One of the must visit places in Kyiv (Kiev) is an ancient monastery complex – Kyiv Pechersk Lavra or monastery of the caves. The territory of the monastery is quite large and includes a few different churches and monuments, but the highlight of this monastery are the caves. This place is also a great stop on my Kyiv Walking Tour because it is right next to the Kyiv War Museum And The Motherland.
The word “pechera” means “a cave” and the word “lavra” is “monastery”, so the name “Pechersk Lavra” means “cave monastery”.
The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra was founded in 1051 and it was mostly a cave monastery by the monks that decided to settle in a cavern overlooking the Dnipro river. Soon the community had grown up and it became a monastery. In fact, it is one of the most important religious sites in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Nowadays the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra has many historical monuments on its territory including the lower caves, several churches, and the Kyiv Theological Academy and Seminary. A few of the buildings unfortunately were destroyed during World War II but have been restored recently.
The original cathedral was built in the 11th century and was destroyed during WW2. Interesting to know that no one knows who actually destroyed the church. The Soviet Union blamed it on Nazi Germany and Germany in return said that the Soviet army had bombed the Dormition cathedral and some other buildings.
The cathedral was only rebuilt when Ukraine had obtained its independence from the Soviet Union Regime. In fact, the whole monastery complex was turned into some kind of tourist park.
The Lavra Bell Tower is one of the most beautiful bell towers in Kyiv. It was built in 1745. The hight of the bell tower was almost 100 meters which was very impressive for that time.
This is the first thing that you see before entering the monastery. It is one of the few structures that somehow survived the War and the Soviet Union. The Gate Church has very old oil paintings on the outside walls so pay attention to that. The interior of this building has a few 18th century murals which look extremely impressive.
The cave monastery is actually the part that attracts the tourists. Lavra cave monastery is a system of very narrow and long underground tunnels. For those who are suffering from claustrophobia the walk through these tunnels can be very unpleasant.
The caves contain several small rooms and many corridors. Be prepared to be super uncomfortable since there are no lights in the caves, and everyone buys a small candle before entering to light up their way in the dark tunnels. There are usually quite a lot of people so it is hard to move fast, and you can spend some time there. By the way, for those who are tall it is even more uncomfortable since you will need to bend your head quite often.
Inside the caves you will see quite a few dead bodies. All of those people were monks or priest that at one time or another lived in the monastery.
Before going to the caves, you will need to cover your head (if you are a woman) and cover your knees (both genders). Unfortunately, I forgot about this rule before our visit, which is why we had to borrow some headscarves and long wide aprons to cover overserves. The best way is to bring your headscarf and wear a long skirt for this visit if you don’t want to wear monastery’s clothes. Although it is genuinely nice of them to provide all these things for people like us.
The whole visit to Kyiv Pechersk Lavra took us about two to three hours including visiting all the churches and the underground caves. And although I enjoyed the excursion very much and learned a lot, I though that the caves were very creepy (but necessary to visit).
Price: adults – 50 UAH ($2); children – 25 UAH ($1)
Hours: Summer from 8 AM to 7 PM; Winter from 9 AM to 6 PM;
Location: Lavrska St, 15, Kyiv, 01015;