Saint Vladimir`s cathedral

The cathedral is unique for being built during the reign of4 emperors, 3 metropolitans and under the guide of 5 architects. And it is one of the last Kievtamples built before the revolution 1917.


This110-year-old cathedralwas constructed to commemorate the 900th anniversary of Kiev Russ baptizing. Therefore it is dedicated to Saint Prince Vladimir, who baptized Russ and made Christianity official state religion.

Firstly it was decided just to raise a monument to Prince Vladimir on the hill over the Dnipro river. But Kiev Metropolitan Filaret Amfiteatrov refused to consecrateit, being against ofmaking a sort of idol in honour of the prince who threw the idolsdown. (You see, our ancistors were pagans, who idolized wooden gods. In 998 Prince Vladimirbaptized Kiev Rus andthrew the idols down into the Dnipro.)So the metropolitan proposed to build a cathedral on public donations.

In 1852 the Russian Tsar Nicolas Iapprovedthisidea and a special fund was created. People from different parts of the country donated it. Filaret himself payed 7,000 rubles. Kiev-Pechersk Lavra donatedone million bricks. Thus during the next seven years more than 100,000 rubles were collected. Stillthe sum was not enough to carry out the grandiose project.Its author, a thirty-year-old architect from Saint Petersburg Ivan Strom,decided to design the cathedral in old Byzantinestyle, like an ancient Kiev temple. He wanted to make a cruciform church with 13 domes which was 7 times as expensive.

Therefore, a diocesan architect Paul Sparro reduced the project, keeping on only seven domes instead of 13. But the authorities did not like it, for it lost its original majesty.

Then another well-knownarchitect Alexander Beretti proposed to anew the greattotal area of the cathedral, still remaining 7domes.

The next problem wasalack ofstone for building the foundation. It was a serious handicap, as there was no stone of that kind in allKiev region. Stone for roadway pavingwas very expensive being brought from Minsk region. Therefore it was decided to use the bricks donated by Lavra.

Thus the constructing of the building lasted for 2 years and they were already going to set the domes when suddenly deep cracks appeared on the walls. As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth. For thenext few years the cracks became even larger and Beretti was dismissed.Though the special comision exoneratedhim, he fell ill and spent the rest of his days in the mental hospital.

Huge funds were required for saving the construction. For ten years the half-builttemple remained as it was, awaiting for its fate.
Only in 1875 the Russian Emperor Alexander II visited Kiev and ordered to resumethe works, financing them from the government.

Then one morePetersburg architect Bengard was asked to make all the necessary calculation andhis 28-year-old student Vladimir Nikolaev finished the job. Thus 20 years passed since the foundation stone was layed. Besides numerous changes of the project coursed the ancient style was transferred into the so-called "Nikolaev" one.

The interior decoration lasted for 14 more years. Thus they spent 34 yearsall together while4 emperors, 3 metropolitans and 5 architects changed.Only Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior was being built longer, namely for about 44 years. But it is several times as larger. (By the way it was also built for public donations.)

At last on the 1st of September 1896 the cathedral was solemnly consecrated inpresence of the Russian Tsar Nicolas II and his wife Alexandra.They say the gathered peoplehad no idea where to look first. Everyone wanted to see the metropolitan Ionnikiy, who carried out the blessing ceremony, and the Emperor himself. But the magnificent works of art fixed theireyes.
Plain fact is that the management of the interior design works was delegated to Adrian Prakhov.This famous art-critic and archaeologist was crazy about turning the cathedral into the treasury of contemporary religious art. Almost none took his idea seriously. However, in 1885Prakhov with the help of his Petersburg friends succeeded to become the head of the Decoration Department of Saint Volodymyr Cathedral.


He invited the best specialists: Viktor Vasnetsov, Michael Nesterov, brothers Oleksander and Pavlo Svedomski, Wilhelm Kotarbinsky, Michael Vrubel, Ukrainian artists Mykola Pymonenko and Sergiy Kostenko.There were 96 artists all together. And the impossible happened even though the constant shortage of money!

The main subject of the cathedral murals and mosaics is salvation and the symbolic history of the Russian Orthodox Christianity.This theme appears both in treating the Gospel subjects, and in depicting martyrs, apostles and saints.

Perhaps the most impressing fresco of Saint Vladimir Cathedral is thealtarpieceimage of the Virgin by Vasnetsov. It was so much unlike the canonic painting that the special commission headed by the Metropolitan could hardly approve it. There is a saying, or even perhaps a legend about how it all happened. On the day of the commission arrival Prakhov decided to inspect himselfthe plastered surface of the altarapse. He came to the cathedral early in the morning and saw there a spot with the shapes of the sketches by Vasnetsov. He came back home shining like a new penny. Photographing of the wonder was immediately organized. Since then no power on earth could obstacle painting it.

[Prakhov was saying, that when he showed the photos of the spot to Vasnetsov, the latter lost his speach and then said: «It was the God`s order».]

Vicktor Vasnetsov had been painting that imege for about 2 years. During 10 more years he had fulfilled 15 more compositions, 30 separate figures, not counting medallions, which makes about 4,000 square metres! That was trully titanic work. Just mind, that the cathedral was badly warmed in winter and Vasnetsov often suffered from flu. Several times the artists fell down from the scaffolding and hardly left alive. When the work was finished, the artist said his sacramental phrase: “I have put a candle to God.”
Many compositions that were created here for the first time were repeated later in other temples all over the country.

Contemporaries and especially the descendants appreciated the wonderful cathedral, putting it on par with such world masterpieces as the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople and Venice St. Mark`s Cathedral.

The iconstand of the cathedral is made of gray carrara marble. Multicolored marbles from Italy, France, Belgium and Spain decorate the walls and the floor of the temple.

The reach silver utensils for St. Vladimir`s Cathedral was created by well-known Khlebnikov company. Itsmasterswereleadersorrevivingofnationart. They perfectly masered embossing, carving, enamel, as well as special methods of work with silver to imitate different other materials and techniques.


During the WWI, the charitable society named by St. Vladimir was created on the territory of the Cathedral. It was curing and taking care of wounded soldiers.

During the Soviet Power, the bells were taken off from the Cathedral and the utensils were all confiscated. Besides, they turned off the central heating, thus causing bad destroying of frescos. Afterwards, a museum of Anti-religious propaganda was organised in its premises. Only in 1941, after Kiev was occupied by German fascists, church services were renewed in the Cathedral.

From 1944 St. Vladimir`s Cathedral became the main temple of Kiev and Galych metropolitan. In1946 itsreconstructionstarted. It lasted for 6 years, and the confiscated utensils were partly given back to the Cathedral.

The cathedral is topped with seven domes is 49 meters high. The door of the cathedral is decorated with masterpiece relieves by A. Prakhov. They depict Princess Olga, who was the first one in Russ to adopt Christianity, and her grandson prince Vladimir, who baptized Russ.

Today St. Vladimir`sCathedralisa 6-pillar temple with three apsids and 7 domes. It is 55 m long and 30 m wide. Its height is 49 m. The facade is decorated with mosaics, the massive doors of bronze are decorated with cast bronze relieves of Princess Olga and Prince Vladimir.

There are three altars, the central one is dedicated to St Vladimir, the Baptizer of Russ and the two side ones are on the second floor, on the choir loft (to St. Princess Olga and St. Princes Boris and Gleb).

Since finishing of its construction, the Cathedral soon became a significant monument to religious art of the XIX century. Contemporaries called the cathedral "the first inspired example of Russian religious art".



...A tiny beaded copy of the St. Vladimir`s Cathedral of Kiev I have seen in the city of Yokohama, Japan, having been invited to the craft show `Beads Create Japan.` And I must confess, it was a real pleasure!

Here is some more information about it in Russian and in English.











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