When UNESCO turned an eye toward Ukraine, the first site they chose to inscribe as a World Heritage Site was the magnificent Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. In somewhat of a departure, UNESCO opted to inscribe Saint Sophia along with the monastic complex of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra as a single site, even though they are two separate complexes at two different locations. Saint Sophia Cathedral is located in the historic city center, while Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is some distance away, on a plateau overlooking the Dnieper River.
Saint Sophia was built in the 11th century, during the reign of the Great Prince of Kiev, Yaroslav the Wise. The interior of the cathedral is awash with masterpieces such as the Pantocrator, the Virgin Orans, the Communion of the Apostles, the Deisis, and the Annunciation. The cathedral sits in the center of a walled complex and is surrounded by a collection of 17th and 18th century buildings that include a stunning bell tower, the Metropolitan’s house, and the refectory. One ticket grants entrance to all the buildings, four of which house museums that house the biggest preserved collection of 11th century mosaics and frescoes from the complex.
The exterior of the cathedral has changed over the centuries, but when reconstruction work was done in 1987, portions of the existing facade were removed to expose the original Byzantine architectural elements. This is visible in the above photo; the brown areas are the 11th century building. Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is one of the major tourist attractions of the city, and one that should not be missed.