St. Sophia Cathedral is the most ancient temple of Kievan Rus. It was founded during the reign of Prince Yaroslav the Wise on the site of the victory over the Polovtsians. The Cathedral has been the center of religious and political life for centuries. Here The Kievan Veche (popular assembly) took place, The Kievan princes took possession, and the first library in Russia was founded here.
The dates of construction of the Cathedral is debated, but historians agree that it was built between 1017 and 1037. Nestor the Chronicler mentions it in his chronicle: "In the summer of 6545 (1037), lay down Yaroslav the great city of Kiev, his city is the Golden gate; lay down the Church of St. Sophia, the metropolis, and sow the Church on the Golden gate of the mother of God."
There were no masters for the construction of a Cathedral of this size in Russia, so it was built by Byzantine masters. Yaroslav named the Cathedral after Saint Sophia, as well as the main Church of Constantinople, to emphasize the continuity of Orthodoxy.
In its original form, the St. Sophia Cathedral was a five-nave cross-domed Church surrounded on four sides by galleries. There is the main dome, and 12 smaller domes cascade down around it. The same structure of domes has and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, but the Kiev temple in its architecture is not similar to it.
In the 17th century, the St. Sophia Cathedral was reconstructed in the Ukrainian Baroque style. 6 more domes were added, but the changes only affected the appearance. The interior has been completely preserved in its original form since the 11th century and is of exceptional cultural value on a global scale.
The Hagia Sophia has fully preserved frescoes and mosaics by Byzantine masters of the 11th century. The Central and Eastern part of the Cathedral is decorated with Byzantine mosaics, while the other surfaces of the Cathedral are painted with frescoes. The main mosaic of St. Sophia Cathedral in the altarpiece is Holy Virgin of Oranta (height 5.45 m). No less impressive is the mosaic of Christos Pantokrator in the main dome (4 m in diameter). Experts have found that the mosaic panels of St. Sophia Cathedral have 177 shades of color palette.
Similar mosaics on such a large area are preserved only in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Venice and In the Church of the Savior on Blood in St. Petersburg, but in these churches, they were made several centuries later.
At the entrance to the square is located the Bell Tower of St. Sophia Cathedral. It was built by Hetman Ivan Mazepa in 1699-1707, and then significantly rebuilt by the architect Johann Schedel in 1744. The bell tower is one of the most striking images of Ukrainian Baroque. Its height reaches 76 meters.