Bell Tower

Bell Tower

The Bell Tower with the main entrance to the courtyard of the cathedral rises from the side of the Sophiiska Square. Its silhouette unites the buildings of the Sophiisky ensemble. The bell tower is built into the monastery wall on the south-eastern side of the courtyard. This is the first stone building erected in 1699-1706 after a fire in the late seventeenth century. Its architect is unknown, the documents mention only the name of one of the builders – “stone works foreman’s assistant”, a resident of the Kyiv-Pechersk town Sava Yakovlev. Initially, the bell tower was three-tiered, topped by a small cupola with a high spire. As the Bell Tower was built on the site of an ancient ravine, its upper tiers began to collapse soon after its construction. They gave significant cracks, which threatened to collapse, so in 1744-1748 they were dismantled and rebuilt.

The reconstruction of the Bell Tower was supervised by the famous St. Petersburg architect Johann Gottfried Schedel, who performed a lot of construction work in Kyiv at the request of Metropolitan Raphail (Zaborovsky). The rebuilt bell tower was also three-tiered, topped by an elegant baroque dome with a gilded spire and stars on a blue background. In 1851–1852, the bell tower was raised by another tier according to the project of the eparchial architect P. Sparro. It was crowned with a wooden pear-shaped dome covered with gilded copper sheets. The bell tower, which reached a height of 76 m, began to dominate not only the former Kreschata Valley, but also the buildings of Upper Kyiv.

Although the first and part of the second tier have been preserved from the original building, the architecture and decor of the Bell Tower are perceived as a harmonious unit. The grandeur of the Bell Tower is emphasized by a pyramidal composition: four architectural volumes gradually narrow upwards and end with a dome. The two lower tiers are rectangular, the upper ones are octagonal. A dome topped with a cross rises above them. The lower tier has a vaulted passage, the arches of which are decorated with torn gables. Above the passage there is a closed room, where a spiral staircase leads to the thickness of the wall on the north side of the passage. The three upper tiers have no floors and are open to the outside by arches. The layering of the composition is marked by cornices of a complex profile, the vertical surface of the walls is divided by flat pilasters, between them – decorated niches.

The architectural forms of the Bell Tower perfectly interact with its sculptural decor. The meaningful bas-reliefs are weaved into the intricate lace of stucco ornament: dynamic figures of angels in the form of Ukrainian boys in girded zhupany (long lined garment), images of cupids, masks, garlands, flowers in baskets, bouquets, heraldic double-headed eagles, canopies over niches, etc. The eastern facade faces Sophiiska Square. It is decorated in the third tier with figures of the Apostle Andrew and Grand Prince Volodymyr – the founders of Christianity in Rus’-Ukraine. The western facade of the Bell Tower, on the side of the courtyard, is decorated with figures of the Archangel Raphail and the Apostle Timophii – the heavenly patrons of Metropolitans Raphail (Zaborovsky) and Timophii (Shcherbatsky), under whom in the eighteenth century it was rebuilt. Stucco decorations were made by talented masters from Zhovkva Ivan and Stepan Stobensky.

The ornamentation of the walls is enhanced by the painting of the Bell Tower, which was originally polychrome, and from the nineteenth century the facades become two-color. Bright white stucco ornaments on a turquoise background combined with the glow of gold create the impression of solemn festivity. In the second tier of the Bell Tower there is a bell from 1705, known as “Mazepa”. This is one of the twenty bells once placed in the Bell Tower. Among the old bronze bells preserved in Ukraine, “Mazepa” is the largest and richest in ornamentation.

At the beginning of the twenty first century significant repairs and restoration works were carried out: reinforced structures, restored facades and interior, renewed gilding of the dome. For the first time in many years, the monument is open to the public. In the summer of 2008, during the celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the baptism of Rus’, twenty new bells with a total weight of 835 kg were installed on the Bell Tower. On July 25, 2008, these bells were consecrated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Since then, their agame has accompanied the national celebrations on Sophiiska Square.