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The Far Caves

About the Cave

Up to the present the relics of the Pechersk saints, resting in the Far Caves and the Near Caves, are still great shrine. The Caves, which were dug by ascetic monks and which gave the name to the old monastery, are really unique historical records of the past and spiritual treasure.

There are several opinions on the point, when Venerable Anthony settled in one of Varangian Caves, which compose the part of the present Far Caves. But the majority of the scientists relate this event to 1051. And the very date is considered to be the date of foundation of the Pechersk monastery.

When 12 monks gathered around Venerable Anthony, new cells were built and rebuilding of the present Far Caves began.

The Far Caves, where the relics of Venerable Theodosius rest, are called Theodosian. There are three churches in the Far Caves.

German scientist L. N. Gitz mentioned in his work on the history of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, that the tradition to bury the monks in the Caves was adopted, when Venerable Nikon was the Father Superior and who brought it from Tmutarakan. But the burial rite is mentioned in the Studite rule. It sufficiently differs from the usual Christian burial rite. So, open parts of the dead were sewed with material, his arms were folded on his chest, then he was put on the board without coffin in a specially dug locus. From the side of the Cave corridor the locus was closed with an icon or bricked up. In three years it was opened. If the body decayed, it was the sign, that the monk led pious life: skulls and bones were put separately. If the body stayed andecayed, the locus was closed and the monk was prayed for. In two years the locus was opened again.

But in Kiev that tradition was stopped, because the decaying of the body was a usual event here.

God glorified His saints by miraculous undecayedness of the relics in the Pechersk monastery. Venerable Nestor the Chronicler, who was present at opening of the relics of Venerable Theodosius: ‘… his relics lay, but the articulations do not fall to pieces, and his hair on his head stick together.’

We know the solitary burial of the monks in the Caves, particularly, we know that Venerable Theodosius Pechersky was buried in his cell.

As for the relics of the second founder of the Lavra, Venerable Theodosius, we know that his relics, which were brought by the monks of the Pechersk monastery to the Dormition Cathedral (1091), were hidden under the threat of invasion of khan Batiy’s hordes. Years went by, one generation of the Pechersk monks was changed by another one, and the burial place was forgotten. There is no documental information if there were any attempts to accept relics of Venerable Theodosius Pechersky. There are two suppositions, where his relics could be hidden: the first opinion is that they were buried ‘under a bushel’ of the Dormition Cathedral, but it is highly improbable, and the second opinion is that they are buried in the Far Caves. To confirm the last supposition is rather difficult, because the Far Caves are still uninvestigated in our times.

During the years of Soviet rule there were attempts to find out the relics of the founders of the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. But as soon as they were unofficial, it is not possible to confirm the results of these researches

The most ancient cave church is Annunciation of the Holy Theotokos Church in the Far Caves.

The relics of 49 saints, accompanied with plates

with names and, in most cases, icons, are resting in 34 wooden shrines, 2 metal shrines and also in 13 seclusions  - ancient burial nishas. The majority of icons are related to the middle of the XIXth century. The relics in the shrines and are covered with garments. In some shrines arms are left uncovered, that visually indicated of undecayedness.

The depth of bedding is 15-20 meters.

The length of labyrinth without joint from the south Varagian Caves is 293 meters.

The map

А. The Nativity of Christ Church in the Far Caves.
Б. Annunciation of the Holy Theotokos Church in the Far Caves.
В. The Church of Theodosius Pechersky, Father Superior.
Г. The place, marked as the cell of Venerable Theodosius on the map of 1638.
Д. The place, marked as the cell of Venerable Theodosius on the map of the XIXth century.

The list of saints

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