A view of the Cathedral of St. Sophia from the top landing of the bell tower.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv

Published: May 11, 2020

Kyiv’s skyline is riddled with beautiful architecture, Soviet-style apartment buildings, bridges, and much more. Most iconic out of all this, however, are the classic domes and bell tower of St. Sophia’s Cathedral. I had the opportunity to visit this landmark as part of the included cultural package with my SRAS/Novamova program in Kyiv. I discovered it to be one the most beautiful churches I have ever set foot in. Never have I been in a building so old and filled wall-to-wall with history. The gorgeous frescoes and mosaics painted a picture not only of the essence of Eastern Orthodoxy but also the history of Ukraine.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral was built in the 11th century and has stood the test of time to remain one of the key symbols of Ukraine. The church is no longer active and serves as a museum and Ukrainian heritage site. Every interior wall is covered in beautiful frescos of saints and holy men and women of the church. The central icon of the church is the enormous mosaic of the Virgin Mary. The mosaic stands nearly twenty feet tall, taking up the entire ceiling dome. Legend has it that this mosaic offers is a patron protectress of Kyiv; so long as the mosaic stands, Kyiv shall not fall.

The cathedral is at the very heart of Kyiv and is a focal point of the city. The entrance to the cathedral grounds is through the bell tower directly in front of the cathedral. The tower stands at almost 250 feet and is ornately decorated in the Ukrainian Baroque style. Accordingly, the tower is mostly a cool blue with white accents. While on our tour, I got the chance to climb the bell tower. It was quite a hike and I was gasping for breath by the time we reached the first landing. It seemed like the stairs went on forever. After a long hike up, I finally reached the top landing, which gives amazing views of Kyiv’s historic center in all its glory.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral and its bell tower are staple landmarks of Kyiv. I passed the cathedral almost every day during my time there. Whenever I got lost in the city, which happened on multiple occasions, I knew I could find my way home if I could find St. Sophia’s Cathedral first. The cathedral and bell tower are two of the most ornate and beautiful structures in Kyiv and it is a must visit for anyone coming to the city.

About the author

Jonah Helwig

Jonah Helwig has been studying Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasian history for two years at Stetson University in Florida. Having fallen in love with this region, he decided that a semester abroad would not only improve his language skills but also allow him to witness the culture firsthand. Jonah is currently studying on Policy and Conflict, a program hosted by partners SRAS and Novamova in Kyiv, Ukraine. Jonah hopes that the knowledge he gains about conflicts and possible solutions will assist him in a future career in foreign service.

View all posts by: Jonah Helwig

Museum Studies Abroad