The history of foundation of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and its role in development of Old Russian culture. The historical important objects of Lavra: the Holy Gates, the Troitska Church, the Uspenskiy Cathedral, the Bell, the Close and Long distanced Caves.
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National Kyiv- Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserved Area "Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra"
1.National Kyiv- Pechersk Historical and Cultural Reserved Area "Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra"
Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra is located on the right bank of the Dniper River and plays an important role in church people's lives. The architectural monument , which is now under the UNESCO protection. It is considered to be the Christianity center for Eastern Slavs and is as much valued by them as Jerusalem and the sacramental Afon Mountain in Greece. All the shrine territory is saturated with ancient secrets: both caves, churches, bell towers and the lifetime of the entombed men as well. For instance Russian epical hero Illya Muromets and the founder of Moscow- Yuriy Dolgorukiy are being buried here.
In the16-17 centuries Lavra was one of the center in fight against the expansion of the Catholic religion. At the end of 17-at the beginning of 18 century Kyiv Pechersk Lavra becomes the hugest feudal church in Ukraine. It was the owners of 3 cities, 7 settlements, 120 villages and isolated farmsteads and 56 thousand of bondmen.
Kyiv Pechersk Lavra played an important role in the development of Old Russian culture, it was the center of chronicles and literature describing the saint life stories. The works of foreing authors have been translated here into Old Slavonic Language.
The cloister is located in Pechersk district- one of the most ancient districts in Kyiv. The cloister means the secluded dwelling from Greek. It's name derives from caves where the first monks have settled and found the cloister, among them were Antoiy, Nykon, Pheodosiy. Their followers began to construct their own monastic cells on the ground surfaces. In such a way the real cloister emerged. Though some of monks were still being living in caves. Since that Pechersk Cloister is being called "Lavra", but officially this name was recognized only in 1688 as such a status was given only to some cloisters depending on monks availability.
Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra is both one of the most ancient and authoritative among all 5 Lavras in Eastern Europe: Pochaevsk Lavra ( Ternopil Oblast), Svyatogorsk Lavra ( Donetsk Oblast),
Troitse- Sergievsk Lavra near Moscow, Alexandr - Nevskiy in Saint- Petersburg and Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra surely. Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra is worth mentioning even due to the custody of 400 acknowledged holly relics which are being storing in caves. This fact attracts numerous believers who are eager to worship the saints among which are both well- known writers, artists, architects and doctors of Kyivan Rus period. Nestor Letopysets- the author of "The temporary times narrative" is also buried here. His monument is at the Lavra. During WW 2 the Lavra had been much devastated. In 1941 the Uspenskiy cathedral has been detonated only it's wall was spared. When fascists has occupied Kyiv they approved of the cloister functioning . It happened under the archbishop Antoniy direction who used to be the head of seminary from which Stalyn was expelled. Holding high respect for him Stalin did not intrude upon the cloister affaires. Only during Khrushov's presidency the cloister became under the Soviet patronage. In 1988 the Kyivan Rus Christening millennium anniversary was being celebrated and he Soviet leaders gave the Long- Distance Caves territory back to the cloister and in 1990- the Close- Distance Caves were returned as well. The cloister collaborates with the" Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra" reserved area , which in 1996 got the status of the National one. The whole of the cloister complex is included into the UNESCO list. When Ukraine became independent the cloister was been reconstructed using the most ancient architectural methods. In such a way the Lavra Churchhas been reconstructed. In 2000 the Uspenskiy Church has been sanctified.
Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra divides into two parts: the Lower and the Upper ones. The Upper Lavra is the State Historical and Cultural reserved Area property. Four gates lead you to this part of the Lavra: The Western Gates ( The Holy Gates with the Troitska Undergate Church), the Northern Gates ( The Economic Gates with All Saints Church) , The Eastern and Southern or Cave Gates .
2.The Holy Gates
The Holy Gate is the main entrance to the Lavra . There is a functioning male monastery with Distant and Close Caves on the Lover Lavra territory. Archbishop Pavel runs the cloister now. The youngest novice of the cloister is 17 years old. There are functioning churches, icon shops, holly water wells, holly relics caves and a small grave yard on the cloister territory. All the Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra parts are separated from each other by high brick walls and are united by the Gates and Galleries. The entrance for believers who come to the Lower Lavra to pray is free.
kyiv pechersk lavra
3.The Troitska Church
Ancient sources accordingly such as "The temporary times narrative" the first dweller and the cave cloister founder was Antoniy. He took the veil at the Yesfygmenskiy cloister on the Afon Mountain ( Greece). Having arrived to Kyiv Antoniy settled in the cave , which many years ago the priest Illarion has dug for himself. The cave has been empty since in 1051 Illarion was appointed the Kyiv metropolitan. People found out about Antoniy's ascetical life and began to visit him asking blessing for themselves. They brought him some food and cloth. 12 other like- minded persons and he has been living in caves for some time. They have widened the caves, developed monastic cells and constructed an underground church. Later on the cave dwelling place became too small for all comers that is why ground constructions appeared like the Virgin Mary Christmas Church and monastic cells. The monastery activity moved from the caves into the ground surface. Instead the deceased cloister dwellers bodies were buried in the underground labyrinthes. The cave burring was being lasting for more than 7 centuries.
As a huge and authoritative Orthodox male monastery got the "Lavra" status. Usually only huge cloisters are called Lavra like small towns with the separate streets ( "Lavra" means " a "street" from the Greek word- for- word translation). Life activity by itself in these monastic towns are subordinated to the well- defined laws and rules without which the full monastic life is impossible. In 1230 the cloister constructions were damaged by the earthquake. Next few centuries later the cloister constructions were damaged by natural calamity and wars nevertheless they were being reconstructed and the cloister continued it's activity.
It was the hugest religious center before the revolution and in 1917 Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra became the Museum. The main task for all the palmers was to go through the Holy Gate or the Tsar Gate as they were called, where monks met people sparging on them the holy water. This was a half remission of sins ritual, the second half of the sins could be remitted in caves. The main task was not to stumble. In the case a person stumbles there was an assumption that his sins pulled him down to the ground and he could not be remitted. In ancient times only princes and high priesthood members were allowed to go through the Holy Gate the rest people entered the cloister through the wickets on the Gate sides . Those wickets are not preserved but the tradition to take off the headwear going through the Holy Gate is still presented. The most ancient miracle - working Assumption Virgin Mary icon hung over the Holy Gate. The legend runs that it was brought here by the sacred builders in 1073 they got it from Virgin Mary hand- to- hand. She blessed them to the Uspenskiy Church construction.
The Troitska Nadvratnaya ( Tryochsvyatutelska) Church is the oldest temple among the other Lavra property temples. It was found in ancient times on the fortress wall as a keep ( a tower). Since that the temple has never been either damaged or drastically reconstructed. The temple has a rectangle form and differs by it's modest sizes. It was constructed on the prince Svyatoslav Davydovich donations in 1106-1108 who took the veil and became the monk by name Svyatyusha. There is no chorus inside the Church. In ancient times the Troitska church was adorned in a very modest way but the inward decoration has been renovated for several times. At the beginning of the18-th century Lavra icon - painting school apprentices painted both the walls and arches with the frescos in Bible subjects. Both icon images and the wall painting respond to the strict demands of the Lavra governing body. According to the demands images of the saints should depict the deep wisdom, inspiration, earth- based peace. The carved gilder wooden three-level iconostasis of the Troitska Nadvratnaya Church interior catches your eye. It was made in 1734 by the Lavra engravers in Ukrainian Barokko style. This iconostasis was engraved of the lime tree and represent a through engraving technique. A huge 16 candles church chandelier decorates the temple center. The church chandelier was found in 1724, it's weight is 664 kg.
There are numerous wooden painted benches along the temple walls, which were also made in the 18- th century. These benches are called stasidias. They were made for the sick or old monks of the Nykolo Hospital Monastery who were very weak to stand all the mess. The Troitska Nadvratnaya Church floor is laid with the figured cast- iron plates. These plates were cast at the Bryansk plant in 1732 at manufacturer Davidiov expenditure therefor both his previous and future sins were remitted.
4.The Uspenskiy Cathedral
The Tsar Street leads you to the Uspenskiy Cathedral. straight away from the Holy Gate and Troitska Church. There are housing galleries to the both sides of the alley. They have been constructed in the 18-th century instead of the wooden ones which were burned during the fire case in 1718. These housings are divided into the monastic cells each of them used to be the Lavra monastic elder's habitation. In times of WW 2 all the monastic cells have been destroyed and being renovated only during 1948- 1963. Now there are exhibitions and stores inside them.
There is a huge Lavra Bell Tower to the right from the Uspenskiy Cathedral. It is the highest bell tower in Kyiv. It's height is 96, 5 m . The wall sickness of the first layer is 8 m, The bell tower 's base deeps into 7 m. It's construction lasted from 1731- 1745. Architect Shchedel was responsible for the the project realization. The overall weight of the bells on the 3- d level was 5 poods. In 1744 the tower chiming clock was installed on the fourth level. In 1903 they were changed by the new ones made by Moscow craftsman Yenodyn. In 2005 a new bell was cast by the craftsmen from Donetsk. It's weight was 7 tons which is expected to be installed on the 3-d level.
The Uspenskiy Cathedral - the Big Pechersk Church is the main Kyiv- Pechersk Lavra Temple.
This Cathydral was the first brick construction being built on the Pechersk Monastery territory. It was also the oldest temples of the Lavra. The Temple is situated opposite the Holy Gate in the center of the Upper Lavra square. It was constructed in 1072 on saint Antoniy's blessing.
Several miraculous signs and wonders predetermined it's construction. For instance one legend runs that Mother of God gathered four church craftsmen in one of Konstantynopol's Cathedral where the Mother's of God riza was kept and told them about her which to construct a Church in Rus, in Kiev. The constructors got from her the Mother of God image, relics and money for 3 years of constructing. The relics should have been laid in the church base and the icon - the church essence. The church image was seen by the constructors in heaven. When architects reached Kyiv they asked saints Antoniy and Pheodosiy about the exact place they wanted to have the church. The answer was : " God will show". The exact place was shown three times after the prays in a miracle way - by the fallen dew and the heavenly fire.
The Uspenskiy Cathedral
The Cathedral interior was painted by frescos and adorned by the mosaic. Besides the Greek craftsmen there was engaged a Ukrainian craftsman Alypiy who was taught the mosaic craft by them. The real masterpiece in wooden carving was the main 5 level iconostasis 22 meters high. After the fire case the Cathedral was increasingly enlarged and painted and adorned. All the main Lavra shrines always were kept in the Big Church. The Uspenskiy Cathedral is a real pantheon as more than 300 famous persons are buried inside it. They are state, public and cultural personalities of that period. Rare precious things were also preserved here like Petro Mogyla library or archeological godsends. The Uspenskiy Cathedral was demolished during WW 2 on the 3-d of November in 1941. There are only it's ruins on the center of the reserved area squire. Still it is an unknown fact who is to blame for it's destruction- either Soviet of fascists governing body. Only on the 9- th of December in 1995 ex- president of Ukraine
l. Kuchma ratified the order about the reconstruction of the Uspenskiy Cathedral. In 2000 the Uspenskiy Cathedral was constructed all over again.
There is a wide cupola Temple at the Uspenskiy Cathedral built in neoBythantine style. This is Saint Antoniy and Pheodosiy Church which is united with two- storied brethren's refectory, which was constructed in 1893-1895 under the project of the architect Nykolayev. In times of WW 2 the building has been damaged but after the war time it was renovated. There are some interments at the wall between the refectory church and the Uspenskiy Cathedral. The general judge Kotchubey and Russian premier- minister Stolypyn are buried here. It is a well known fact that Stolypyn went throuth 18 attempted murders during his round trips through the Russian Empire cities. That is why he entrusted with the testament to burry him at the place he would be killed.
A little bit aside from the Uspenskiy Cathedral there is the Kovnirskiy building - architectural monument of the 17-18- th centuries. The building is named after the eminent Lavra architect- Stepan Kovnyr. There is the historical valuable things of Uhe kraine Museum inside it. It is one of the most interesting museums in Kyiv. Kiev Pechersk Lavra printing house adjoins to the Kovnirovskiy building. It's fonder was scientist and illuminator Lavra archimandrite Yelisey Pletenetskiy. Since 1615 books have being printed here. The first edition was the Book of Hours- the book for teaching literacy. The average number of the books been published here is 100 thousand samples of various editions. Lavra books differed by their highly artistic design, beautiful type and original engravings.
In 1718 the big fire case destroyed all the wooden buildings, a lot of brick constructions were damaged, many church precious things were damaged including Lavra library. Since 1720 the reconstruction of the damaged buildings and construction of new ones have been started. As a result the architectural group of buildings emerged being preserved for now.
Having walked down the steep slope to the right hand of the Uspenskiy Carhedral we got the Lower Lavra. The main sightseeing here are caves where the saint relics are being preserved. The close distanced caves entrance is covered by the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross , which has never been rebuilt and it's original appearance is being saved. It adjoins to the hill with caves by it's northern side. The conception of the Blessed Ann Church covers the Long distanced caves entrance. It was constructed in 1679 on Novytskiy donations- Pechersk township dweller. The first caves are mentioned in chronicles in 1051. They were dug by the Kyiv- Pechersk monastery monks. Both close and long distanced caves became the seclusion place of the ascetics and the interment place for the deceased.
The first internment in Close distanced Caves was Saint Antoniy Christian burial in 1703 and Saint Pheodosiy in Long Distanced Caves in 1704. That is why Close Distances Caves are named after Antoniy and the Long Distanced Caves - after Pheodosiy.
There are three relics shedding the holy ointment.
Today Close and Long Distanced Caves labyrinth is a complicated system of the underground corridors up to 2- 2,5 m high and up to 1,5 m width, but some of them are even narrower. The caves depth is from 5 to 15 m but the long distanced caves are more deeper. The close distanced caves length is 313 m and the long distanced caves length is 293 m. There has been no admittance to the caves for a long time. The pilgrims were allowed to visit caves only in the 15-th century. Saint relics were kept in tombs standing in the niches to the both sides of cave galleries. The picture of the saint was put over his head with twinkling icon lamp. There was a name plate of the saint over his tomb. The face and all the hermit body is covered with the blanket though you may notice the bare hand- one could kiss it by the lips. Now all of the hermit tombs are covered by the glass that is why the direct contact between the pilgrims and saints is impossible. Since the middle of the 17- 18- th centuries the caves were reconstructed and widened to adjust them for the big quantity of pilgrims. The walls and frames were strengthened and decorated with the painting. A lot of deceased were taken out the tombs and put into special niches being carved to the both sides of the cave traces. Now the entrance to the caves is free of charge for everybody. The symbolic charge is the candle which must be taking with passing through the caves. The candle should be lightened before the entrance to the caves and it must be held in the specific way: you may find it out either glancing the picture at the entrance or you may ask the guide. Passing through the caves with the guide must be paid. You may either throw the candle away into the special container escaping the caves or take it with you. There is a belief that this candle absorbs some God's divine especially if you managed to touch the saint relics with it and praying. The lightening in the caves is very faint that is why the candle is also your personal lamp. Foe those who are afraid of both the enclosed space and darkness is better not to walk down the caves alone. It is prohibited foe women to walk down the caves in trousers. It is possible to leave some deposit to rent a skirt at the entrance to the caves. Leaving the caves you will get back the deposit.
There are 3 operating Churches in every underground cave, messes still take place inside them. In the cave corridor walls there are still left monk cells windows of the hermits, monastic elders who used to seclude for devotion and meekness. Hermits are those monks who secluded themselves in tight underground caves voluntary. They have been living there for the decades, they could not observe sunny rays, their caves were very tight and were lightened only with the candle. They spent their life activity speechless but in the constant praying process. They trained their body both by keeping the strict fast and work. At the same time there were two ways of being the hermit- the first one was not very strict, the monks interacted with each other during the mutual pray time. The second way is seclusion. It was very strict and was chosen not by every monk. Those monks who have chosen the strict hermit way dug for themselves a separate narrow cave in the cave corridor and blocked the entrance to it from inside. In such a way they buried themselves being alive. Several times per a week the elected monk came to the small holes of the caves which were left for the air inflow and food supply. They left there some holy water and prosphora asked for blessing and went away. Next time if the water and prosphora were untouched it was the sign about the hermit's death. The requiem service for him was considered to be completed and his body was left untouchable.
The funeral ceremony of monks differed from that of other Christians. The open part of the deceased body was bind with the fabric, the hands were put on the chest, the face was covered. The gap of the monastic cell was either covered by the icon from the cave corridor side or bricked up. Three years later the monastic cell was opened. If the deceased body has reduced to dust it would be a sigh that the monk led to the saintly life but he was not the saint himself. In this case the skulls and bones were collected separately and they were reburied. If the deceased body was all-in-one than the cave was closed again and the monk was prayed for. Two years later the cave was opened again after this the deceased considered to be the saint. Years later the priesthood had to limit the burial places for every interested monk who died in this Cathedral because of the lack of space. In every rare case the burial could happen only either by the high priesthood permission or by charging huge sum of money.
6.The Lower Lavra
There are two holy wells between the Close and Long Distanced Caves. The legend runs that one of them was dug by saint Antiniy and the other one by saint Pheodosiy. Here you can either wash your face or take some holy water with.
Leaving the Gallery we will appear at the Long Distance Caves and enjoy the gorgeous Cathedral in Ukrainian Barokko Style - the Most Holy Mother of God Church. Taking into consideration the Lavra architectural unique group it was included to the UNESCO list of the world important monuments , but nowadays there is a threat it would be excluded from it due to the disastrous condition of the unique reserved area. One of the reason is the legal unsettlement of the reserved area status and the second reason is the unprofessional Moscow Patriarchate Monastery intensive household activity. Because of the cave complex upper ground layers destruction and humidity the temperature inside the caves has changed. It has been set it about 14 degrees foe centuries. Now it varies from 15 to 28 degrees which provokes relics ruin inside the caves. The Kiyv Pechersk Lavra exclusion from the UNESCO list will cause the Saint Sophia Cathedral exclusion automatically from the UNESCO list as well because both of the reserved areas have been included to the UNESCO list in 1990 as one property.
There are a lot of other entities in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra property like bell towers, churches, museums which we did not mention as it is impossible to visit all of them during one excursion. To visit museum you should buy a ticket at the museum book office. An individual ticket should be bought if you want to visit the Big Lavra Bell Tower. To make an amateur filming inside the the Churches of the Upper Lavra you should also buy a ticket. To make filming outside is free of charge. In the evenings ( after18 :00 p.m and after 19:00 p.m. in summer) the entrance to the museum Lavra becomes officially free, but this time the Churches of Lower Lavra, caves and museums close.
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