Kiev-Pecherskaia Laura

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kiev-Pecherskaia Laura


the oldest monastery in Rus’; since 1926 it has been a historical and cultural museum-preserve.

The monastery was founded in 1051 during the reign of Iaroslav the Wise. From the 11th to 18th centuries it was an important feudal landowner. In antiquity artificially created caves (in Old Russian, pechery ) were used as living quarters for monks, as well as for churches; later, they were used only for cemeteries (up to the 16th century). In the 11th to 12th centuries the monastery was one of the cultural centers of ancient Rus’. Ancient Russian chroniclers, including Nestor, lived and worked there. In the 13th century the well-known Kiev-Pecherskaia Patericon was created there (a collection of tales about the lives of the monks). In the late 16th to 17th centuries, after the Union of Brest of 1596, the monastery (which received the title of “laura” in 1598) became especially important in the struggle against the subjugation of the Russian church to the Roman church. In the early 17th century the first printing press in Kiev was set up under the monastery’s auspices.

In the 19th to 20th centuries the Kiev-Pecherskaia Laura played a reactionary role and aided in the struggle against the revolutionary movement. The monks of the monastery were hostile in their reception of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The monastery was closed in 1929 but was in operation again from 1942 to 1961. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 the fascist German aggressors plundered the treasures of the museum-preserve and damaged and destroyed about 70 monuments and buildings. In 1944 the work of restoration of the Kiev-Pecherskaia Laura was begun. The museums located on the grounds of the preserve include the Museum of the Decorative Art of the Ukrainian People; the Museums of Drama, Music, and the Film; and the Museum of the Historical Treasures of the Ukrainian SSR.

The architectural complex of the Kiev-Pecherskaia Laura was built in the 11th to 18th century; it includes the Upper Laura and the ensembles of the Near and Far caves. The oldest buildings are the Uspenskii Cathedral (1073-78; destroyed in 1941) and the Troitskaia Church on the Walls (1108; rebuilt in 1722-29). The buildings constructed in the Ukrainian baroque style include the stone defensive walls (1690-1702) and the Vsekh Sviatykh Church (1696-98) over the Economic Gates; a number of buildings erected by S. D. Kovnir; the Vozdvizhenie Church in the Near Caves (1700) and the Rozhdestvo Bogoroditsy Church in the Far Caves (1696); and the Great Bell Tower (1731-45; architect, I. G. Shedel’). The Great Bell Tower is the principal vertical line in the Kiev-Pecherskaia Laura, linking all three ensembles into a unified spatial composition.


Karger, M. K. Drevnii Kiev, vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958–61.
Logvin, G. N. Kievo-Pecherskaia lavra, Moscow, 1958.
“Kievo-Pecherskaia lavra,” zapovednik-muzei: Kratkii putevoditel’, 3rd ed. Kiev, 1971.

IA. N. SHAPOV and S. K. KILESSO (architecture)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.