St. Michael’s Cathedral
is one of the main temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. This monastery has always been especially important for the inhabitants of Kiev. It is devoted to the heavenly patron of the city – the Archangel Michael. Built in the 11th century, but raised from ruins in the 20 century, it is considered to be one of the most honoured places among the pilgrims.
Monastery in Ancient Times
According to the Chronicle, history of the Monastery starts from July 11, 1108. It runs that Prince Svyatopolk-Michael built a stone temple named after the St. Archangel Michael on the place where stood a wooden small church. It was decorated with marble, mosaics, and precious icons and as the only temple in Kiev, which had a golden dome, it was called “Golden-Domed”. After his death on April 16, 1114, Prince Svyatopolk was buried in this newly built church.
The whole complex of buildings on the territory of St. Michael’s Monastery extended with centuries. Significant changes it has undergone during the 12-13 centuries. With the help of Ukrainian authorities appeared an opportunity to improve the abandoned and impoverished monastic buildings and churches.
Of great importance were donations to the church of Ukrainian hetmans at different times: Bogdan Khmelnitsky at his own expense restored gilding on the central dome of the temple in 1718, Hetman Skoropadsky arranged in the main church a new iconostasis, Ivan Mazepa donated to the relics of St. Barbara a silver shrine and a chandelier.
During the reign of emperor Peter I, the low ceilings of the building were reconstructed so that they became equal to the walls of the main temple. In 1713 was built a stone church in the name of St. John the Evangelist. The monastery bell tower was built in 1719 by Varlaam Lenetsky. It consisted of three layers (23 yards) and has 23 bells. The last asset in the reconstruction of large monastic buildings was a construction of a stone wall around the monastery and housing for the fraternal cells.
At the end of the 19 century St. Michael’s Kiev’s Golden-Domed Monastery occupied an area of 13 acres and was surrounded by a stone wall. At the gate were depicted heavenly powers and St. Metropolitan of Kiev Michael. On the other side was the image of the 5th miracle St. Barbara and St. Prince Vladimir.
Until 1919 the monastery counted 4 churches:
- Cathedral stone church in the name of St. Archangel Michael had 7 domes;
- Refectory Church in the name of the John Evangelist, which was built in 1713. It was a two-storied stone church, the dome of which was iron and later, in 1848 was covered with gold;
- St. Nicholas temple, which was wooden, at first, and 1856 it was reconstructed into a new stone church;
- A stone two-storied church in the name of the Smolensk Mother of God. It was built near the house for pilgrims;
Monastery in the 19-20 centuries
At the beginning of summer 1919 Bolshevik (Communist), the government moved to Kiev from Kharkiv. They started nationalization of buildings and property. To accommodate the employees and officials of dozens of departments of the communist institutions, the city authorities offered them to settle in the hotel buildings of the Michael’s Monastery.
However, it can be claimed that this monastery, probably, would not suffer in 1919, if it hadn’t been located in the center of the city during a short stay of Bolsheviks in Kiev. Periodicals show that the center of the city was a place of the settlement of Soviet newcomers. Together with the troops, the monastery turned in the center of the events. Such a large facility with an arranged territory, buildings, and food supply objectively couldn’t have helped to get into the eye of the new government.
Government officials quickly made a description of the monastery’s property and immediately began its distribution without any regard to the position of the owners, because they had slightly different ideological understanding and institutions concerning the church and private property in general.
In 1934-1936 St. Michael’s Cathedral, bell tower and part of the other buildings of the monastery were demolished due to the project of building a government center in its place. Before the destruction of a unique ensemble of Ukrainian architecture, research works were carried out. The frescoes, mosaics were transported to the museums of Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Novgorod and other cities of the USSR. Mosaic composition “The Eucharist” was moved to the Cathedral of St. Sophia. Many paintings got to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra Reserve. The Government Center, on the place of the ruined St. Michael’s cathedral, was never built.
An interesting fact is that during the Soviet anti-religious campaign of the 1920s, another outstanding monument of Old Russian architecture – St.Sophia Cathedral was saved from destruction. And primarily it avoided a disastrous fate with the enormous efforts of many scientists and historians.
During the Second World War, some of the frescoes were removed to Germany, where they got to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
In the early 1990s, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate collects funds for the reconstruction of the cathedral. That money was enough only for the initial research, it was clear that the unique monument of Ukrainian Baroque cannot be restored without a support of the state. The Ukrainian community sent numerous appeals to the President to provide funding for restoration. Finally, on December 9, 1995, President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma issued a decree which defined the restoration of the Monastery as a national priority.
In February 2001, four fragments of frescoes of the 12th century of St. Michael’s Cathedral, which were stored in the Hermitage, were handed over to Ukraine. In January 2004, the Ministry of Culture of Russia decided to transfer from the Hermitage to the Ukraine the last seven frescoes of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kiev. And in 2004, the transfer frescoes was completed.
Monastery in the times of Euromaidan 2013
During the violent dispersal of Euromaidan on the night of November 30, 2013, a part of people who fled from the police unit “Berkut”, found refuge in the territory of the Monastery. During the clashes with “Berkut”, the protesters hid in the cathedral and organized temporary headquarters there. The seminarians from the Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy helped protesters: went on the night duties, brought medicines, made tea, carried hot water.
On the night of December 11, 2013, the bell of the St. Michael’s Monastery sounded the alarm for the first time during the last 8 centuries. Before, it was only in 1240, during the Mongol invasion. It is owing to this sound of bells thousands of Kiev citizens gathered in the city center and the attempt to clean up Euromaidan by the employees of the special division “Berkut” and armed forces of the Internal Troops were unsuccessful.