St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral

Kyiv, Ukraine | C.1882

Photo Credit: Grzegorz Dymon

Golden like the morning sun cresting over the horizon, Saint Volodymyr Cathedral’s yellow façade and light grey domes are a landmark within Kyiv, Ukraine. Built to commemorate Saint Volodymyr who brought Christianity to the region, it has miraculously withstood four wars, and multiple threats of disassembly.

In 1852, plans were set for a large cathedral in Kyiv to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the baptism of the medieval political federation of Kyivan Rus’ by prince Vladimir I of Kyiv – later known as St. Volodymyr. People throughout the Russian Empire donated to the cause, and the cathedral fund soon amassed a huge sum of 100,000 rubles. Over the next three decades the Cathedral was constructed and frescos finally completed near the turn of the century.

The mix of Kyvian Rus’, Romantic and Byzantium architecture is awe-inspiring. The elongated cross-in-square shape of the Cathedral with three naves springing from apses in the each and intersecting to five aisles. A large central dome towers over the crossing and is surrounded by four smaller domes.

The Cathedral has survived multiple tumultuous wars. However, in 1934 it wasn’t violence that threatened its existence, but a top communist official from the Soviet Union who believed there shouldn’t be any churches in the newly named capital city of Ukraine. It is rumored that one of the fresco artists pleaded to have the Cathedral saved, and successfully swayed the official’s mind – though the church was not allowed to operate during the Soviet rule. Instead, it was turned into a Museum of Atheism where Atheistic artifacts were kept, and later converted into a book depository of teacher’s training college. It wouldn’t be until 1944 that the Cathedral was once again allowed to hold services.

Spiritual leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchy continue to conduct religious services and prayers in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral. Today all ceremonies are conducted in Ukrainian, accompanied during religious holidays by the Cathedral choir, which is often joined by opera singers.

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