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St Sophia's Cathedral, Kiev

St. Sophia’s, Kiev's (Kyiv’s) oldest standing church, was built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, who was laid to rest inside. He commissioned the project to commemorate the site of a victory of Kyivan Rus over the Pechenegs (Asian nomadic tribes) and to glorify Christianity and was named after the famous St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Constantinople.

The 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 works as 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. It costs a meagre 3Hr to enter the grounds. To enter the cathedral itself, purchase tickets from the kiosk around the corner from 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.

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