are rich architectural embellishments. In 1905 students of the Lavra art school painted the interior walls of the church. The carved wooden iconostasis is multi-tiered and was made for the All Saints church in the early 18th century.

Church of the Saviour at Berestov[]

Church of the Saviour at Berestove (Side view)

Side view of the Church of the Saviour at Berestove seen with its campanile, designed by architect Andrei Melenskyi in the Classical style.

The Church of the Saviour at Berestove is located to the North of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. It was constructed in the village of Berestove around the start of the 11th century during the reign of Prince Volodymyr Monomakh. It later served as the mausoleum of the Monomakh dynasty, also including Yuri Dolgoruki, the founder of Moscow. Despite being outside the Lavra fortifications, the Church of the Saviour at Berestove is part of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra complex.


Iliya Muromets Kiev

Imperishable relic of saint Ilya Muromets in Kiev Pechersk Lavra

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra caverns are a very complex system of narrow underground corridors (about 1-1½ metres wide and 2-2½ metres high), along with numerous living quarters and underground chapels. In 1051, the monk Anthony settled in an old cave in a hill near the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. This cave received additions including corridors and a church, and is now what we know as the Far Caves. In 1057, Anthony moved to a cave near the Upper Lavra, now called the Near Caves.

Foreign travellers in the 16th–17th centuries wrote that the catacombs of the Lavra stretched for hundreds of kilometres, reaching as far as Moscow and Novgorod,[10] spreading awareness of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.


Надгробок Костянтина Острозького

Monument to Konstanty Ostrogski

There are over a hundred burials in the Lavra. Below are the most notable ones

  • Ilya Muromets – in the caves (c. 11th–12th century)
  • Nestor the Chronicler – in the Near Caves (c. 1114)
  • Saint Kuksha – in the Near Caves (c. 1114)
  • Alipy of the Caves – in the Near Caves (c. 1114)
  • Agapetus of Pechersk – in the Near Caves (c. 11th century)
  • Oleg son of Volodymyr II Monomakh – in the Church of the Saviour at Berestove (c. 12th century)
  • Eufemia of Kiev daughter of Vladimir II Monomakh – in the Church of the Saviour at Berestove (1139)
  • Yuri Dolgoruki – in the Church of the Saviour at Berestove (1157)
  • Skirgaila – regent Grand Duke of Lithuania (1397)
  • Konstanty Ostrogski – near the Cathedral of the Dormition (1530)
  • Vasily Kochubey – near the Refectory Church (1708)
  • Ivan Iskra – near the Refectory Church (1708)
  • Pyotr Stolypin – near the Refectory Church (1911)
  • St. Spyridon – in the caves (c. 19th–20th century)
  • Pope Clement I – his head in the Far Caves (his remaining relics brought to San Clemente in Rome by St. Cyril and Methodius)
  • Other people buried

During the Soviet era, the bodies of the saints that lay in the caves were left uncovered due to the regime's disregard for religion. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the bodies were covered with a cloth and to this day remain in the same state. .


Orthodox pilgrim

Orthodox pilgrim in Kiev Pechersk Lavra – women must cover their head when entering Lavra.

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra is one of the largest museums in Kiev. The exposition is the actual ensemble of the Upper (Near Caves) and Lower (Far Caves) Lavra territories, which house many architectural relics of the past. The collection within the churches and caves includes articles of precious metal, prints, higher clergy portraits and rare church hierarchy photographs. The main exposition contains articles from 16th to early 20th centuries, which include chalices, crucifixes, and textiles from 16th–19th centuries, with needlework and embroidery of Ukrainian masters. The remainder of the collection consists of pieces from the Lavra's Printing House and the Lavra's Icon Painting Workshop.[11] The museum provides tours of the catacombs, which contain remains of Orthodox saints or their relics. The Caves are of geological interest because they are excavated into loess ground. They form one of the most extensive occurrences of loess caves in the world.

The Lavra museums include:

  • Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine
    • Martynivka Treasure
  • Book and print history museum
  • Museum of Ukrainian folk art
  • Theater and film arts museum
  • State historical library



Next to the monastery is the famous Kiev Arsenal factory, known for the Bolshevik Uprising in 1917.

See also[]

  • Near Caves
  • Yakun
  • Šimon
  • Lavra
  • List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ukraine


  1. ^ Late 2010 a monitoring mission of UNESCO was visiting the Kiev Pechersk Lavra to check on situation of the site. At the time the Minister of Culture Mykhailo Kulynyak stated the historic site along with the Saint Sophia Cathedral was not threatened by the "black list" of the organization.[7] The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO decided in June 2013 that Kiev Pechersk Lavra, and St. Sofia Cathedral and related monastery buildings would remain on the World Heritage List.[6]


  1. ^ "Official website". Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  2. ^ "Seven Wonders of Ukraine". Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  3. ^ Verkhovna Rada Portal Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine This is the official English spelling used by the Ukrainian government
  4. ^ Parliament votes down law on preservation of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex Interfax-Ukraine, 16 June 2010 at 10:42
  5. ^ [Magocsi P.R. A History of Ukraine. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1996. p 98.]
  6. ^ a b Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, St. Sophia Cathedral remain on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Interfax-Ukraine (20 June 2013)
  7. ^ "«Софії Київській та Києво-Печерській лаврі «чорний список» ЮНЕСКО не загрожує» – Міністр культури Михайло Кулиняк". Archived from the original on 11 July 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  8. ^ "Про надання статусу національного Києво-Печерському держав... - від 13.03.1996 № 181/96". Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  9. ^ "Сайт Національного Києво-Печерського історико-культурного заповідника". Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  10. ^ Malikenaite, Ruta (2003). Guidebook: Touring Kyiv. Kiev: Baltia Druk. ISBN 966-96041-3-3. 
  11. ^ Kyiv Sightseeing Guide. Kiev/Lviv: Centre d'Europe. 2001. ISBN 966-7022-29-3. 

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