As one of the seven wonders of Ukraine, the Kiev Pechersk Larva is a significant sacred and historical site. Kiev Pechersk Larva has many names, the Monastery of the Kiev Caves being one, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The monastery is a popular tourist location, as well as a destination of religious significance. Originally founded in 1051 by two monks, it serves today as the residence of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the head of the Church of Ukraine.
In the 11th century, an orthodox monk Anthony founded the monastery upon a search for solitude in the Ukrainian wilderness. He excavated a cave within the hillside where he lived a modest life. One by one monk began to join him and a community evolved. When decisions and rules were eventually implemented, a hierarchical framework emerged, and the monastery was firmly established. The monastery grew as wealthy princes and patriarchal figures donated buildings, land, and money.
There are have two parts of larvas. The complex is divided into the upper lavra (owned by the government and Kyiv Patriarchate) and the lover lavra (which belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate and contains the caves). One above ground and one below. The caves were the beginning of a detailed excavation in which monks created a labyrinth of underground caves and catacombs. Below ground, this network takes on a greater meaning as it is full of mummified monks, religious relics, and icons. This shrine to Christianity within such a unique environment is said to have a calming and spiritual effect, and as a practising monastery, it provides an incredibly rare insight into Ukrainian Christianity from the past and present. Located above ground, visitors can find the multitude of impressive buildings which include the ruins of the Dormition Cathedral, the Holy Trinity Church, the Great Bell Tower, St. Nicholas Church, Conception of St Anne Church and the All Saints’ Church, all accompanied by a micro museum which proves very popular. This one-room museum holds a collection of miniatures produced on such an impressively small scale that microscopes are provided for details to be truly appreciated. One astonishing example is an artist’s efforts to hollow out a piece of hair as to insert a miniature rose within it.
From the Further Caves, it’s a long walk back up the hill to the main entrance on Vul Lavrska, or you can exit (or enter) at the nearby lower entrance.
As one of a handful of Lavras in the world, Kiev Pechersk Lavra is an experience found only in Ukraine. An active monastery, it remains a true dedication to Christianity, and even for non-religious visitors, the underground caves and preserved history provide a richly atmospheric experience.