Photo Locale of the Month – August 2015

This month’s feature takes us back to Europe. Ukraine has been in the news for the past two years, courtesy of Vladimir Putin’s push for returning Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to Russia-proper.

Although I have never traveled to that part of Ukraine before, I did have the opportunity to visit the country’s vibrant capital, Kiev, in 2011, and it remains one of my favorite cities in Eastern Europe. Kiev’s Caves Monastery is the city’s most-visited sight, and draws camera-toting travelers such as myself as well as devout pilgrims of Orthodox faith.

Caves Monastery 92

There are several entrances to the monastery complex. The main entrance, Trinity Gate, opens to the largest and most impressive building on the grounds, the Cathedral of the Dormition. Note the detail work around the windows, the image of Christ and – I think – Moses on the upper façade, and the golden onion domes on top.

Caves Monastery 116

The cathedral is even more stunning on the inside. As you can see, nary an inch of the interior is unadorned with frescoes depicting Jesus, the disciples, and the Virgin Mary.

Caves Monastery 55

Other churches dot the premises as well. Although still covered in religious art as is standard in most Orthodox churches, these buildings make use of only natural light.

Caves Monastery 52

Views are impressive, and extend for miles. Rodina Mat, the statue in the above pic, is colloquially known as “Tin Tits,” and is actually part of the Museum of the History of Ukraine in WWII – itself a worthy site – located two kilometers to the south. Note that the tip of the sword is shorter than originally molded, so as not to exceed the Cathedral of the Dormition in height.

Caves Monastery 34

Looking east, the Dnipro River abuts the bottom of the monastery grounds as it winds its way towards the Black Sea. Across the river is residential Kiev, where litter-strewn beaches back up to stupendously ugly, Communist-era apartment blocks.

Caves Monastery 24

Lovely gardens slope downhill towards the river, passing tiny chapels such as the one photographed above. Babushkas wait to drink and bottle holy water from a faucet connected to a spring beneath the chapel.

Caves Monastery 98 - Sphere of Good and Spiritual Renaissance - by Oksana Mas

I was surprised to see an array of art – including contemporary sculptures such as the one pictured here – spread across the grounds. This piece, made of roughly 1,500 painted wooden Eggs, is entitled “The Sphere of Good and Spiritual Renaissance.”  The artist: Ukrainian master Oksana Mas. I read that her work regularly sells at Sotheby’s; read more about Mas here.

Caves Monastery 31

So what of the “caves” that give the Caves Monastery its name? Two underground passageways are the burial sites for over 100 monks and saints. They are entombed in glass-topped coffins. Though covered in burial shrouds, their mummified, skeletal hands, folded in prayer, poke through. Pilgrims light a candle as they enter; its not uncommon to see them kissing the coffins. Photography inside the caves is strictly forbidden, the access stairway in the image above was as close as I could get.

Caves Monastery 33

I am not Orthodox, nor am I Christian, nor religious at all. That said, I was floored by the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, the Kiev Caves Monastery. The grounds were lovingly tended to, the caves were simultaneously creepy and spiritual, the art was pleasantly surprisingly, and the buildings were suitably humbling.

All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.

Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food and culture all while weathering the challenges of life in a city with over 20 million people. Life's unpredictable journey has since brought him to Tennessee, where he is close to family and to the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, top ten lists, and travel in general.

4 thoughts on “Photo Locale of the Month – August 2015”

  1. It’s not a place I plan on visiting… especially given the current turmoil… but thanks for a glimpse of some lovely places in Kiev. When we think of Ukraine we think of Chernobyl or now the conflict with Russia. It’s nice to see that there is also much beauty to be found.

    1. You’re welcome. I think Kiev is still safe. I also visited Lviv, near the Polish border, and that was a wonderful small city that could complement a visit to, say, Krakow.

      Chernobyl is only about 90 kilometers outside of Kiev. Tours take you to the site, although I contented myself with visiting the Chornobyl Museum in Kiev. A sobering experience to say the least.

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