St. Andrew`s church

You may probably have heard of the famous Russian Tsar Peter the Great, who founded St. Petersburg and brought a fresh energy to political, economic and military development of Russia.

His daughter Elizabeth, having become Russian Empress, once arrived to Kiev and ordered to build a church on one of Kiev hills. She wanted to construct a summer residence for herself, consisting of a palace and a church. (The palace is nowadays situated in the prestigious Kyiv district of Pechersk. It is called the Mariyinsky Palace and serves for the residence to our President). As to the church, there is a legend that the Empress supposed to wed here to her favorite, Alexey Razumovsky, born as a Ukrainian Cossack Oleksa Rozum. Therefore there is the Empress` monogram written inside the oval stucco decoration above the entrance. [By the way, this kind of decorations is called a cartouche. It has derived to from Egypt, where only the pharaohs could write their names inside the cartouche, indicating their divine origin.]

On September 9, 1744 the official ceremony of the construction beginning started. The Empress herself laid the first three foundation stones.
The legendary hill

It will be true to call the hill, where St. Andrew’s church is situated, a legendary hill. According to the ancient Kiev chronicle "The Tale of Bygone Years", Saint Andrew, the First Called Apostle, came to the Dnieper River slopes in the first century A.D., erected a cross on this very hill and prophesied foundation of a great Christian city. He said, the city would have lots of churches and monasteries and the God`s name would be glorifying all over it. Just a few centuries later his prediction became true. The city of Kiev arose and became the centre of the Eastern Orthodox faith.

In the late 11th century St. Andrew`s monastery was built on this hill by the son of Yaroslav the Wise, whose name wasVsevolod, the Grand prince of Kiev. His daughter Janka found here the first Russian school for girls with embroidery classes. Thus the monastery got its second name Yanchin. In 1212 Prince Mstislav Udaloy erected here a church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross which lasted until 1560. Fires repeatedly destroyed it but each time a burned construction was replaced by a new one. In 1690 a wooden church, consecrated to Saint Andrew, was moved here from the Podil Brethren cloister, but it did not stay here long as well, being pulled down in 1725.

The new St. Andrew`s church was laid here in 1744. But the construction began only 5 years later and lasted for the next 4 years. In 1753 the church was consecrated, though the works on interior decoration had not been finished. It lasted for 15 more years; therefore the Empress was not lucky to wed here, as she died before the job was finished.


The construction and functioning of the church

St. Andrew`s church is often called a swan song of the prominent master. Its project was worked out by the Head Architect of the Russian Imperial Court, Bartolommeo Rastrelli. This Italian-born master lived and worked in the Russian Empire since his 16 year old age. He created a lot of wonderful buildings mainly in St. Petersburg. St. Andrew`s Church is one of his masterpieces. It is also one of the most outstanding Kiev buildings in Baroque. This architectural style was common in Europe in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Having come to our lands it obtained some special national features.
But let us return to our muttons.

The construction of the church was held under the direction of the principal architect of Moscow Ivan Michurin. His geological researches found out that the upper 14 meters of the ground were penetrated with subterranean waters. Michurin designed a complicated stone foundation for strengthening the ground under the church. It is connected with a two-storied building of the Priest`s apartments having 8 rooms on each floor. Thus the church is in fact standing atop of another building. The roof of the latter serves as an observation terrace. Let’s go up to the terrace to see the picturesque view of the historical Podil Region and the Dnipro. A steep cast iron staircase will lead us there. [More than a century ago it was wooden. Initially it was decided to do without a staircase at all, making a sort of ramp. But the idea failed because of the steepness of the hill.]

Look at the beautiful view! They say our famous writer Nicholas Gogol loved it very much and enjoyed strolling around the church.

Well, as I have already mentioned the construction of the church was a long complicated process. The foundation stone was delivered here by Kiev garrison soldiers from the neighbouring towns of Rzhyschiv and Bucha. The wood came from nearby Pushcha-Vodytsa forests.

Cast iron floor tiles were brought here from Moscow. The wooden parts of the interior decorations were carved out in Saint Petersburg. Infantry regiments from Kiev, Chernihiv, Starodub and Poltava were involved in the construction as well as the workers from the neighbouring villages. Kiev-Pechersk Lavra sent here its 50 best masons.

About 24 thousand bricks, almost 500 thousand kilograms of nails and more than a thousand thin slabs of gold were used here. And I must admit that the efforts and the costs were not spent in vain. Being seen from afar, this smart church became one of the best Kiev visiting cards.

The church is cross-shaped and has 23 to 32 metres in plan. Its height is 62m including 15m of stylobate. There is only one big dome 10m in diameter surrounded with 5 decorative spires of elegant silhouette. The dome, doors, windows and niches are decorated with rich gilded moulding.

Corinthian and ionic columns and pilasters decorate the church from the front.
The church interior

Cold pastel colours of the church exterior make contrast to the warm golden and purple, dominating in the interior. Architecture, modeling, carving and painting are harmoniously combined in it. Rastrelli himself supervised its decoration. That is he who developed the design of the three-tierediconostasis of sophisticated silhouette. Moreover – just imagine! – he drew the design full-size!

Look at the magnificent carving made to the drafts by Rastrelli! Is not it wonderful? The canopy over the communion table and the sermon pulpit are decorated with carving as well. By the way, this church is one of few Orthodox churches, which has a pulpit. Ornamental carving is combined here with round sculpture.

Paintings were worked out by both Kiev and Petersburg masters. 25 of the church icons were painted in St. Petersburg by I. Vishnyakov. The altar frescoes on the back of the iconostasis were done by Ukrainian masters I. Romenskyi and I. Chaikovskyi. Oleksiy Antropov painted the cathedral dome and several icons. But his real masterpiece is a great altar canvas "The Last Supper" which nowadays is estimated more than $2 million (according to western art catalogues). They say historians have even had a quarrel about the author of this canvas, thinking that it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci…

Not everything in the temple dates back to the XVIIIth century. On the western walls of the transept you can see two monumental historical paintings, typical for XIXth century Classicism. They are "The Sermon of St. Andrew" by the Ukrainian artist Platon Boryspolets and "Prince Volodymyr is Choosing Faith" by the Latvian artist I. Eggink. Both of them were presented to the church by the metropolitan Arseny on occasion of its 100 jubilee.
The floor of the church is made of Carrara marble.


St. Andrew`s church, perhaps like no other one in Kiev, often needed fundamental restorations. It is all because of the natural phenomenon: severe winds atop of a hill over the river and underground waters.

You see the Empress built this church for herself intending to make it a royal home tample. It was planned to open it for the divine services only during her visits to Kiev. That is why the church has no parish and even no bell tower to call the congregation. Besides, Elizabeth was going to take care of the church herself allocating all the necessary sums. But she died before the construction ended. After her death, the Imperial Court took no interest in the church, so it was left without any funding. For some time, the church existed due to people private voluntary funds. Later on, in 1768, it was handed over to Kiev Council.

Once in 1815, a strong storm tore off the church cupolas so that it needed a full restoration. The project was worked out and sent to St. Petersburg for approval. But the restoration itself began only 9 years later in 1825-1828, because of bureaucracy.

In 1891 the central dome was struck by the lightning. It was rebuilt and obtained quite a different shape. The authorities did not like this new look of the church dome, and in 1900 it was reconstructed again according to drawings by the architect Nikolaev.

In the 1st half of the XX century the church foundation was repeatedly restored as well as the facade, interior and decor.

But the most significant restoration was held in 1978 when the original drawings of the church cupolas by Bartolomeo Rastrelli were found in «Al-bertina» museum in Vienna, Austria.
Thus it is believed that today the temple obtained its original outlook.

Church services

From the time of the consecration till 1932, when the Soviet Power ordered to close the church, regular services were held here. In 1935, St. Andrew`s Church was included in the Historical and Cultural Conservation "All-Ukraine Museum Area".

For some time after 1939, Kiev St. Sophia Anti-religious Museum was located within the premises of the church.

During World War II regular services were renewed, but in 1961 were forbidden again.

Since 1987, the church is included into the National Conservation area "St. Sophia of Kyiv."

The rooms of the church stylobate were periodically rented by different organizations until 1992 when they were given to Kiev Patriarchate for the Ecclesiastical Seminary.

In 2008, in honour of the 255th anniversary of St. Andrew`s church consecration, its ownership was transferred to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. They sometimes officiate here. Besides, concerts of chamber and choral music are usually held in the church.

The main shrines of the church are the relics of St. Andrew, imported here from Italy and stored in a special reliquary and the Gospel presented to the church by the Russian Emperor Alexander. This Gospel has a precious coating, decorated with diamonds.
Modern State

More recently, huge cracks in the church foundation appeared. It started to shift so that they say it might slide down to Podil! They even say some parts of the church decoration have been found in neighbouring areas. Therefore a special committee was organized to conduct a research to prevent further destroying of the church.

So you are lucky to see this wonderful construction firsthand. Today it is one of the four architectural landmarks of Ukraine, which were put down on The List of Mankind Treasures of Five Continents by the world society (together with Rome Coliseum, Egypt pyramids, the Stone Hedge in England and The Taj Mahal Palace in India).