Golden Gate

Golden Gate


In the center of Kyiv, near the St. Sophia Cathedral, there is a popular monument of a defense and sacral architecture of Kyivan Rus’ – the Golden Gate. Golden Gate as St. Sophia in Kyiv belongs to the oldest buildings in Eastern Europe. The monument is mentioned in a famous chronicles article under the 1037 that tells about builder activity of Yaroslav the Wise: “Yaroslav founded a City – Great Kyiv, and this city has Golden Gate. He also founded Church of St. Sophia, the Wisdom of God, metropolitan, and a stone church of Annunciation of the Holy Virgin on the Golden Gate. Then (he built) a Monastery of St. George (the Victorious) and (a monastery) of St. Irina…” The chronicler summed with this notation the builder merits of Yaroslav for the entire period of his rule, gave praise to them. In science the area of ancient Kyiv with these buildings is called the “city of Yaroslav”.

However, newest researches of doctor of History Nadiya Nikitenko argue that the construction of fortifications of Kyiv with the Golden Gate was started by Volodymyr the Great and completed by his son Yaroslav the Wise. Like the Sophia Cathedral, the fortifications with the Golden Gate were emerged the end of reign of Volodymyr – the beginning of reign of Yaroslav. Volodymyr built the Golden Gate then Yaroslav built on it the Annunciation church which was consecrated in 1022. Thus the territory Upper Kyiv was expanded and surrounded with new defensive ramparts by that time. For parameters the fortifications of “the city of Yaroslav” had no equal in the ancient Ukrainian fortifications. The length of the shafts of “the city of Yaroslav” was 3.5 km. The shafts covered up the territory of the Upper Kyiv (“the city of Volodymyr” and “the city of Yaroslav”). It covered an area of 80 hectares.

In the fortification system of “the city of Yaroslav” the Chronicle mentions three gates: Golden, Polish and Jude (Lviv). Only the Golden Gate was stone. This building was not only the strongest link in the fortification system of the ancient city, but it was the main entrance to Kyiv. It is through these gates were droved ambassadors from the Byzantine Empire and other European countries and the East, who tried to establish friendly relations with Ukraine-Rus’. Under these arches members of military campaigns had entered to the city with glory and a prey. Perhaps, through the Golden Gate it was solemnly droved an embassy of the French King Henry I Capetian to ask in marriage Anna the daughter of Yaroslav the Wise.

The Golden Gate was a military tower with driveway. It had the Gate Church of the Annunciation. It is quite possible that the type of building that combines gateway and a church was borrowed from Byzantium. Thus, the Byzantine historian of the 11th John Skilytsya reports the construction of the Church of the Savior on the Halki Gate – the entrance to the palace of the Byzantine emperors in Constantinople in the second half of the 10th century. But it is idea that gate’s churches are the building which were inherent exclusively to ancient architecture of Ukraine-Rus. Architectural historian Yury Aseyev believed that “building of churches Gates was not typical for the Byzantine architecture, and it wasn’t typical for Europe of this time”.

Golden Gate

Undoubtedly the main gate of Kyiv was named Golden by analogy with the main gate of Constantinople. Toponymy of buildings, which was put by the chronicler in article 1037 (St. Sophia Cathedral, the Monasteries of St. George’s and St. Irene, the Golden Gate), inherits Constantinople one. There can be traced the analogy not only in the names of churches and gates, but in the ideas of urban development and planning structure of “the city of Yaroslav”. In the Middle Ages all aspects of life of Christian countries were imbued with religious worldview and symbolism. It was especially noticeable in the newly converted Christian states, including those in Rus’. Yaroslav wanted to build not just a city but a capital of the Christian state, similar to Constantinople – the New Jerusalem. The city was planned as a unified architectural ensemble, one harmonious whole, a closed ring of defensive structures. C. Averintcev wrote: “And for medieval person a city correlated with church in its semantic aspect: city – it seemed a spacious church, the church – as though the core of the city, and both are images of one and the same ideal – Heavenly Jerusalem.

Kyiv’s researcher Ph.D. Maryana Nikitenko said that Kyiv architecture of the period created a “unified image of the sacred space, the center of which in the church of St. Sophia was Virgin Orans, which stood before Christ – it like the personification of the ideal Church and the first resident of the Heavenly Jerusalem, which came in the neophytes – Rus’s people”. And the image of the Virgin in St. Sophia Cathedral, and the Golden Gate with the church also dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the Church of the Virgin (Desyatynna) of the 10th testified about the perception of Byzantine ideas about the Virgin Mary as a patroness of cities. The symbolic significance of the Golden Gate church is pointed by monuments of ancient Ukrainian literature. In the final part of the “Sermon on Law and Grace”, praising Yaroslav the Wise, Metropolitan Hilarion addresses to Volodymyr and says that Yaroslav completed of construction of fortifications and Church of the Annunciation: “And the glorious city Kyiv was crowned with majesty, like a crown. He gave his people and city the holy, all glorified and soon to help Christians, the Holy Virgin. For Her, and the church on the Great Gate was established by him in the name of the first God’s holy feast of a Holy Annunciation”. Then the author redirects to the city a greeting with which the angel addressed to Virgin Mary: “Greeting, o favored one, the Lord is with You!” Thus, Yaroslav, who dedicated the church on the Gate the Annunciation, gave Kyiv under the patronage not only Virgin, but the same God. Hilarion called Kyiv “God preserved city”. In written sources Jerusalem are described with such epithets. To “heaven” defense of the city is the main purpose of the church on the Golden Gate.

The dedication of the Church to the Annunciation Hypation Chronicle explains: “The very wise Grand Prince Yaroslav built (church) Annunciation on the Gate in order (to) give always joy to the city with the holy Annunciation of the Lord and the prayer of St. Mary and the Archangel Gabriel”. According to a medieval symbolism, “good news” had come to Kyiv through the Golden Gate.

The Kiev’s main gate is casually mentioned in one ancient work – “Legend of the consecration of the church George”. George’s church was built by Yaroslav the Wise in honor of his heavenly patron near the Golden Gate in the early 50s of the 11th century. “Legend …” reports the construction of a new church was slow due to lack of manpower. Prince ordered to announce on a market, which will pay workers in nohata a day, “and there were workers a lot”. He “ordered to carry Kunas on carts in barns of the Golden Gate” to pay for work on construction. In the old barns were called the vaulted overlap in buildings. Thus, the Kunas had been brought under the arches of the Golden Gate. (Nohata and Kuna are monetary units of Kyivan Rus’, which equaled 3.41 grams and 2.73 grams of silver. Maybe their equivalents were kuna or sable furs). Thus, the Golden Gate had a space where the treasury could persist.

The Golden Gate was also known outside the Ancient Ukrainian State. It is connected with the famous Polish tradition of sword-“chipped” recorded in Polish chronicle of Gallus Anonymous (beg. 12th) and later Polish chronicles. They say that in 1018 the Polish King Boleslaw I the Brave struck by the sword Golden Gate to mark the capture of the city when he rode to Kyiv. From the impact the sword was chipped (hence its name). The “chipped” is a coronation sword of Polish kings which had been remained in the first capital of Poland Gniezno and was a symbol of the Kingdom of Poland. The legend that originated at ancient times is certainly the credible and accidental, because the Golden Gate in 1018 had stood guard Kyiv, and their chipped to mean its conquest. It shows the wide fame of the Golden Gate of Kyiv and their importance in the defense of the city.

Kuman Khan Sevench with Yuri Dolgoruky threatened to resort to the same symbolic gesture during the attack on Kyiv in 1151: “I’m going to sabre to the Golden Gate as my father”. However Dolgoruky army was defeated and forced to retreat to Bilgorod. A “wild Kuman” Sevench Boniakovych didn’t do his threat, the Chronicle reports he was killed near the Golden Gate in the same 1151. Sevench remembered his father a famous Kuman Khan Bonyak that making a foray into Rus’, plundered the outskirts of Kyiv and burned a “prince’s court in Berestovo” in 1096. Bonyak almost broke into the city, perhaps to try to “sabre” in the Golden Gate. In the Middle Ages to sabre by sword the Golden Gate, which is found in the chronicles and legends, meant not only conquest Kyiv. Such gesture was a sign of defilement, sacrilege because the Golden Gate was sacred guarantee of inaccessibility city.

The plot when city lost a defense symbol the Golden Gate is incorporated to the legend of the hero Mikhailik. The legend was written in the 18–19th centuries, but it is connected with the ancient Kyiv’s epic and tells of events of the ancient times, when the city was under siege by an army of Batu Khan. In Kyiv, at the time was lived the young hero Mikhailik. Batu understood that he could not take Kyiv Mikhailik had been there yet. The enemies began to threaten to kill of all residents, if Kyiv people will not give them the hero. Mikhailik had been assuring the Kyiv people, that he will protect the city. But fear of the enemies prevailed, and Kyiv people agreed to give Batu their protector. Then Mikhailik lifted on a spear the Golden Gate and brought it out of Kyiv. Kyiv people lost inaccessibility symbol of the city and had suffered defeat.

In ancient times, according to the Byzantine tradition, on gates were placed sacred images. Perhaps, on the front of the Golden Gate was placed mural or mosaic image of Our Lady. It was mentioned in the chronicle stories of military operations in 1151. Grand Prince Iziaslav Mstyslavych together with his allies princes Viacheslav Volodymyrovych and Rostyslav Mstyslavych held talks with Ambassador of Yuri Dolgoruky near the Golden Gate. During the negotiations Viacheslav looked back to the Holy Virgin, which was on the Golden Gate, and said: “She will judge us, Blessed Lady, with her son and our God, in this the age and in the heaven one”. Probably the Golden Gate had an image of the Virgin and Child (Hodegetria). The National conservation Area has installed to on a battle tower of the gate a mosaic image of the Virgin in the iconographic type Nikopea (the Victorious) like the altar frescoes of St. Sophia in Ohrid (1040). An author is artist L. Totskiy, a consultant is Dr. N. N. Nikitenko. Mary holds baby Christ in front of her like a shield. Nikopea was considered miraculous that protects people and the state.

The Chronicle of the 12th century mainly mentions the Golden Gate due to the military operations and siege in the times of princely strife. So, in 1146 “… the berendeys had moved through Lybid and took Igor’s train in front the Golden Gate…” (it is talking about tribes Berendeys). In 1151 “…without going into the city, Viacheslav (and) Iziaslav stand with camp both in front the Golden Gate near a ravine…” In the year 1161 it is written: “…And Berendeys ran: (one of them) – to the Hungary (ravine) and the second of them – to the Golden Gate …” Prince Mstyslav II of Kyiv with “… brothers stood before the Golden Gate in the gardens …” in 1170. Battles in front the Golden Gate are certified with archaeological finds discovered in the ravine in front the gate (on Zolotovoritska st.): human bones, stones, arrowheads, stone core. The Golden Gate represented the power of the state, its majesty and invincibility. In fact, for its time the gate was impregnable. The chronicle informs on all sorts of disasters that Kyiv was suffered in the day of princely strife and attacks of nomads but never mentions the invading enemies into the city through the Golden Gate, although such attempts have been. December 1240, Batu concentrated their main forces near Kyiv: “It was impossible to hear (anything) from the sounds of creaking carts of him, roaring of multitude camels; and neighing sounds from herds of horses, and the Rus’ land was full the enemies”. Batu Khan didn’t dare to storm the Golden Gate. He concentrated the main forces at the Polish gates and fortifications of the Khreschata’s valley. There were the Goat marsh and creek, and they are frozen and no longer to act like a protective factor. The defense of Kyiv lasted ten weeks and four days. “Poroks” (catapults, wooden artillery – the highest achievement of military equipment of the time) beat urban fortifications day and night. Numerous hordes of Batu broken walls of the fortifications and overcame the heroic resistance of the defenders of the city. They invaded the Kyiv through the Polish gate.

After 1240 the mentions about the Golden Gate had disappeared from written sources for a long time, so it is unknown what condition the gate was after the Mongol invasion. Only since the late 15th century the mentions about the Golden Gate had again appeared in official documents and recordings of travelers. Thus, a patent of the Grand Lithuanian Prince Olexander shows that in the second half of the 15th century the Golden Gate was the main entrance to the city, there are traditionally placed a city guard and was going fee from merchants. In the travel notes and diaries the Golden Gate were mentioned by a merchant Martin Hruneveh (1584), Liasota the envoy of the Austrian Emperor Rudolf II to the Zaporozhian Cossacks (1594), Archdeacon Paul of Aleppo (1654), who accompanied his father Macarius the Patriarch of Antioch to Moscow. From written sources of the 16–17th centuries it is known that the Golden Gate had been already dilapidated in that time. Hruneveh wrote: “the Golden Gate has stand yet, but the most part of it is spoiled… On top of it there is placed a chapel – according to the custom Rusyns that adorn the top of their gate with nice churches to give God their protection”.  The exterior of the gate of that time is known from pictures of Dutch painter Abraham van Westerveld, who was together with the Polish-Lithuanian army of Prince Janusz Radziwill in Kyiv in 1651 and painted many famous monuments of ancient Kyiv. According to the pictures of Westerveld the Golden Gate of the 17th century was picturesque ruins but still retained some arches, arched passage and the remains of the church gate. In the middle of the 17th century in Kyiv there was began to build a fortress to protect the city from the Polish army, and later – from Turkish aggression. The basis of the fortress of Ancient Kyiv was ancient walls of the “city of Yaroslav” and the “city of Volodymyr”. This fact confirms the great vitality of fortification plan of ancient Ukrainian architects. But when artillery was emerged the construction of old fortifications didn’t accord the new demands of war, so it was created a new system of city fortifications. Old wooden fortifications were dismantled, shafts were mounded up, on the upper fields there were installed cannons. The Golden Gate was also adapted to the new conditions: before it there was built earthen ramparts, which are seen in the plan of Kyiv of the 1695s by a colonel Ivan Ushakov. Thus, the Golden Gate had been a part of the fortress of Ancient Kyiv until the middle of the 18th century. There was a garrison guard. The gate was the place of solemn meetings. Kyiv people welcomed Bohdan Khmelnytsky army after the victory over the Poles at Yellow Waters, Korsun, Pyliavtsi at the Golden Gate in 1648.

Years had been passing. The building collapsed more and more, became dangerous for guards and who came to the city and passers. Engineer Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Debosket concluded that it couldn’t be repaired after the inspection gates in 1750. In the middle of the 18th century the Golden Gate was covered with earth. In this way, there was trying to save from the final destruction of the monument remains. At the same time there was built near a new working gate of the same name that had existed until 1799. The ruins of the Golden Gate had been under ground until 30 years of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, in connection with the reconstruction of the streets of the Upper City it was decided to demolish the earthen walls that surrounded the “city of Yaroslav”. The archaeological research of the ancient city on the Dnieper River began in the 20 years of the 19th century. Research of the Golden Gate in 1832 was among the first in Kyiv. It was held “by clubbing of lovers of sacred antiquities”, that is by subscription. In 1832 tsar Mykola I inspected the ruins of the gate and said that “the monument deserves preservation”. Insufficient public money had been allocating for excavations of the gate since 1833. Archaeological excavations were conducted with the permission of the Governor-General of Kyiv Vasyl Levashov, on the initiative of an amateur archaeologist Kindrat Lokhvitsky, who served as an official for special assignments at the same governor-general. The revealed remains of the Golden Gate were significantly different from its ruins of the mid 18th century. Attempt save “look ancient” of the monument by covering with earth had failed. The monument was in much worse condition. The remains of the Golden Gate had been under ground for almost 80 years (1755–1832). The monument was forgotten and its discovery was a kind of sensation. Kyiv people celebrated the event June 25, 1834. The solemn consecration was on the birthday of the tsar. K. Lokhvitskiy wrote that after the prayer the gate was sprinkled with holy water, and in the evening it was “illuminated”. The Golden Gate has been one of the most popular monuments of the city for residents and guests, a visiting card of Kyiv since that time.

The open building was consisted with two parallel walls (pylons) 25 m in length (east) and 13 m (west) and about 8 m tall. Internal surfaces of passage walls were divided by seven pairs of pilasters, the lower of which rests on the foundation plinth. A laying of the main body of the building is characteristic of the stone buildings of the first half of the 11th and close to a laying of the Saint Sophia Cathedral. It was made in the Byzantine technique, the so-called mixed masonry (“opus mixtum”), which is inherent an alternating of natural stone (granite, quartzite, slate, etc.) of various sizes with rows of plinfas (ancient bricks). Just after opening the Golden Gate there had been the important question: how to protect the remains of the walls from the final destruction? In the years 1835–1836 the upper part of the walls was flooded with lime mortar and on the walls was putted a turf. On the proposal of architect Vincent Beretta an architect Franz Myechovych built three buttresses near the eastern wall and linked the walls of the gate by iron cords with the rings in 1837. It was necessary to add two buttresses to the eastern pylon in the middle of the 19th century. At the same time the area around the monument was enclosed with a tracery cast-iron lattice by the drawings V. Beretti and led by architect Mykola Samonov. In the 80 years of 19th century the ancient walls were covered with bricks to strengthen and covered with a metal roof. Although it was then the exterior of the ruins was significantly changed, it should be noted that in the 19th century the activities to conservation were conducted fairly delicately. What the Golden Gate was the late 19th century – the early 20th century we can imagine with using drawings of artists photographs of that time. General attention and interest to the Golden Gate caused studying it, describing and conducting archaeological researches in 1915, 1927, 1948 and 1961 years. The Golden Gate had been studied by many scholars of the 19–20th centuries (K. Lokhvitsky. F. Solntsev, P. Pokryshkin, O. Ertel, V. Liaskoronsky, V. Bohusevych, Yu. Asyeyev).

In the 70s years of the 20th century the Golden Gate remains were in poor condition. Despite the measures taken to preserve the ruins, the monument, that was located in the open air, gradually destroyed. In conditions of local natural area, which is characterized by fluctuations in temperature in winter, it was impossible to prevent the destruction of masonry remains of the Golden Gate. So, the walls absorbed water during a thaw; when the temperature dropped the moisture in cracks was freezing, expanding and spoiled the old wall. In 1970, the Society for Protection the Historical and Cultural monuments of USSR created a special commission to examine the situation of the Golden Gate. It consisted of historians, archaeologists and architects. The Commission concluded that for conservation of the monument it should be restored to its original form. Author’s group of reconstruction the Golden Gate was founded in 1971. It had various specialists: a practice restorer Eugeniya Lopushynska (“Ukrprojectrestoration”), an archaeologist Serhij Vysotsky (The Institute of Archaeology of AS of USSR), a famous researcher of ancient Ukraine architecture Mykola Kholostenko (“Kyivproject”). In October 1977 the USSR Council of Ministers adopted a resolution at number 549 “On celebrating the 1500th anniversary of Kyiv”, one of the points which called for rebuilding the Golden Gate. After that, the restoration of monument in its original hypothetical form crossed the practical stage. The fundamental architectural and archaeological studies and the careful measurements of the monument were made in the years 1972–1973. They gave a lot of new material about the Golden Gate. Archaeological excavations of the 1970s were led by S. Vysotsky. The study of architectural analogies was important to make the reconstruction project of the Golden Gate. The only analogy, which was well preserved under the later additional structures, is a Trinity Gate Church of the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery that was built in the 12th century. The closest analogy of the Kyiv Golden Gate is the main gate of Vladimir-on-Klyazma has been built during 1158–1164 years. In the 1970s M. Kholostenko, S. Vysotsky and Ye. Lopushynska suggested the reconstruction of the gate taking into account new materials, which had been obtained during the excavations of the 1972–1973s years. Further the significantly corrected and completed reconstruction of Ye. Lopushynska had been the basis to make a project of reconstruction of the Golden Gate pavilion. The construction of the pavilion began in June 1981 and ended in April 1982. There had been saved a late masonry which is adjacent to the walls of the first half of the 11th and buttresses of the 19th century during the construction of the pavilion. A modern superstructure doesn’t press on the old walls, it relies on the metal structures which are hidden in their thickness.

The pavilion-reconstruction reproduces the Golden Gate in the following form: the main part is the battle tower with the passage and on top of it is the Gate Church, both sides of the gate there are sections of the shaft with arrow slits over them. If there was involved in the full-scale architectural and archaeological researches for reproduction of the battle towers, the second-layer of the pavilion-reconstruction – the Gate Church and the slits were built entirely hypothetical. The restored church has three naves, the four pillars with one dome. It is located above the passage. According to the plan the interior the facades of the rebuilt church are divided by pilasters and decorated by two-stage niches and arched window apertures.

A dome of the church is gilded. In the ancient times, according to tradition of the Kyivan architecture of the 11th the interior of the Church of the Annunciation was decorated with frescoes and mosaics that is confirming with archaeological researches. However, a monumental painting isn’t reproduced on the walls of the new church. Today the church is only decorated with a mosaic floor, the picture of it is made led by artist-muralist Leonid Totsky according to motifs of the ancient floor of St. Sophia in Kyiv. The Gates were within the shaft and were integrally connected with it. Sections of the shafts that are near the tower are reproduced in the building pavilion. They have slopes with turf from the field and stepped terraces from the city. There is a staircase inside the restored sections of the shaft. It leads on the crest of the shaft to the Church of the Annunciation. The “Golden Gate” pavilion-reconstruction has been a museum since 1983. It is a part of the National Conservation Area “St. Sophia in Kyiv”. It is impossible to imagine Kyiv without the Golden Gate. This monument is closely connected with the city and it is its symbol.