More than 40 million people from across the world have visited Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a UNESCO-listed golden-domed Orthodox Christian monastery that is the holiest place of pilgrimage in Ukraine. Translating into English as the ‘Monastery of the Caves’, Pechersk Lavra has its origins back in 1051, when an Orthodox monk founded an underground sanctuary in a cave; many monks gravitated to this subterranean hermitage and eventually began to construct an over-ground church. The caves where the hermits lived were subsequently used for burials and many mummified remains can be seen today by guided tour.
From the 11th century onwards the monastery played a central role in Ukrainian life; it was here that the first national printing presses was used and many famous scholars passed through its doors. A fire destroyed the original complex in 1718 and the monastery, its cathedral, church and refectory were all rebuilt in Baroque style with gilded domes and portraits of the saints adorning the exterior; a 30-hectare estate surrounding the complex overlooks the River Dnieper. The fortunes of Pechersk Lavra waxed and waned with the political upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries, but in 1988 the monastery and caves were returned from state control to a newly thriving community of monks.
Lavrska Street, 9, Kiev. Open daily summer 8am–7pm, winter 9am–6pm. Admission with tour: adults 50 UAH, students & children 25 UAH; without tour 15 UAH for all. Women must wear a headscarf and a skirt that extends below their knees in the caves. The wearing of shorts and T-shirts is forbidden for men. Take the metro to Arsenalna.