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Going to Saint Sophia Cathedral? Get answers from our friendly locals
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is an outstanding architectural monument of Kievan Rus'. Today, it is one of the city's best known landmarks and the first Ukrainian patrimony to be inscribed on the World Heritage List along with the Kiev Cave Monastery complex. Aside from its main building, the cathedral includes an ensemble of supporting structures such as a bell tower, the House of Metropolitan, and others. In 2011 the historic site was reassigned from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Regional Development of Ukraine to the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.
One of the reasons for that move was the fact that both "Sofia Kyivska" and Kiev Pechersk Lavra are recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage Program as one complex, while in Ukraine the two were governed by different government entities. In Ukrainian the cathedral is known as Sobor Sviatoyi Sofiyi (Собор Святої Софії) or Sofiyskyi sobor (Софійський собор). In Russian it is known as Sobor Svyatoi Sofii (Собор Святой Софии) or Sofiyskiy sobor (Софийский собор). The complex of the Cathedral is the main component and museum of the National Preserve "Sophia of Kiev" which is the state institution responsible for the preservation of the Cathedral complex as well as four other historic landmarks across the nation.
The cathedral's name comes from the 6th-century Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople (meaning Holy Wisdom, and dedicated to the Holy Wisdom rather than a specific saint named Sophia). According to a less popular theory, its model was the 13-domed oaken Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod (c. 989), which Yaroslav I the Wise determined to imitate in stone as a sign of gratitude to the citizens of Novgorod who had helped him secure the Kievan throne in 1019.
The first foundations were laid in 1037 (or 1011), but the cathedral took two decades to complete. (According to Dr. Nadia Nikitenko, an historian who has studied the cathedral for 30 years, the cathedral was founded already in 1011, under the reign of Yaroslav's father, the varangian [Viking] and Grand Prince of Kievan Rus', Volodymyr/Vladimir/Valdemarr the Great. This info has been accepted by both UNESCO and Ukraine, which officially celebrates the 1000:th anniversary of the cathedral during 2011.) The structure has 5 naves, 5 apses, and (quite surprisingly for Byzantine architecture) 13 cupolas.