Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kiev-Pechersk Lavra

This is the big tourist draw of Kiev. The Lavra is also known as the "Caves Monastery," because of its complex web of underground tunnels and caves. The Reverend Anthony first settled in one of the caves in 1051, which has since grown into an extremely complicated maze of tunnels, caves, living quarters, and underground chapels. In the 16-17th centuries, the catacombs supposedly stretched for hundreds of kilometers, reaching as far as Moscow (thanks, Wikipedia!). We joined the never-ending stream of pilgrims and tourists visiting the Lavra, and walked through a small section of the caves. In strict accordance with the time-honored view of females as sinning temptresses, we had to cover our hair with head-scarves and wear skirts. I was wearing jeans, so I slipped on an elastic-waisted skirt over my pants. The men, of course, were acceptable as is. We each carried a long, slender candle through the crowded tunnels, relighting each other's as the draft blew them out. We were there as tourists, but the Lavra is a huge pilgrimage destination, and we watched as travelers from all over crossed themselves and kissed the caskets of buried saints. The caskets were open and covered with clear glass, letting us see the strangely-short corpses.

The entrance church to the catacombs.

Most, but not all, of the group with our head native-coordinator, Tania.


The rest of the complex included a bell tower and some seriously impressive gold domes.

Note the headscarf and the reluctant skirt.

My people.

The Bible says that the church with the gaudiest buildings wins, right? 

The sweet babushka in charge of this dark little chapel let us sing our English hymns quietly together. I think the echo resonated in every language.

I got sick of wearing the skirt so Austin picked up the slack for a couple hours.

The bell tower played a booming song for twenty or thirty minutes. One of the men up there looked down while our guide was telling us something. I wasn't paying much attention, so I noticed the man and waved up to him. He waved back at me and then videotaped our group as the rest of them began waving too. I felt like the song was played for me, just a little bit.

Side note: I can see the Lavra from my bedroom balcony. In the photo at the top of the page, the Lavra is under the word "Plans." You can see the bell tower and gold domes to the right. My neighborhood is called Pechersk, and the word pechera means cave. As Bill Nye the Science Guy would say, "Now you know!"

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