With the recent events unfolding in Ukraine, it is only fitting to explore one of the most historical churches in the region: Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. Ukraine culture, architecture and religion highlight the importance of history for the Ukrainian people.

Especially valuable are the ancient churches and cathedrals that have endured throughout the course of history for hundreds of years. Saint Sophia Cathedral is one of the most important architectural monuments in Ukraine. The building is one of the city’s landmarks and the first heritage site in Ukraine to be recorded on the World Heritage List.

Saint Sophia of Kyiv actually does not have all that much in common with its namesake; although, ‘Sophia’ means ‘holy wisdom’ in Orthodox Christianity.

The majestic cathedral was constructed in the 11th century with an unusual shape that quickly gained attention. As originally constructed in the Middle Ages, it had a Greek cross shape with five naves and five alters under dome-shaped roofs. On the outside, the church has a distinctive pyramid shape created by the descending heights of the domes.

On the inside, Saint Sophia is astounding with plentiful decoration dating back to the medieval period. The building contains nearly 32,000 square feet of murals, and the vaults and domes have almost 3,000 square feet of golden mosaics. The murals and mosaics were restored in the 19th century with selective oil paintings.

Historically, Saint Sophia Cathedral has experienced plenty of danger and hardship in its long life. The cathedral suffered lengthy periods of neglect and decay throughout different centuries, and, on numerous occasions, it narrowly escaped destruction through war and political upheavals. The cathedral escaped anti-religious destruction during the Soviet period and became a center of study and preservation.

The building has not functioned as a church since 1934, operating instead as a museum and temple complex which welcomes thousands of tourists each year. St. Sophia Cathedral has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990 and is also considered one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine.

After surviving for hundreds of years, we can only hope that this brilliant cathedral, like the Ukrainian people, will continue to persevere.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.