Ukraine’s going to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of St Sophia Cathedral on September 21. St. Sophia Cathedral and Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra were added to the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1990. Nineteen years later this anniversary was included into the calendar of important dates and now the millennium of Saint Sophia Cathedral is celebrated worldwide.
The planning of the celebration was not without controversy. The hypothesis, that Sophia was founded by Yaroslav the Wise in 1037 prevailed in the Soviet and post-Soviet history. In February 2010 The National reservation of St. Sophia Cathedral claimed that the foundation of Sophia was laid by Volodymyr the Great, and not Yaroslav the Wise.
Kyiv’s oldest standing church, St. Sophia’s was built to commemorate the site of a victory of Kyivan Rus over the Pechenegs (Asian nomadic tribes) and to glorify Christianity. It was named after the famous St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Constantinople. This majestic 13-cupola sanctuary adjoined Yaroslav’s Palace and became a holy place of worship for Kyivites as well as a political and cultural centre.
With an interior of rich frescoes and mosaics, many of which are still intact almost a millennium later, the cathedral made a huge impression on the ordinary worshippers of Kyiv. Meetings with foreign diplomats and treaty negotiations were held here, and the church housed the first library and school in Kyivan Rus. The azure and white bell tower is 76m high and was finished in 1752. The cathedral’s upper Ukrainian Baroque section and gilded cupola were added in 1852. Today the entire complex is protected by Ukraine, and also receives support from UNESCO. The 18th century refectory houses a museum and contains archaeological artefacts and architectural displays, such as models depicting Kyiv as it looked before being razed by Mongol invaders in 1240.
To enter the cathedral itself, one must purchase tickets from the kiosk near the bell tower entrance. As you exit don’t forget to pose for the postcard-perfect picture with Cossack leader Bohdan Khmelnyts’kyi on his horse against the backdrop of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral.
Celebrations will last till the end of the year and various exhibitions will take place.