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St. Sophia Cathedral (Sofia of Kyiv)

Built in the 11th century and able to preserve its beauty and majesty to this day, the Hagia Sophia Cathedral is one of the most unique monuments of history, architecture and monumental painting. It became the first attraction on the territory of Ukraine included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

St. Sophia Cathedral was founded in 1037 by decree of the ancient Russian prince Yaroslav the Wise on the site where the Kievans won a victory in the battle with the Pechenegs a year earlier. The erected temple, named after the St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople, became the largest building in the capital. For Yaroslav the Wise, his appearance was a kind of act of asserting the state power of Kievan Rus.

Hagia Sophia became not only the main temple of the ancient state, but also played the role of an important socio-political, cultural and educational center. Here, solemn ceremonies of ascension to the princely throne, official meetings with foreign ambassadors, and international agreements were signed. The first school in Rus' was opened on the territory of the cathedral and the first library created by Yaroslav the Wise operated.
Despite the fact that the temple was built in accordance with the canons of Byzantine architecture, there are practically no buildings similar to it in the world. Over its long history, it has repeatedly experienced destruction and looting. The greatest damage to the St. Sophia Cathedral was caused by the Mongol-Tatars, who captured Kyiv in 1240. After this, the temple was in a deplorable state for a long time, although it continued to operate. Only at the turn of the 17th – 18th centuries was the building of St. Sophia of Kyiv restored and rebuilt in the then fashionable Baroque style. At the same time, a 76-meter bell tower grew next to the cathedral, where the largest bell in Ukraine weighing 13 tons now hangs.

But if the external appearance of Hagia Sophia has undergone significant changes over ten centuries, the interior has retained its authenticity and today represents the main value of the temple. Inside the cathedral, a large number of rare and beautiful mosaics made by Byzantine masters of the 11th century have survived. The most famous is the six-meter mosaic of Our Lady of Oranta, composed of glass and stone plates in 177 shades. Sophia of Kiev also preserved many ancient frescoes decorating its galleries. In addition to religious ones, you can see secular subjects here: images of Yaroslav the Wise and members of his family, scenes of the court life of the Byzantine emperors, etc.