THE CHURCH’S CHRONICLE
THE CHURCH’S CHRONICLE
St. Cyril’s Church of Kyiv was established in the 12th century in remote outskirts of Kyiv, at Dorogozhychi, a picturesque, enigmatic area. During internecine wars the Dorogozhychi played an important role in the historical destiny of Kyiv. There the fate was solved for many princes pretending to the Kyivan throne on the one hand, and fate of Kyiv itself, on the other hand. Numerous invaders carried out from here their multiple attacks on Kyiv, and Kyivan princes conducted bloody battles with them. Such a strategic importance of this location became one of the reasons for foundation of a monumental church-fortress.
In 1139 Vsevolod Olhovych, Prince of Chernigiv approached Dorogozhychi, an important strategic point, on the Kyiv’s north-western outskirts, gained possession of the area and simultaneously obtained a convenient bridgehead at the approaches to Kyiv.
In 1140–1146 Vsevolod Olhovych erects St. Cyril’s Church at Dorogozhychi. Construction of a church-fortress is a logical step of Vsevolod as a prince-worrier, and prince-strategist, for the sake of fortifying outskirts of the “capital city” so desired by many.
St. Cyril’s monastery is an example of a unique functional combination, i.e. it is a sacred center, patrimonial palace church, and at the same time it is a monumental church-fortress.
The church was named after Cyril, the holy hierarch Cyril of Alexandria — Christian patron of the church’s founder, prince Vsevolod Olhovych.
The first mentioning of Vsevolod’s (Cyril’s) monastery is dated back with 1167.
St. Cyril’s Church was built as a family burial vault of Olhovych. The first of the known burials at the Cyril’s Church is dated with 1179. It is the burial of Vsevolod Olhovych’s wife, Maria Mstyslavivna, daughter of Mstyslav the Great. According to the chroniclers, in the same 1179 died and were buried at the St. Cyril’s Church princess Maria Kazymyrivna, Maria Mstyslavivna’s sister-in-law. In 1194 in St. Cyril’s necropolis took place burial of a distinguished person: on July 27 in the palace of country St. Cyril’s Residence aged 78 died Sviatoslav Vsevolodovych, the older son of Vsevolod Olhovych, the great Kyivan Prince, one of the main characters of the Old Russian Poem the Lay of Igor’s Warfare. The last burial in the ancient history of the St. Cyril’s necropolis, of Sviatoslav’s son, Vsevolod Chermny is dated with 1215. After some time under the Church’s floor and around it Monastery’s hegumen, monks, and churchwardens were buried.
The first post-Mongolian mentioning of the St. Cyril’s Monastery is dated with 1539.
Those documents have to do with lands in its possession and justify the conclusion that the St. Cyril’s Monastery not only existed but was also functioning until the 17th century as a well-arranged monastery . At the beginning of the 17th
century the Prince K. Ostrozky became a patron of the St. Cyril’s Monastery. He entrusted his favorite hegumen Vasyl Krasovsky — Chornobryvets with the Church’s renovation, as well as its and Monastery’s administration. For which purpose the latter was transferred from Ostrog Monastery of the Holy Cross.
The hegumen Vasyl as his most important task considered restoration of the main monastic temple which remained roofless after the Tatar invasion and was gradually dilapidating. After Vasyl Krasovsky’s death two prominent workers of the Orthodox Church were hegumen at the St. Cyril’s Church: Cyprian Zherebylo-Lobunsky (1614–1626), Sophronius Zherebylo-Lobunsky (1626–1648), Innocent Gizel (1650–1652), Lazarus Baranovych (1652–1657), Melitius Dzyk (1658–1677). The golden age of the St. Cyril’s Church was under the hegumen Innocent Monastyrsky, when the monastery occupied the second place after the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves in its economic respect. That wonderful tradition of the Church’s patron was carried on by his successors, i.e. Demetrius of Rostov (Tuptalo), a prominent Orthodox writer, author of “Hagiography of Saints”. Notwithstanding a short-term dignity of a hegumen at the St. Cyril’s Monastery, (just from January to June, 1697), the name of the holy Demetrius has preserved as a memorable one and a sacred one for this monastery.
Parents, sisters and a nephew of the Saint Demetrius are buried beneath the floor of the narthex’s north part, at the entrance to the gallery.
At the turn of the 17th — 18th centuries, monastic structures and the Cathedral underwent reparation and restoration works.
In 1786, according to the decree of the Empress Catherine the Second, the St. Cyril’s Monastery of Kyiv ceased its existence as an ordered monastery, and all buildings within the monastery’s territory, including
the Holy Trinity Church in which honor the St. Cyril’s Church was reconsecrated in the 17th century, came into possession of Kyiv “Department of Public Assistance” for arrangement there of charitable and pleasing to God institutions. In time a municipal hospital was arranged on the monastery’s territory, and St. Cyril’s Church was transformed into the hospital church.
Further minor, as to their scope, repair works have not altered the exterior of the St. Cyril’s Church. However, unique frescoes of the 12th century were discovered in the Church’s interior under a layer of the late plaster in 1860. For the first time they were opened and copied at the end of the 19th century. In May 1929, taking into account an exceptional historical and artistic value of the St. Cyril’s Church, the monument was announced a National Historical and Cultural Conservation Area. Starting from 1965, the structure has attained status of the St. Sophia’s Conservation Area Branch, and from 1994 it has become a monument of national importance.
Significant architectural and archeological investigations and restoration of mural paintings were carried out in the museum during post-war years. Around USD 10 million were spent generally for the complex restoration. For many years experts have been observing temperature and humidity regime of the construction, studied its influence on the paintings’ condition, examined hydrogeological condition of the Cyril’s hill, etc. Necessary microclimatic conditions are being maintained in the premises of the Church. In 60s years of the 20th century the floor layers of different times were removed in order to lower it until the authentic level of the 12th century. Under the floor were found and investigated around 20 burials. In 1990s the roof was covered with copper plates, the garret was winterized. And in 2006 water proofing has been arranged around the monument, walls dehumidification of extra moisture has been carried out. Walls’ external surface is being regularly plastered and whitewashed. A great scope of works as to the interior’s restoration has been carried out: discovery and conservation of fresco paintings of the XIIth century, fixing of plaster, colors layers; cleaning of the paintings of dirtiness.
Starting from 1995, while maintaining the status of the national museum, the St. Cyril’s Church has become the monument of combined use, i.e. a museum and a church. In May 2009, the museum shall celebrate its 80th anniversary.