Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Monastery of the Kiev Cave

Useful Information

Location: In Kiev.
Open: All year Tue-Sun 9:30-17.
Classification: SubterraneaCave House SubterraneaCave Church SubterraneaCatacomb
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: Near Caves: L=383 m.
Far Caves: L=293 m.
Guided tours: V=1,800,000/a [2000]
Address: National Kyiv - Pechersk (Lavra) Historic and Cultural Preserve, Sichnevoho Povstannya St 21, Building 8, Tel: 280-46-48, Tel: 280-30-71.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1051 Greek Orthodox monk Anthony retreats to a cave overlooking the Dnieper River in Kiev.
1057 Near Caves founded when Saint Varlaham was appointed as the first hegumen (abbot) of the monastery.
17th century art scool founded.
1917 art school closed.
1926 renamed National Kiev-Pechersk Historical and Cultural Preserve under the atheistic Soviet government.
1988 renovation started.
1990 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
1996 decreed a national monument.


The Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Cave Monastery) was originally founded by the Greek Orthodox monk Anthony in 1051. He moved from Greece to the Ukraine and retreated to a cave overlooking the Dnieper River, in the area which later became Kiev Soon disciples came and a monastery started to grow around the hermitage. After continual growth the heyday of the monastery was between the 17th and the 18th century, when it was the center of an area with three cities, seven towns, 120 villages, and more than half a million peasants. All this ended with the revolution in 1917.

But the monastery with its churches and buildings has survived. Today there are 122 architectural monuments, built between the 11th and the 20th century. The collections contain some 70,000 artworks including old icons, embroidery, church utensils, woodcuts, manuscripts, and early printed books. There are various permanent exhibitions on site which can be visited. This makes this the biggest museum complex of the Ukraine. Because of its cultural wealth and importance the site was enrolled on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990.

The most important part for are the underground part of some 600 m of underground passages with living quarters and chapels. There are actually two cave systems, the Near Caves and the Far Caves. Both are around 300 m long and consist of passages 1 m to 1.5 m wide and 3 m to 2.5 m high, connecting various chambers used as living quarters or chapels. During the 16tha nd 17th century foreign travellers wrote about the caves to stretch for many kilometers, the even told they would reach Moscow and Novgorod underground. Those extremely exaggerated accounts made the monastery world famous.

The first cave was actually Varangian cave, where St. Anthony of Pechersk lived first. This was several years before the founding of the monastery in 1051. He then went to Greece, to the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mt. Athos. Here he lived and learned the life of an orthodox monk, until his his hegumen Theoktistos was instructed by God to send him back to Kiev.

The Far Caves are also called the Caves of Theodosius. They were started in 1051 by St. Anthony when he returned. This first cave had been dug out and used by presbyter Hilarion, and had a size of only 1.3 m². But soon the community grew to twelve monks and new cells were excavated. In the following years the caves were continually enlarged. But between 1062 and 1074 under the abbot Theodosius, the number of brethren was reaching one hundred. A wooden building was errected above the caves and the monks moved into this building. The caves became places of seclusion for the monks.

The Ближні печери (Bliznі pecheri, Near Caves) are also called the Caves of Saint Anthony. They are the younger of the two cave systems, founded in 1057, when Saint Varlaham was appointed as the first hegumen (abbot) of the monastery by Saint Anthony. Anthony did this to withdraw from the monastery and moved to a new hill, where he dug out a new underground cell, now called the Near Caves.

In 1073 Anthony became the first one which was buried in the Near Caves. One year later, in 1074, Theodosius was buried in the Far Caves. So the caves also became catacombs.