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Pechersky Monastery in Kiev

Brief History

Kievo-Pecherskii monastyr (Kievan Cave Monastery) on the high bluffs over looking the Dnieper River was the most important religious center in Kievan Rus. At that time it was about 3 km south of the city walls. It was founded in 1051 and dedicated to the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin. The name Pecherskii derives from the multitude of caves and tunnels beneath it in which the monks lived, many for their entire monastic lives. The monastery also sent forth some of the most influential churchmen who spread the Orthodox religion and Kievan culture throughout Russia. Many of the monks became bishops in the major dioceses as far as Novgorod and Rostov. It was in these caves that much of the earliest written history of Russia was set down in the form of chronicles, especially the Nikon Chronicle. The caves were already in use by individual monks prior to St. Anthonii's arrival and the establishment of a regular monastic group with Feodosii as the first abbot. Feodosii changed the monastic practice from the anchoritic (individual) to the cenobitic (group) and imported the Studite Rule from Constantinople. The change soon drew the monastery into Kievan political life. Antonii died in 1073 and Feodosii in 1074. Nikon served as abbot from 1078 to 1088.

With expanding religious and political influence came great wealth. One result was an impressive building program that included the marvelous stone church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin completed in 1089. This masterpiece survived Mongols and others until mostly blown up during World War II. The wealth was also devoted to social services to the poor and to the first hospital built in Rus. Wealth also required protection in the form of stone fortifications. Part of this wall and the gate tower with church over the gate remains as the oldest church related defensive structure in the region.

When the center of Russian society shifted to Vladimir and then Moscow and Kiev became a part of Lithuania and then Poland, the monastery lost its central role in religious affairs. With the return of Kiev to Russia in the 1690's the Cossack Hetman, Mazeppa, endowed it with wealth and repaired the defenses. Then with the invasion of Charles XII immanent, Peter I personally supervised the construction of massive, modern bastioned fortifications enclosing the monastery and covering the southern approaches to the city.


We have many photographs of the monastery that are found with the views of Kyiv at Kyiv. For assistance in visits to the monastery and all Ukraine please contact Larissa Riazantseva.