Explore the Depths of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra

in Sightseeing

Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Ukraine’s beautiful Kyiv Pechersk Lavra – Photo: Michele Ursino

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, also known as Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is a unique monastery that has survived almost a millennium since its foundation. The complex started as an ambitious Orthodox Christian monastery located in the caves by the summer residence of the Grand Prince of Kyiv. It would eventually become true a Lavra or main monastery during the XII century by serving as the centre from which Christianity would spread in the Kievan Rus. During this time, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra would become an important figure in the development of the ancient Rus’ culture; inside its walls chronicle writing would be developed by some of the regions most famous chroniclers, figures such as Nestor, Nikon, and Sylvester.

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Today, the Lavra is recognized as Ukraine’s holiest site, a place where the remains of distinguished and even holy inhabitants are laid to rest. The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is an extremely popular location among both Orthodox pilgrims and tourist groups. Visitors can check out both upper and lower Lavras. The upper Lavra is where most of the religious buildings and museums are while the lower Lavra (also known as the Pechersk) is the network of caves where the mummified remains of Ukraine’s holy men reside.

If you decide to visit the monastery, you can arrive through the Vichnoyi Slavi park; going further into the park you will soon be greeted by the golden domes of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra as spire above the tree-line. Once in the complex you will find numerous monuments built in the monastery since its inception on the XI century: the Dormition Cathedral, the Gate Church of the Trinity and the Great Lavra Bell Tower are some of the most impressive ones.

You can also find a number of museums and galleries which showcase displays of old printed books, ancient drapery and embroidery collections. If you are daring, you can take your visit to the catacombs below. The Pechersk is the name given to the network of caves on the hills overlooking the Dnipro river; here lie the remains of holy monks and important figures such as Prince Yuri Dolgoruki, founder of Moscow.

Tips for first-time visitors

  • Schedule your visit on a weekday; the crowds love to flock to the Lavra on the weekends.
  • Make sure you bring comfortable shoes. The upper Lavra is filled with steep slopes and smooth cobbles.
  • When visiting the upper Lavra, make sure you check out the various museums. The Museum of Micro-miniatures is, in particular, worthy of a few hours of your time.
  • If you suffer from claustrophobia, think twice before descending to the Pechersk; being in a tiny cave surrounded with mummified monks can be a disaster on your nerves.
  • Make sure you take a torch or buy a candle at the entrance of the caves to avoid bumping your way through in the dark of the Dnipro hills.
  • Check out CCCP, a restaurant inside the Lavra. The venue favours a Soviet kitsch theme, including old propaganda films and staff dressed in Young Pioneer outfits.

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