On our last day in Kiev we decided to do some more walking around, but mostly to check out the two major churches we had skipped on our first day.
Our first stop was St Sophia. It looked different than on the pictures we had seen, as the blue roof had been replaced by a green one. For some reason though we did not have to pay admission, and were able to go right in. The church ground holds many sights, but the map was confusing and we had no idea what the two tickets we were given were for (they were written in Cyrillic). We decided to just visit the church, since that’s really what we were after.
Completed in 1031 and named after the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, the inside of St Sophia is breathtaking. It is just stunning murals after stunning murals with a few mosaics thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures, but I did sneak one in… I couldn’t resist!
The one place one could take pictures inside the church was in the art gallery. The current exhibit held only one piece, but it was quite an impressive one. Looking Into Eternity, by Oksana Mas is a huge mosaic made out of Ukrainian Easter eggs. It took 70 people and 15,000 hand-painted, unique eggs to create this image of the Virgin Mary.
Outside of St Sophia is the Sofiyivska place, a huge expanse of cobblestone that left of giddy after the crowded madness of India.
Our next church for the day was St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery. This church was destroyed by the Soviets in 1934 due to it lacking “cultural relevance” – it had been around since 1108. The Soviets instead replaced the historical church with an administrative building, in spite of protest. In 1997, construction began to rebuilt the church and it was opened to the public in 1998. The church’s original building might be gone, but it now stands as a symbol of Ukrainian’s independence and of reclaimed cultural identity.