St. Andrew’s Church
St. Andrew’s Church
Marvelous outlines of St. Andrew’s Church on a steep slope above the Dnipro are one of the classic representative images of Kyiv, as the church not only impresses with its intricate decoration, but is also perfectly integrated into the landscape: the church seems to fly in the air.
St. Andrew is associated with an ancient legend told by Nestor the Chronicler in his Primary Chronicle: having arrived to the bank of the Dnipro River, the apostle blessed the hills and uttered a prophecy about a city with many churches to be built there.
The foundation for St. Andrew’s Church was laid in 1744 and the church itself built in 1747-1753. It was to be a palace church for the residence of the Russian Empress Elizabeth. The first project was drafted by Johann Gottfried Schädel, but the draft was rejected by the St. Petersburg Chancellery for Construction. In the end, the church was designed by the then star – Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The architect had never been to Kyiv, so he had no adequate idea of the local terrain and insisted that the future church should be accessible by carriage. The construction in Kyiv was supervised by Moscowite architect Ivan Michurin. When it became clear that the building would rise not on a natural but on an artificial hill, which had been part of the fortifications of the Old Kyiv Fortress, Michurin conducted research and figured out how to strengthen the building on a dangerous slope: he combined the stone foundation of the church with the priests quarters of Rastrelli’s project. In this way, the foundation of the temple became a two-story house – a 14-meter stylobate. In the course of construction works, groundwater had to be diverted, and this is obviously related to the urban legend mentioned in Kaidash’s Family by Ivan Nechui-Levytskyi. Allegedly, there is a powerful spring on St. Andrew’s Hill under the church; as soon as the dew appears, a cart of wool is driven into the spring, because otherwise the water would flood the whole world. According to another version, it is the reason that the church has no bells: their toll would stir up the water, and it would flood the whole of Kyiv.
The Baroque interior of St. Andrew’s Church, also designed by Rastrelli, is as impressive as the exterior. The iconostasis reaches 23,4 meters in height. Carvings and ornaments were made by Kyiv masters Yosyp Domash, Hrystofor Oreidakh, Andriy Karlovskyi, Matvii Manturyv, and Hryhorii Levitskyi.
The construction took a long time, and the church was consecrated only in 1767. St. Andrew’s had never become a palace church, a year later it was transferred to the city. It functioned as an ordinary church until 1932, when it was closed by the Bolshevik government. In 1935, the church became a branch of the ‘All-Ukrainian Museum Town’, and in 1968 it became part of the National Sanctuary ‘Sophia of Kyiv’. Fortunately, St. Andrew’s Church has survived in its original form, both exterior and interior. Rastrelli’s original drawings are still preserved in the Albertina Museum in Vienna.