Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site Saint Sophia Cathedral and its surrounding buildings as well as the dominant Kiev-Pechersk Lavra are beautiful domed cathedrals with ornate and gilded interiors. Stepping through their large bell towers takes you away from the bustling city into a space of tranquility and calm.
Designed to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, Kiev's Saint-Sophia Cathedral symbolizes the 'new Constantinople', capital of the Christian principality of Kiev, which was created in the 11th century in a region evangelized after the baptism of St Vladimir in 988. The spiritual and intellectual influence of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra contributed to the spread of Orthodox thought and the Orthodox faith in the Russian world from the 17th to the 19th century.
Saint Sophia Cathedral
Saint Sophia Cathedral has an ornate blue and white Bell Tower which stands over a square with the Bohdan Khmelnytsky Monument. A reminder of the meeting of the Cossack Army and the residents of Kiev in the square in 1648 after their victory against the Polish Army.
Beyond the Bell Tower the Cathedral has a chaotic collection towers. Each topped with green and gold. Inside each tower are ornate frescoes visible from within the cathedral. Each fresco and mosaic has a set position decided by Byzantine decorative schemes. The cathedral is heavy and dark with ornate gold and silver metalwork, cast iron floor tiles, small windows and ancient paintings on the walls.
Tucked behind the Cathedral is the Residence, refectory and bakery. Large airy buildings with intricate designs fitting with the status of their past.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is situated on a hill over-looking the River Dnieper. It is a vast and sprawling complex of buildings with gold domed towers and dark caves that make up the main part of the monastery. It can be seen from the river as well as the from the Motherland Monument.
These two UNESCO World Heritage sites allow photography. At Saint Sophia Cathedral you cannot take photographs in the the residence.
For both of these sites there are lots of people around. This makes it difficult if you want clean images free from people. One way is to use a filter to give a longer exposure time, but even this does not work when tourists are milling going nowhere. Another option is to look for the smaller details at the sites or shoot above the height of heads.
There are lots of smaller details in the buildings with door latches and frescos which can keep any photographer happy for a while. Remember to look up when you are inside St Sophia Cathedral as the ceilings are as stunning as the walls.
As a final note, I am convinced the Bell Tower at St Sophia Cathedral is wonky. However hard I tried I never managed to get it straight with the surrounding buildings.
St Sophia Cathedral is located a short walk from the funicular railway in the centre of Kiev on Volodymyrska Street. There is a large square outside and entry to the site is through the Bell Tower.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is located a fair distance from St Sophia Cathedral on Lavrska Street and really needs a taxi or metro ride to get to it easily. Entry is down a small alleyway, so small that you can easily miss it.