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The Main Church Of The Bratskyi Monastery Of The Epiphany

The Monastery Of St. Michael Of The Golden Domes


The main church was built in the 1690s, the church and the belfry were demolished in 1935.

During the same year that the Kievan Bratstvo was founded (1615) it received a grant of an estate off Town Hall Square. This magnificent gift was given by a farsighted woman, Halshka (Elizabeth) Hulevych, who stipulated that the land was to be used for the development of a monastery, pilgrim's hostel, and a school for children of both noble and common birth. In subsequent decades, the flourishing monastery and its Academy were supported by generations of Ukrainian aristocracy and both were particularly favored by Hetman Mazepa who, between 1690-93, built a new and large monastic church and in 1703 commenced construction of the masonry Academy Building.
The Bratskyi Monastery complex, which was both a religious and educational institution, occupied an entire block of the Lowertown on the northeastern side of Town Hall Square. The main entrance to the monastery courtyard was through a gateway which was under the three story belfry, originally designed by Kievan architect Stefan Kovnir (1756) and later modified by A. Melenskyi (1829). The focal point of the courtyard was Hetman Mazepa's Church of the Epiphany. It was a magnificent structure-worthy of its site and location.
The Church of the Epiphany of the Bratskyi Monastery and the Congregational Church of St. Nicholas in the Pecherske, popularly known as the Great Nicholas, were both built in the last decade of the seventeenth century and are considered to be the finest buildings of the Kievan Baroque. The designer of these two churches is still a topic for debate. The most recent Soviet Ukrainian publications, including the six volume History of Ukrainian Art published by the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian S.S.R., ascribe these two grand and similar buildings to a Ukrainian architect and alumnus of the Kievan Academy, 1. Zarudnyi, who, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, introduced the Baroque style to Moscow. Though the plans and compositions of these two churches were very similar, the details and ornamentation of the Church of the Epiphany were of more classical character which was appropriate for an academic building.
The original Baroque iconostasis of the Church of the Epiphany was destroyed in the Podil fire of 1811. A neo-classical altar screen, dating from 1825 and considered one of the best works of architect A. Melenskyi, served as its replacement. Among the church's historical treasures were a silver altar cross, gift of Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, and a silver chance, gift of Abbess Magdalene, the mother of Hetman I. Mazepa.
After the Soviet victory in Ukraine, the Bratskyi Monastery was closed. The Monastic buildings were conveyed to the regional Department of Health which assigned them to the Podil's Polyclinic. The eighteenth century Academy building was given to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Throughout the Twenties the Academy of Sciences and its Archeological Committee showed continuous concern regarding the preservation of the architectural complex of the Brotherhood Monastery. According to the June 1926 legislation of the Ukrainian S.S.R., the historic monastery was designated as a monument of Republican importance. Thus, without the authorization of the People's Commissar of Education of the Ukrainian S.S.R., the landmark could not be modified or demolished.
In February of 1935, S. I. Prytykin, the photographer of the Kiev Regional Inspectorate of the Preservation of the Monuments of Culture, took photographs of both the interior and the exterior of the doomed Church of the Epiphany. Sometime in 1935, the exact date cannot be established, the large and massive structure was pulled down and the adjoining belfry was dismantled. The monastery's frequently altered refectory building, the eighteenth century sun dial, and the more recent monastic buildings were preserved. Thus, the Soviet authorities vividly demonstrated that in demolishing one of the major landmarks of Ukrainian history, the planners were not clearing sites for the development of new buildings or parks but were in fact eliminating what they perceived to be undesirable (or even harmful) Ukrainian national symbols in order to promote the new socialist society.
Apparently there was no attempt to survey the two buildings before their demolition or to preserve some of their architectural details. One can make the conjecture that in order for them to have been demolished, the two buildings (like the Church of St. Michael of the Golden Domes) were declared to have been of no scientific value, therefore no studies were made of them. In the following years, in the courtyard of the historic monastery, a box-like, four story high apartment building was constructed. In 1963 the territory of the former Bratskyi Monastery and the surviving landmarks were listed on the registry of architectural landmarks of the Ukrainian S.S.R.

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