Jul 11

St. Sophia Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Sofia)

St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Kiev. Tourists from all over the world who come to Kiev do not miss their chance to visit the most renowned landmarks of the city. There is a fee which has to be covered when entering the cathedral, but it is all worth it. The architectural design is outstanding.

The cathedral is actually the first edifice of its kind on the Ukrainian territory to have been included in the World Heritage List. This goes to prove just how valuable this construction is.

In addition to the main building which is actually the cathedral under discussion, there are other constructions which are a part of the monastic ensemble (the bell tower, the House of Metropolitan, etc.). The cathedral has been administered by the Ministry of Regional Development up until 2010, but afterwards, it came under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture.



The explanation is more of a practical nature. The fact is that UNESCO World Heritage Program considers both this cathedral and the Monastery of the Caves (also located in Kiev) as being part of a sole ensemble. But the edifices were under different jurisdictions. So the contradiction had to be resolved in a way, and the obvious solution was to have them both be administered by the same Ministry.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral has been erected in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise. The construction consists of 5 apses, 5 naves and 13 cupolas, and while the exterior decorations are no longer noticeable, tourists still have the possibility to gaze on beautiful frescos and mosaic works which have been wonderfully preserved at the interior of the cathedral since the 11th century.



By 1240, the cathedral was in a bad condition, but renovations were by no means initiated. Thus for 4 centuries, the construction was left to chance. It was not until 1633 that restoration work on the cathedral began. The architect behind the project was Octaviano Mancini, of Italian origin, who preserved the interior of the church unchanged, but added a new architectural design on the exterior – elements representative for the Baroque style.

The cathedral was finally restored to the fullest in the 18th century (1740). In the years to come, the complex was extended to comprise the Bell Tower (1744-1752). But while the building work occurred in the specified timeframe, additional elements were added much later. The golden cupola was actually added in mid-19th century (1852).



The Dining Hall which dates from the 18th century was later on changed to host a museum. At present, exhibitions found here present various models of the city prior to the Mongol invasion (which occurred in 1240), as well as from the 10th up until the 12th century.

The name of the cathedral is given after the edifice which was actually used as inspiration for the construction: the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, located in Constantinople. The name conveyed does not make reference to a specific saint. Hagia Sophia translates into ‘holy wisdom’ and this is the connotation of the name.

In terms of structure, the cathedral is encompassed by galleries on three sides, and the exterior reaches 37 to 55 m.



Initially, the cathedral had quite a different purpose: the rulers of Kiev used it as their burial place. While the catacombs of the majority of them did not survive the passage of time, there is one tomb still standing: that of the founder of the cathedral, Yaroslav the Wise.

The cathedral, as well as the adjacent buildings, has been used for various ceremonies and official events. The wonderful architecture and the historical weight it carries make the St. Sophia Cathedral a must-see touristic attraction.

May 22

Vladimirsky Cathedral (Catedrala Vladimirsky )

If the name Vladimirsky Cathedral does not ring a bell, then you might be familiar with one of the following names which are also attached to the edifice under discussion: St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, or Volodymyrsky Cathedral.

The cathedral is situated in Kiev, right in the center of the city and it is actually an important symbol of the Ukrainian capital city .




We owe the construction of the cathedral to the Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow who had put forth the idea that an immense house of worship should be erected in the honor of the Keivan Rus state which was formed under Prince Vladimir the Great. This idea came with the celebration of the 900 years which had gone by since the state had been formed (in 1852). Everyone was enticed by the prospect of having a cathedral dedicated to this event so donations coming from all over the Russian Empire started to pour.

In 1859, the fund started for the construction work managed to raise as much as 100,000 rubles and the constructors would soon build the cathedral. Help also came from the Kiev Pecherk Lavra which donated 1 million bricks to the cause. The original architectural style was neo-Byzantine and was developed by a group of 5 architects:  I. Schtrom, P. Sparro, R. Bemhardt, K. Mayevsky, V. Nikolayev.



But as it turned out, this was not the structural design which would be used for the cathedral. Instead, the edifice would be constructed in a traditional way. The architect behind the final version of the cathedral was Alexander Vikentievich Beretti who designed an edifice with 3 apses and 7 domes.


The cathedral is beautifully adorned with mosaics, which bear the mark of Venetian artists, and with frescoes, performed by renowned artists, such as S. Kostenko, V. Kotarbinsky, Mikhail Nesterov, M. Pymonenko, Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Vrubel, and many others.

The wonderful coloration of the interior design is impressive, and among all the works of art decorating the cathedral, we have to mention the painting found in the altar apse which depicts the Virgin Mary. This paining, done by Vasnetsov, attracts tourists due to the somber way in which the Mother of Christ is illustrated.



Vladimirsky cathedral stands out due to a multitude of reasons, all reflective of the impressive architectural and decorative design conveyed. But just to create an outline of the cathedral, we are going to point out some of the most relevant elements of the construction.

The cross situated on the main steeple measures 49 m in height. The iconostasis is made out Carrara white marble, while at the entrance of the cathedral one can admire relief sculptural works made out of bronze. These are actually representations of Princess Olga of Kiev (who has been canonized – St. Olga) and of St. Vladimir. The first sculpture was created by R. Bakh, while the second bears the mark of H. Zaieman. The construction work was completed in 1882, but it took another 14 years until the painting work was finished (in 1896).

Vladimirsky Cathedral experienced several threats, meaning that it was prone to suffering considerable damages. The first occurrence of this kind was in 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War. The soviet period was again rather difficult in the “life” of the edifice as it was close to being demolished. But while it managed to survive, its purpose was shifted in as much as until WWII it had been a museum of religion and atheism.



At present, the cathedral holds within its walls the relics of St. Barbara. These were initially found at St. Michael’s Monastery, but they had been transferred to Vladimirsky Cathedral prior to the Bolsheviks destruction of the monastery.

The end of the war marked the “beginning” for the cathedral as it had been reopened and had stayed as such ever since. Vladimirsky Cathedral was among the few locations in the USSR which could be visited by tourists even when the religious services were under way. The cathedral became once more the “home” of the Orthodox religion in 1988.

At present, the cathedral is still used for praying and religious services and the language used in these ceremonies is Ukrainian.

May 11

Yuriy Fedkovych National University (Universitatea Nationala Yuriy Fedkovych din Cernauti )

Cernauti University, also known as “Yuriy Fedkovych National University,” is one of the most important universities located in the northern part of Bucovina. Cernauti, the city in which the edifice is located, used to belong to Romania, but it had become a part of the Ukrainian territory after Bucovina was invaded by the Soviet troops.



The university under discussion was constructed on the 4th of October 1875 by the Austro-Hungarian King Franz Josef, on the site of the former Orthodox Theological Seminary.  The university was renowned in all the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in the beginning it went under the name of “Franz Josef University,” after its founder.

But the name constantly changed according to specific historical or cultural events.  When Romania and Bucovina were united, the name of the building was changed to “King Carol I University” – after the ruler of that time.



The actual edifice which can be seen today in Ukraine dates fro 1920-1922, when the Romanian Government took it upon itself to erect the building. But the region came under Ukrainian rule once more in 1940. In 1989, the name of the university was changed to “Yuriy Fedkovych National University,” after a famous writer, representative of the Ukrainian National Renaissance period.

While the information provided up to now reflects solely the historical evolution of the edifice, it is not suggestive of its beauty. The architecture and the décor are the ones that transformed the university into the renowned tourist attraction it has become. In fact, the complex of edifices is listed as part of the UNESCO patrimony.



The magnitude of the construction is impressive. Several quarries, two brick plants and a ceramic factory all worked so as to provide the main materials used in the construction project. The architect who designed the complex was Joseph Glavka, of Czech origin, who had supervised the project throughout the 18 years it took to complete it. But other great artists made their contribution, such as I. Klein and K.Yobst from Vienna, or the local E. Bychevski. The sculptures were artistically molded by the Viennese artist K. Hoffman.

The construction work took such a long time due to the fact that the builders were doing everything to make sure that the materials used were adequate and that these were accurately placed in their designated place. This meant that only close to 100 bricks were added to the construction on a daily basis as each was thoroughly inspected beforehand.



The complex is divided into three sections. The first section, which is located in the left side of the complex, consists of the lecture-halls, the library, the seminary and the dormitory. The second section is made out of the Metropolitan Building (in the middle), whereas the third and final section is formed of a monastery, a museum, a candle factory and the priest’s school (located to the right).

It is really hard to think of another university which impresses through its beauty. And the reason is that different architectural styles have formed a synergy at the Yuriy Fedkovych National University, blending together elements pertaining to different cultures that have dwelt in this region.



Thus, tourists can admire how Byzantine and Roman elements combine with pieces of decoration specific for the Bucovina region.  The interior design, consisting of marble floors, luxurious chandeliers, alabaster columns and beautiful frescoes, is remarkable, setting the university aside from any other centers of higher education in the world.