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17.04.2018

The formation of Caves’ monastary

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In 1051 A.D. in Kiev city in times of Yaroslav the Wise and metropolitan service of St. Illarion, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra began its existance by God’s providence. At miraculous command of Our Lady in Heaven, Who appeared in a vision to Venerable Anthony’s abba fom Athos’ Xilourgue (Greek ξυλουργός) on the far Holy Mount Athos, and by blessing Venerable Anthony himself, the dwelling place was arranged, which became inexhaustible source of divine prayer.

Soon high ascetic labors of Venerable Anthony became widely known and attracted citizens, coming to him for blessing and spiritual advice. Prince Izyaslav, Yaroslav the Wise’s son and Kiev nobility, who donated money on building of the ground church and cells, when the Caves became too small for the rapidly growing number of the brethren.

So St. Anthony became famous and honored. The brethren began to come to him. He began to accept and tonsure them. And the brethren gathered to him twelve in number, and they dug out a great cave, a church and cells which existed up to now in the cave under the old monastery.

The monks of the Kiev-Pechersk dwelling place and, first of all hermits, excelled themselves in morality and asceticism. This fact attracted to the Lavra educated and noble people. The monastery became something like unique academy Orthodox hierarchs. To the different parts of the Kiev Rus 50 bishops were appointed from the number of its monks up to the beginning of the XIIIth century.

Many of Pechersk monks became and went to preach Christianity missionaries to those parts of the Rus, where the population professed paganism.0020

Playing an important role in consolidation of the eastern Slavic lands, being spiritual, social cultural and educational center, the Pechersk dwelling place enjoyed deserved glory of in the Rus, but also in Poland, Armenia, Byzantine, Bulgaria and other countries.

Beginning with the 40s of XIIIth century and up to the beginning of XIVth century the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra witnessed Mongolian and Turkish raids and together with the people endured miseries. Golden Horde khans, realizing the meaning of Kiev for the Eastern Slavs, interfered with reviving of the city in every possible way. The monastery, as whole Kiev, suffered seriously from tatar raids in 1399 and in 1416. The sources, informing about Lavrs life-being at that period, stayed few. In connection with that Chingishan and his successors, because of their superstition (they revered the idols of different religions), shown tolerance of another creed, one could judge, that life and divine services continued in the monastery.

It is known, that metropolitan Ciril came to Kiev from Greece in 1251, 1274, and 1277. He made consecrations as the bishops for Vladimir-on-Klyazma and Novgorod. In 1284 metropolitan Maxim called the Council of bishops and later he himself accomplished the cheirotonia of the bishops.

In the middle of the XIVth century Lithuanian expansion began in Ukraine. Despite Lithuanian Prince Olgerd, to whom the Kiev lands were subordinated to, professed originally heathen beliefs, and then after adoption of Krevskaya union (1385) between Lithuania and Poland, intensified implanting of Catholicism began, the Pechersk dwelling place lived a full life in that period. Such a fact proved it, in particular, that youth Arseniy from Tver, who took monastic vows in the second half of the XIVth century ‘…his soul rejoiced, when he found in the Kiev-Pechersk monastery the monks, who were shining with virtues, as the stars the vault of heaven, and trying to imitate them, he went through different levels of work of penance…’

The Pechersk monastery exerted influence also on Church development in adjacent Russian lands in crisis time for them.

the Pechersk monastery was so famous that often some Russian princes came to the Lavra and stayed for living there for ever. Besides, some of them became glorified as famous ascetics. In particular, the famous captain

Prince Theodor Ostrozhsky took monastic vows here in 1439 and transferred his riches to the dwelling place.

004To the end of the XVIth century, the monastery actively revived, building churches and gaining new lands, overcoming different problems, connected with catholization Ukrainian lands and King’s and magnats’ interference in inner life of the Lavra. Without having former glory, which was in the first centuries of its existence, it stayed one of the great spiritual, educational and cultural centers of Ukraine. And new wave of reviving of spiritual authority of the Pechersk monastery raised during struggle with union, when the dwelling place was headed by outstanding personalities of that period.

None of Russian monarchs ignored the Lavra: Alexey Mihailovich and Peter the Great, Katherine II, Anna Ioannovna, Nicholas I and Nicholas II, Alexandr I, Alexandr II, Alexandr III, Pavel, Elizabeth… Visiting the Lavra, monarchs as well as the citizens took blessing of father superior, kissing his arm. The Romanovs made a gift of the dwelling place golden crosses and con lampions, frameworks of prayer books  littered with diamonds, rizas of golded sewing, brocade and cypress shrines for the dead saints.

The names of Great Princes, Count Sheremetyev and Princess Gagarina, Prince Rumyantsev-Zadunaiskiy (buried in the Dormition Cathedral) and Prince Potyemkin, hetman Mazepa, Princess Orlova-Chesmenskaya and hundreds of others. Great sums for the Lavra maintenance were donated by the noble, merchants, industrialists, foreneigers. Even the commoners with the modest income, considered it a Christian duty to sacrifice a part of their savings to the Lavra.

0010At the Pechersk monastery there were the pilgrim yard and the hospital, for the building of which the Lavra used more than 100000 rubles. Up to 80000 pilgrims the holy dwelling place accepted in its dependence every year. Many of them not only lived in Lavra hotel, but also ate (at the expense of the monastery) for 3-4 and more days running. And so it was for decades!

As well as the other monasteries of the empire, the Lavra donated great means on the development of education: kept own primary school, the Theological school, allocated money for the education of the poor students of Kiev eparchy and even established 5 scholarships in thejlogical educational establishments of Kiev and Kostroma ‘In the memory of miraculous saving of sacred life of Monarch Emperor Alexander II on the 4th of June, 1866’.

On the 1st of December, 1860 two-classes national school was opened for the staff attendants and inhabitants of Kiev. Later it was called Lavra two-classes parish school. In 1914 it took for study up 130-140 children.

As we see, the Kiev-Pechersk dwelling place always responded to any good, Christian, national and social deed. Charity and love to one’s neighbour created the deserved authority to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. The liberal gifts of the reign persons with accompanying forms ‘about presentation and on the occasion of special inclination to the dwelling place for labors and prayers of the Lavra brethren in the name of salvation of human souls’ is the evidence to it.

Many eminent people wanted to be buried on the Lavra cemetery after death. Field-Marshal-General Boris Petrovich Sheremetyev particularly, left such a testament. But after Sheremetyev’s death, which happened in Moscow, by Peter the Great, his body was brought not in Kiev, but in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg. At the Nativity cemetery of the Lavra, in the Great Dormition Cathedral, at the territory of the dwelling place many famous personalities of Russia and Ukraine were buried. B. P. Sheremetyev’s daughter – Nataliya (in monasticism is Nektariya) Dolgorukaya. Difficult destiny of that woman was known to everybody. Disgraced Princess took the vows of schema in the Florovsky monastery (in 1757, being 43 years old). An active person, an educated woman, she took part in the restoration of the Church of the Dime and other Kiev churches. Died on the 3rd of Jule, 1771, nun Nektariya was buried with proper for Princes honors in the Lavra.

On the 8th of December, 1796, in a month after empress demise, Petr Alexandrovich Rumyantsev-Zadunaiskiy, prominent commander and statesman, favorite of  royal court (in Russia it is czar’s court), who devoted all his conscious life to service of State, died.

Emperor Pavel put 3 days mourning on all the Russian Empire ‘In memory of outstanding services of Field-Marshal Rumyantsev rendered to his country’. According to Rumyantsev’s testament, his body was brought to Kiev and buried in the Lavra, near the kliros of the Dormition Cathedral. Near the entrance to the Cathedral the great monument was raised to him in a specially arranged building. In 1911 the land of the dwelling place took the rests of Petr Arkadievich Stolypin – an outstanding statesman of the Russian Empire. Unique necropolis was arranged in the Lavra. In the land of holy dwelling place, in its churches and Caves are resting: the first Kiev metropolitan Michael, Prince Theodor Ostrozhsky, Elisey Pletenetsky, prelate Petr Mohyla, Innokentiy Gizel, tens of other prominent statesmen.


Each church of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra has its history and its unique image, emerged under influence of different epochs and their typical styles. But neither time nor variability of architectural styles ruined the ancient prayerful spirit of the Lavra churches. Our Orthodox ancestors revived them with love and devotion. Their arcs are destined for sobornal prayers, for sermon of the Word of God, perfoming of Holy Sacraments.

Most saints whose relics are in the Near Caves accomplished their memoirs and exploits in XI-XII centuries. That memoirs and exploits were described in early editions of ‘The Kiev-Pechersky Paterikon’. ‘The Kiev-Pechersky Paterikon’ of XIV-XV centuries was composed of literary works of Lavra bibliophiles of XI-XIII centuries.

The revolution in 1917 brought devastation and profanation of the monastery and ruined the majority of its unique sanctuaries. On the 1st of January, 1930 the monastery was closed. In 1922 at its territory ‘The Museum Town’ was built. The great part of Lavra sanctuaries was stolen, the rest of them was confiscated and given as exhibits to the atheistic museum, cynically called ‘the Kiev-Pechersk historical and cultural state reserve’. Many of them vanished completely. During fascist occupation the miracle-working icon of the Assumption of the Most Holy Theotokos was lost. It was saved in the Dormition Cathedral before its barbaric destruction during the war. After explosion in 1941 until recently, at the place of the grand Cathedral there were ruins, as the symbol of disruptiveness of atheistic regime. In 1988, when the monastery only began reviving after decades of theomachy, the first liturgy, devoted to the Feast of the Assumption of the Most Holy Theotokos, took place in the presence of great amount of the devout people on the ruins of the former ‘heavenlike dwelling’ church. According to the resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of the 1991st ‘Of the list of cult buildings – the famous historic landmarks, not subjecting to transfering in constant usage of the religious organisations’ many Lavra monuments were considered to be such. The Kiev Municipal State Administration became the customer of the restoration works of the Dormition Cathedral, the ‘Ukrrestoration’ Corporation became the general contractor, the cooperative associations ‘Kievgenplan’ and ‘Kievproject’ under the common leadership of O. A. Grauzhys became general designers.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra itself made the great contribution to the restoration of the Great Cathedral.

In June, 1988 in connection with celebration of the Millenium of the Baptism of the Kiev Rus and according to the resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, the territory of the Far Caves with all ground buildings and Caves was given back to the recently created Pechersk dwelling place. The territory of the Near Caves was also given back to the monastery in 1990.

On the 21st of November, 1998 in commemoration day of St. Archistratig Michael, Primate of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Vladimir put the first brick in the foundation of the recently renewed Great Cathedral. In two years, on the 24th of August, 2000, His Beatitude Vladimir consecrated the grand Cathedral, which was built at the place of the ruins. During restoration of the Dormition Cathedral the forms and decor of the XVIIIth century were renewed. Kiev painters-restorers S. Bayandin and U. Guzenko worked on the restoration of baroque frontons, which decorated church fronts in the 2nd half of the XVIIIth century. The same authors painted church fronts. In their project of wall-painting the painters strove to embode Ukrainian baroque traditions. There were 186 compositions on the church walls.The renewed Dormition Cathedral, as in the XVIIIth century, is decorated by 48 ripidias. For gilding the ripidias, crosses and domes 8,514 kg of gold leaf was used. Ornamented tiles, as church decorations, began to be used at the end of the Xth century. On the restored Dormition Cathedral there are 362 plaster rosettes. In the church interior it is supposed to restore paintings of the XVIIIth century, according to aquarel pictures of academician F. Solntsev, saved in St. Peterburg historical archive. They would serve as examples for selecting plot compositions, which completed absent fragments. It is planned to decorate the walls of the interior by modeling elements: cornices, booms, vegetable elements in Ukrainian baroque. On the choir place, of the northwestern part, the library room is restored, its interior – bookcases, big table, chairs and other is also planned to be restored. In reconstruction of the iconostasis academician Solntsev’s pictures were used and, as an analogue, the iconostasis of the Trinity Church above the Gates was also used. Its fretwork is like that one, which decorated the previous iconostasis of the main altar of the Great Cethedral. The present pine-lime iconostasis is 25 m long and 21 m height. It consists of five rows. The restoration of the Dormition Cathedral, not only as architectural building, but also as working church of the canonic Church, has undoubtedly great importance for the whole Orthodox world.

Sharing the destiny of Ukraine and its people, the Lavra was submitted to multiple devastations. The churches are also suffered. The years of theomachy stroke a hard blow not only to man-made churches but also to human souls. We forgot how to understand the beauty of the church architecture, its infinitely deep sense. Prelate Tihon Zadonsky: ‘Any place, where God is present, the House of God may be called, the house is a dwelling place. However, prayer churches, built by the devout assiduity, are properly called the House of God. Because only in them the divine services appropriate to God are conducted. They are conducted for that purpose. Because there religious rites are performed, Holy Sacraments are performed, church singings are performed, glorifications are performed. ‘There the Angels strive to penetrate.’ (1 Peter 1, 12), Bloodless Sacrifice is made every day there. There the Holy Spirit descends on the introduced holy sacraments, conducts hierurgy, sanctifies the worshippers…’

Nowadays in returned churches of the holy Lavra divine services are conducted, prayers are offered up. The great creations of our pious ancestors revived again and accept under their domes the spirits, striving for the truth and spiritual consolation.

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