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The Collegiate Church Of St. Nicholas
(Viiskovo - Mykilskyi Sobor)

The Monastery Of St. Michael Of The Golden Domes

 

The Collegiate Church built in the 1690s; the church, belfry, and gate demolished in 1934.

The hilly panorama of the Pecherske from across the Dnieper River was highlighted by the Baroque cupolas, elegantly outlined against the skyline, of the Collegiate Church of the Great Nicholas and the Pecherska Lavra. One of the most renowned of Hetman Mazepa's architectural monuments in Kiev, the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas was founded between 1690-93 on the site of the eleventh century Convent of St. Nicholas. Its location, on a flat plateau high above the banks of the river, was one of the most attractive and highest areas of the city of Kiev.
The layout of the Great Nicholas complex was typical of the Ukrainian monastic communities of the Baroque period. A high bell tower was placed over the main entry to the monastic courtyard.The main gateway, at the western end of the courtyard, was visually related to the main facade of the Collegiate Church. Low buildings housing monk cells framed both sides of the approach from the belfry to the main western facade of the church. The low height of the refectory building (1690s) and the monks' quarters and the open space in front of the building emphasized the great volume of the Baroque structure.
The interior of the Collegiate Church contained a unique Baroque iconostasis of 1696, funded by Kievan burgher Sozont Balyka. It was a rare example of seventeenth century work, a masterpiece of Ukrainian wood carving. The large altar screen had seven tiers of icons surmounted by statues of angels and was 15.5 meters high and 22 meters wide. The three storied belfry (1750) above the main entrance to the monastic courtyard was also of the Baroque style.
In 1831, due to the construction of the Kievan Citadel on the Pecherske, Mazepa's Collegiate Church was confiscated by the Tsarist Government and converted into the Garrison Collegiate Church (Viiskovyi Sober).
The bell tower's uppermost level was modified in the 1890s in a pseudo-Byzantine style which introduced foreign elements that did not harmonize with the original design. Both the Collegiate Church and the belfry were damaged during the January 1918 Bolshevik bombardment of the city and in 1922 the belfry was gracelessly repaired.
During the 1920s, the preservation and restoration of the Great Nicholas Church was of great concern to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In the late 1920s the Academy's All-Ukrainian Archeological Committee determined that the great needs of Ukraine's architectural landmark preservations could not be answered by municipal resources but required the support of the All- Union Government. Subsequently, at the request of the Ukrainian Republican authorities, the Archeological Committee developed cost estimates for the renovation of Ukraine's ten most important landmarks. Five landmarks on this list were in the city of Kiev and one of these was the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas.
Despite the importance of the Great Nicholas architectural complex, the Collegiate Church, belfry, monastic walls, and gates were pulled down. In contrast to the main church of the Monastery of St. Michael of the Golden Domes, no details of the demolished architectural landmark-iron doors with the tracery design, majolica rosettes, royal gates of the iconostasis, columns of the main and side porticoes-were preserved. There are no published records regarding the dismantlement of the Collegiate Church. Ukrainian poet Mykhailo Crest (pseudonym B. Mikorskyi) stated that prior to the selection of the Capital Center site in the Uppertown, a proposal was made to locate the administrative center of the capital city on the site of the Great Nicholas and according to him Hetman Mazepa's church was pulled down at that time. The latest available photos of the St. Nicholas Collegiate Church date from 1934 and were taken by V. N. Horbovets of the Kievan Regional Inspectorate of the Preservation of the Monuments of Culture. Sometime in 1934, Stalin's lieutenant in Ukraine, Pavel Postyshev, appearing before the plenary meeting of the Kiev City Council, stated frankly that the "historic rubbish" had to be once and for all obliterated from the face of the earth because its existence fed the roots of the Ukrainian nationalist bourgeoisie. According to an eyewitness of this meeting, Postyshev at that time issued orders for the immediate demolition of the St. Michael's Monastery and other historical landmarks of the city, especially the two Mazepa churches in the Podil and the Pecherske. The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, its belfry, and monastic gate were demolished in 1934. The dismantlement must have been done, as was required by Soviet Ukraine's legislation, with the concurrence of the People's Commissar of Education, the old Bolshevik and recently elected academician, V. P. Zatonskyi.
Regardless of what were the motives for the demolition of the Mazepa church, belfry, and gate, it was only at the beginning of the 1940s that plans were formulated for the utilization of the former site of the Great Nicholas monastic complex. In the spring of 1941 the Soviet press reported that the Ukrainian capital would be enriched by a new civic structure-the Building of Culture of the Red Flag Factory, which was to be built on the site next to the Pecherska Lavra.®" The Second World War prevented implementation of the projected construction of this new complex of socialist realism style.
The surviving refectory of the Great Nicholas monastic complex had architectural treatment similar to the famous extinct church. Lowly situated windows of its facades were decorated by frontons and gave the building an unusually non-ecclesiastic character. The refectory also had a rare plan, consisting of a rectangle with a free standing pier in the middle of the main hall. Despite the uniqueness of the preserved structure and the Soviet Union's post-W.W. II legal commitments regarding landmark preservation, the seventeenth century refectory of the Great Nicholas was dismantled in the 1960s.
In the early 1960s a proposal was developed to construct a school children's "Palace of Pioneers" on the site of St. Nicholas Monastery. Development of the design of this project coincided with a short lived ferment in Ukraine generated by the Twenty Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Ukraine in October of 1961. The "Palace of the Pioneers" project brought up the question of the future of the remaining landmark of Hetman Mazepa's monastic complex. Apparently the original architectural design of the new building envisioned preservation of the Baroque structure, but despite the fact that it could have and should have been preserved, it was demolished. Incorporation of the old landmark in the new architectural complex was rejected on the basis that the old refectory structure was a religious one and it was feared that its preservation might damage the atheistic upbringing of the developing generation." The new Palace of Pioneers (No. 13 Sichnevoho Povstannya Street) was designed by a team of architects led by A. Miletskyi, built in 1962-65, and received the Soviet Union's 1967 State (formerly Stalin) Prize in architecture.

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