The Cathedral of St. Sophia (St. Sophia Cathedral) was built in the 11th century in the center of Kiev on the orders of Yaroslav the Wise. At the turn of the XVII-XVIII centuries it was outwardly rebuilt in the style of Ukrainian baroque. Inside the Cathedral there are many ancient frescoes and mosaics, including the famous Oranta. St. Sophia Cathedral was the first listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List of architectural monuments on the territory of Ukraine (in 1990).
St. Sophia Cathedral is a five-nave five-apsidal cross-domed church with 13 chapters. On three sides it is surrounded by two-tiered galleries. It is composed of plinfa – wide, thin bricks. The length of the cathedral without galleries is 29.5 m. Width – 29.3; with galleries: 41.7 and 54.6. The height to the top of the main dome is 28.6 m. The size of the dome square is 7.6 m.
Constructed Constantinople builders with the participation of Kiev masters. Meanwhile, it is impossible to find direct analogues of the St. Sophia Cathedral in the Byzantine architecture of that time. Temples built then in the empire were usually smaller, had only 3 naves and one chapter. It is assumed that before the Byzantines was set the task of creating a large temple for solemn ceremonies, the main temple of Rus, which they decided by increasing the number of naves and adding drums to the chapters for their coverage.
The interior of the cathedral preserved a large number of frescoes and mosaics of the 11th century. In the central dome there is a mosaic with the image of Christ, on the sides of it – archangels. Of these, only one ancient mosaic, the rest are not preserved and were written in the XIX century by MA Vrubel oil paints. The drum depicts the figures of the apostles, below, on the sails of the dome, are the evangelists. Among them, since ancient times, only the Apostle Paul and the Evangelist Mark have survived. The most famous mosaic of the cathedral is the Virgin “The Unbreakable Wall”, located in the vault (vaulted part) of the altar apse. The palette of mosaics has 177 shades.
The cathedral’s galleries are...decorated with frescoes, the daughters (southern wall) and sons (northern) of Yaroslav the Wise are depicted on the top. On the western wall, dismantled at the end of the XVII century, there were pictures of Yaroslav himself with a mock cathedral in his hand and his wife Irina. The walls and arches of the stair towers bear the frescoes of a secular character depicting the scenes of the life of the Byzantine emperors. Also on the walls of the temple there are many graffiti, including the XI-XII centuries.
About 100 graves were located in the cathedral, as well as on its territory. The graves of Yaroslav the Wise and his wife Irina are preserved. The rest, including Vladimir Monomakh, were lost.
Various chronicles are called the date of the cathedral’s foundation, 1017 or 1037. Given the political situation in Russia, the second date is more likely. Initially, the cathedral was not plastered: in order to be able to imagine its original appearance on the facades, sections of the open masonry were left.
In 1240 the St. Sophia Cathedral was plundered and destroyed by the soldiers of Batu, in 1385 – 90 years. Metropolitan Kiprian, recreated it from the ruins, then more than three and a half centuries was in desolation, although he continued to act. In 1596 the cathedral passes to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic (Uniate) church, 1630-ies it was selected from it by the Kiev metropolitan Peter Mogila, who restored the cathedral and founded the monastery at it. Works on the renovation of the temple continued until 1740, when he finally acquired the current look.
Hetman Mazepa made a significant contribution to the preservation and restoration of the cathedral. They built the bell tower of St. Sophia Cathedral. Until now, the bell, cast on the order of the hetman, is located on the second floor of the bell tower. The bell is called “Mazeppa”.
In 1934, the architectural complex, which in addition to the St. Sophia Cathedral includes the bell tower, the house of the Metropolitan, the seminary, the refectory, the southern entrance tower, the western gate, the brotherly building, cells and consistory, was declared the State Architectural and Historical Reserve “Sofia Museum”.