Kiev Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kiev, Ukraine. Since its foundation as the cave monastery in 1015 the Lavra has been a preeminent center of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. The Kiev Pechersk Lavra contains numerous architectural monuments, ranging from he Great Lavra Belltower, the notable feature of the Kiev skyline, to cathedrals to underground cave systems and to strong stone fortification walls.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is a unique monastery complex, which is included in UNESCO world heritage list. It was visited by more than 43 millions of tourists from all over the world.
Kiev-Pechersk-Lavra originates in 1051, when a monk Antoniy had settled in this place in dug out on a hill slope cave. Soon other monks joined him and started to widen the caves, later when underground space could not house all community — to construct overground buildings.
The name of the monastery comes exactly from the caves (the word «pechera» in Ukrainian means a «cave»), the word «lavra» means status, it received large and influential monasteries, which size was like small towns with streets (lavra means «street» in Greek).
From the 70th of XI century in the monastery intensive building had begun, here was constructed Uspenskiy Cathedral, Troitskaya Church and refectory.
The monastery played very important role in Ukrainian culture development — the first printing-house was established here, many famous chroniclers, writers, scientists, painters, doctors lived and worked. In 1113 Chronicler Nestor wrote his «Tale of Bygone Years» («Povest vremennyh let») — the main source of knowledge about the times of Kievan Rus.
After a great fire of 1718 the restoration of damaged building and the construction of new one had began. Holy Dormition Cathedral and Troitskaya Church got its present-day baroque style, the monastery territory was surrounded by stone walls. Thus in the middle of the XVIII century the unique architectural ensemble of Lavra had been formed. It preserved till our times for the most part. Kiev-Pechersk Lavra became the largest monastery on the territory of former Kievan Rus, its total square was almost 30 hectares.
After Communist Party came to power in 1917 the hard times for the monastery had begun — it was closed and all its property had been nationalized, some time after in the part of monastery buildings museums were placed.
In 1941 during World War II the Holy Dormition Cathedral had been blown up. Up to now there are no exact facts who realized the blasting operations — Germans or Soviet underground.
In 1988 the territory of Far Caves with all overground buildings was returned to newly created monk community, and in 1990 the territory of Near Caves.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Caves
Lavra caves is the system of underground passages, divided into two parts — Far and Near Caves. First annalistic mentions of Lavra Caves are related to 1051. At first caves were occupied by the monks who lived their, later in caves started to bury dead settlers of the monastery. In particular there are remains of Chronicle Nestor the author of the «Story of bygone years», Ilya Muromets — Russian epic hero and the relics of imperishable Lavra saints.
In some underground cells lived hermit monks, who devoted their lives to prayers — in the walls of cave passages had remained small holes through which they got water and food.
There are legends about the extent of Lavra caves, — it’s said that underground passages stretches under the Dnieper and also connects Lavra with other monastery caves of Kiev and Chernigov.