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The Monastery Of St. Michael Of The Golden Domes
(Zolotoverkhyi Mykhailivskyi Monastyr)


The Monastery Of St. Michael Of The Golden Domes

 

Built in 1108-1113, renovated and enlarged in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, demolished 1935-36.

The Monastery of St. Michael was located to the northeast of the Cathedral of St. Sophia, near the edge of a bluff overlooking the Lowertown. The Monastery's main church, St. Michael of the Golden Domes, was built in 1108-1113 by Prince Svyatoslav II. It was the second largest church of the medieval city and one of the three churches of the St. Demetrius Monastery, later to be known as the St. Michael of the Golden Domes Monastery.
One of the many Byzantine churches of the Middle Ages which were rebuilt in the Baroque style during the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, the Church of St. Michael was probably the most successful in blending the original Byzantine structure with the ornate Baroque of the eighteenth century. The interior walls of St. Michael were still almost entirely Byzantine, while the exterior was clothed in Baroque, conveying a picturesque appearance of rich forms and ornate decor. As in other Baroque monastic complexes, the main entrance, at the western end of the monastic walled in courtyard, was accented by a tall campanile (1716-19). Nearby the church was the refectory of St. John the Divine (1713) and the Ekonornichni Gate (1760).
Inside the church, a five tier iconostasis, funded by Hetman Skoropadskyi and executed by Master Hryhoryi of Chernihiv, was installed in 1718. Most of the original Byzantine mosaics and frescoes on the interior walls of St. Michael's were painted over sometime during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Restoration and cleaning of those mosaics and frescoes in the apse that remained unpainted commenced only at the end of the nineteenth century. However, during this process, there was no serious investigation of the walls of St. Michael's interior and thus there is no way of knowing whether any medieval frescoes or mosaics were preserved under the coats of plaster.
The projected demolition of St. Michael's Monastery generated opposition from the Ukrainian academic community and its few Russian supporters. Soviet publications of this period questioned known historical facts regarding the age of St. Michael's Church. They stressed that the medieval structure had undergone numerous alterations and that little was preserved of the original building. In the minds of the Soviet authorities of the mid-1930s, preservation of Ukrainian Baroque architecture was not even worthy of consideration.
Prior to its demolition (from June 8 to July 9,1934) the medieval core of the Church of St. Michael-especially the narthex and its tombs- was studied by T. M. Movchanivskyi and K. Honcharev of the recently purged and re-organized Institute of Material Culture (until 1933, the Institute of Archeology) of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Apparently on the basis of this survey, the Institute, under the signature of its director F. Kozubovskyi and archeologist T. M. Movchanivskyi, established that the Church of St. Michael was built primarily in the Baroque period rather than in the twelfth century and thus did not merit preservation due to a lack of historical value. This forced statement legitimized the Soviet authorities' plans regarding the entire architectural complex of St. Michael's Monastery. In line with Soviet Ukraine's 1926 legislation. Commissar of Education V. P. Zatonskyi then authorized the dismantlement of the historic landmark.
On June 26,1934, work began on the removal of the twelfth century Byzantine mosaics. This delicate operation was carried out by the Mosaic Section of Leningrad's Academy of Fine Arts. Leningrad's experts were forced to work in haste due to the forthcoming demolition and were unable to complete their work. Despite the care and attention shown during the removal of the medieval mosaics from the walls, the resulting relocated mosaics cannot be relied upon as being absolutely authentic.
In the spring of 1935 work commenced on the removal of the Baroque cupolas built over the masonry domes. The silver royal gates of 1812, Hetman Mazepa's reliquary ("raka") of some 32 kilograms of silver, and other works of art were destroyed. Master Hryhoryi's iconostasis disappeared. During the spring or summer of 1936 (the exact date cannot be established) the stripped structure of St. Michael's Church was blown up with dynamite and thus totally demolished. The Monastery's Bell Tower, Gate, and monastic walls were also pulled down.
After the demolition, the historical site was subjected to a scrupulous search for valuables carried out by the N.K.V.D.
The mosaic of St. Demetrius and one of the two surviving Byzantine has-reliefs were taken to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The remaining mosaics and frescoes were installed on the second floor of the St. Sophia Cathedral (which is not open to the general public).
Dissatisfaction with the appearance of the first of the two proposed buildings of the Capital Center in the spring of 1938 apparently delayed construction of the second building originally planned to be built on the site of the demolished Church of St. Michael of the Golden Domes. The refectory of the demolished monastery, though without its Baroque cupola, was preserved and in August of 1963 was designated as a monument of architecture of the Ukrainian S.S.R. In 1973 the Kiev City Council established "archeological preservation zones". The territory of St. Michael's Monastery was included in the preservation zone. However, the still vacant site of the St. Michael's Monastery was excluded from the proposed Historic-Archeologic Park-Museum, "The Ancient Kiev", developed by architect A. M. Miletskyi, and consultants M. V. Kholostenko and P. P. Tolochko.

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