Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Dormition Cathedral is one of the oldest churches of the Kievan Rus, a unique architectural monument, one of the wonders of Ukraine, the tomb of many outstanding personalities. For many centuries the Cathedral was one of the most revered shrines of the Orthodox Church.
Circa 1062, St. Theodosius found a suitable place not far from the caves and, after St. Anthony’s blessing, he asked Prince Izyaslav for the land in order to build a new monastery. The construction began in 1075 and in 1078 a large wooden church of the Dormition was built. The brotherhood moved there soon, and the monastery quickly grew to 100 ascetics. The decoration of the Cathedral paintings continued until 1089, after which he was consecrated. Cathedral painted and decorated with Byzantine mosaics «iconic Scribes», Greek merchants brought from Constantinople smalt for the precious mosaics.
As prophesied by St. Anthony, the wooden Church of the Dormition was eventually to be replaced by a stone structure. He also made a prophecy concerning Shimon, the son of Afrikan, the Varangian (Viking) prince who was at the battle together with the princes of Rus’. He foretold to him his deliverance from death during the battle with the Polovtsians, and he also told him that he would eventually be buried in the Caves church. Upon returning from battle, Shimon brought a belt and a golden crown and gave them to St. Antony and said, that he heard a voice from the Lord that the foundation of this church should be measured out with the belt and the crown should hung over the table of oblation.
St. Antony continued fasting and praying. He thought diligently about the stone Caves church prophesied through him. He prayed to the High Creator, that He bless and help them create the church in the name of His undefiled mother. When St. Antony gave himself up to such prayer a great miracle occurred, after which he obtained both the means and the stonemasons to erect the Caves church.
The Greek stonemasons arrived in Kyiv, and the miraculous nature of their commission soon became known. St. Antony was amazed. When the stonemasons asked concerning the spot for erecting the church, St. Antony prayed for three days. Then, by God’s inspiration, Prince Svyatoslav arrived and donated one of his fields for this purpose (according to the Life of St. Theodosius, the prince even began the digging for the foundation). When he heard this, Antony prayed to the Lord that He might indicate by some means exactly where He desired that the church be built. In the morning, there was dew everywhere on the ground except where the church was to be built. On the second night, Antony asked that on the next morning all the ground be dry, except that the spot where the church was to be built be bedewed. God granted this request to St. Antony, and on the third day, Antony blessed this spot, and, with the golden belt he had the foundation measured out (thirty belts in length and twenty in width).
St. Antony blessed the construction works, and then began to prepare himself for the eternal temple, saying, he would never forsake this holy place. The Saint reposed on 10 July, 1073, at the age of ninety years. His relics remained in the cave, in which he reposed (in the Near Caves).
The blessed Theodosius himself laboured hard everyday with the brotherhood to construct the church, but it still was not completed within his lifetime. He foretold the day of his repose, and left in 1074, on the third day of May. The stone Church of the Dormition was finally completed in 1075. In some sources it is also reported as 1077 and 1089. At that time the Cathedral had six-pierces, a single-domed structure, and was 43 meters high.
The interior of the church was painted with frescoes and decorated with mosaics by Greek masters, along with the local Kyivan iconographer Alipy. All paintings and decorations works were accompanied, like the original construction, by miraculous events. St. Anthony and Theodosius had been gone from this world some ten years, when a group of Greek iconographers came to the Caves Lavra demanding to see the two monks who had hired them to adorn the new church with frescoes. They were angry, because the Dormition Church was considerably larger and would consequently require more work than was covered by the sum of gold they had received in Constantinople upon signing the agreement. They were asked who it was that had hired them. The Greek masters said, names had been Anthony and Theodosius. The Greeks did not believe this possible and called some merchants travelling with them, who had been present at the signing of the agreement, asking that they be shown an image of the deceased. And finally they recognized in the saints the exact likeness of the two men who had commissioned them to paint the frescoes. The iconographers never returned to Constantinople. They devoted their lives to the monastery and became monks.
By the end of the 11th century, the Lavra had become a large monastery complex with something like 100 monks living there. Throughout the centuries the Dormition Cathedral has been damaged and rebuilt several times.
In 1240 the Church was damaged by the Mongol-Tatars, in 1482 – by the Crimean Tatars, and in 1718 the building was hit with a monastery fire. After the restoration of the Cathedral has increased significantly in size and lost the original shape. Its internal and external decoration was done in the Ukrainian baroque style. The work was carried out well-known Ukrainian painters: Stepan Kovnir, Joseph Belinsky, Alimpiy Galik.
In 1941 the Dormition Cathedral was blown up by German troops who occupied Kiev. By 2000, the building was rebuilt in Baroque forms of XVIII century, including more cupolas and decorative architectural elements.
All the material is prepared by a local tour guide in Kiev Anna Dmitrenko.