Kiev: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings,
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (1990)

Back to index

Designed to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, Kiev's Saint-Sophia Cathedral symbolizes the 'new Constantinople', capital of the Christian principality of Kiev, which was created in the 11th century in a region evangelized after the baptism of St Vladimir in 988. The spiritual and intellectual influence of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra contributed to the spread of Orthodox thought and the Orthodox faith in the Russian world from the 17th to the 19th century. 

Kyiv was one of the foremost religious centers of medieval Europe, and several noteworthy church buildings survive. The most famous of these is the Cathedral of Saint Sophia (also known as the Hagia Sophia of Kyiv; founded early 11th century, largely rebuilt 17th-18th century); the oldest cathedral in Ukraine, it is noted for its frescoes and mosaics. 

Ukraine 2001. Pechersk Lavra in Kiev.

The large Perchersky, or Cave, Monastery (founded early 11th century), and designated a World Cultural Heritage Site, is known for its catacombs, and is one of the most sacred edifices of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 

Ukraine 2003. Pechersk Lavra in Kiev.

  • Ukraine 2001. Pechersk Lavra in Kiev (left).
  • Ukraine 2003. Pechersk Lavra in Kiev (right). 

In 2000 Ukraine celebrated 2000 years of Christianity with this souvenir sheet, jointly issued with Russia and Belarus. 

Ukraine 2000. 2000 years of Christianity. Joint issue with Russia and Belarus.

Other striking religious structures in the city include the baroque-style 18th-century Church of Saint Andrew and the late 19th-century Cathedral of Saint Vladimir. 

Ukraine 1999. Church of Saint Andrei Pervozvannyi in Kiev.

Ukraine 1996. Churches of Ukraine.

First settled in prehistoric times, Kyiv became an East Slavic settlement during the 6th and 7th centuries. It soon developed into an important commercial center located on a major trade route. In 860 the city was taken over by Varangians (Vikings), who made it the center of the first significant East Slavic state, called Kievan Rus. The webmaster being Danish, I am happy to testify to this through these stamps. 

Ukraine 2003. English miniature showing the arrival of Scandinavian Vikings. Danish coin of the Danish king Svend Estridsen (1045-1075). Stamp #1 of two. Ukraine 2003. English miniature showing the arrival of Scandinavian Vikings. Danish coin of the Danish king Svend Estridsen (1045-1075). Stamp #2 of two.

In 988, during the reign of Volodymyr I (Vladimir I; also known as Saint Vladimir), the inhabitants of Kyiv adopted the Greek Orthodox faith, and the city became the leading religious center in Kievan Rus. 

Although written Cyrillic characters, the name Kiev is easy to reproduce in the Latin alphabet: KHB, like on the cancel (below right) from a Ukrainian first day cover. A beautiful city with many parks and historical structures, Kyiv is built mostly on hills overlooking the Dnieper. 

  • Ukrainian first day cancellation of 18th May 2005, showing the name Kiev in Cyrillic characters. 

Some sources claim that Kyiv is the Ukraine name for Kiev or Kiyev. 

Ukraine 2000. General view of Kiev.





The old section of the city, on the right bank of the river, includes hills surmounted by churches and the ruins of ancient castles and fortifications. 

The newer quarters, on the left bank, were mostly built after World War II ended in 1945. The city is served by a subway system. 

  • Ukraine 2000. General view of Kiev. 

Its exposed position near the southern frontier made Kyiv a constant prey to attack. The armies of the Mongol leader Batu Khan sacked and destroyed it in 1240, and the city remained under Mongol domination until the 1360s, when it came under Lithuanian rule. In 1482 the city was invaded by Crimean Tatars, and in 1569 it was incorporated into Poland. In 1686 Kyiv was annexed by the Russian Empire. 

Ukraine 1995. Taras Shevchenko.

Many painters, both ancient and modern, have described Kiev on paintings. 

The most famous of them are by the Ukrainian painter and writer, Taras Shevchenko (1814-1864), who has depicted Kiev on three different paintings:

  • Ukraine 1995. Portrait of Taras Shevchenko and his book "Kobsar". 
Ukraine 2002. Askoldova Mogila. Taras Shevchenko 1845. Ukraine 2002. V. Kievi, Taras Shechenko 1844. Ukraine 2002. Castle of Saint Aleksandr in Kiev, Taras Shevchenko 1846..

In the 18th century Kyiv was heavily fortified, and in the 19th century it grew as a trade and industrial center. Kyiv was held by German troops during World War I (1914-1918), and it was the scene of much fighting following the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1934 the city replaced Kharkiv as the capital of Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union. During World War II Kyiv was occupied by German Nazi forces from 1941 to 1943 and suffered great damage; as many as 200,000 of its inhabitants were killed. After the war the city was reconstructed and resumed its place as one of the chief Soviet economic and cultural centers. Following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Kyiv became the capital of independent Ukraine.  

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Ukraine (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Ukraine for further information about the individual properties.  

Back to index

Revised 10 maj 2007  
Copyright 1999 Heindorffhus 
All Rights Reserved