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Bill Thayer

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Public service message, 24 Feb 22: A Ukrainian historical researcher who has contributed to this site has advised me that The Ukrainian Red Cross Society is accepting donations from abroad in relief of civilian populations in Ukraine and persons displaced due to the Russian war against that country, and has set up a page for those wishing to donate. (And yes, I've donated a bit myself, about $350 thru Oct 2023.)

The Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev

Olexa Powstenko

The Author and the Book

The Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev was the first comprehensive study of the church to be published in English. Its author, Ukrainian architect and art historian Oleksa Ivanovych Povstenko (Podilia, 1902 – Washington, D. C., 1973), was an expert on the medieval art of his country and in particular on the churches of Kyiv, having served as Director of the Scientific Council of the "Sofia Museum of Architecture and History" (the Soviet name for the expropriated and secularized cathedral), in which capacity he is credited with having helped prevent the destruction of the church during World War II.

He was the author of a number of books, booklets, and articles, among them Історія Українського Мистецтва (A History of Ukrainian Art: 1948), Золотоверхий Київ (Gold-topped Kyiv: Art, Craft, and Architecture of the Ukrainian Capital through the Centuries: 1954), and Військова катедра св. Миколи в Києві (до 20-тиліття з часу руйнування) (The Military Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kiev — on the 20th anniversary of its destruction: 1956).

For technical details on how this site is laid out, see below, following the Table of Contents.

 (p471)  Contents

The Historical Background


General Characteristics of the Architecture


Surveys, Attempts at Restoration and Investigations
of the Architecture of the Cathedral of St. Sophia


The Interior of St. Sophia Cathedral


The Sarcophagus of Yaroslav and other Tombs


The Mosaics and Frescoes


The Buildings of the St. Sophia Monastery


Technical Details

Edition Used and Copyright

The copy I used for this transcription is my hard copy of the edition: "Published by The Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U. S.", and marked "Copyright 1954 by the The Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U. S., Inc."; but the copyright was not renewed in 1981 or 1982 as required by the law at the time, and the work therefore rose into the public domain on Jan. 1, 1983: details here on the copyright law involved.


The book is profusely illustrated, with 136 photographs, engravings, and plans in the text, plus 200 full-page plates. Many of these illustrations are very good, but they are all black-and‑white.

In the printed book, the 136 illustrations accompany the English text; the Ukrainian text, as far as I can tell a strict translation (or more likely, the English is a strict translation of the Ukrainian text), is unillustrated; as I put up the Ukrainian text, I'll be inserting the illustrations there too.

Most of the book's chapters are so profusely illustrated that if I were to include full-size images on the page, it would take inordinately long to load; so I've substituted thumbnails — that can be clicked on if desired to open the full‑size image in another window.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; a red background would mean that the page had not been proofread. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was well proofread: the few errors are minor. I made the corrections, marking them with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read what was actually printed. A few readings in the book are actual mistakes of some consequence and I've marked them with a bullet like thisº or even with a clarifying footnote: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over bullets or underscored words to read what was actually printed. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

One mistake — by our modern standards — that I neither flagged nor changed, however, is important. The text refers almost always to "the Ukraine" rather than to what is now, in our hopefully post-Soviet era, considered the correct form of speech, just plain "Ukraine" with no article: for why this seriously matters, see Kathryn Graber's excellent explanation at Sapiens.Org.

Finally, while not strictly incorrect, some odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that I did check them.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A large building crowned with a dozen onion-cupola towers. The image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'The Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev' by Olexa Powstenko.]

The icon I use for this subsite is a colorized crop of Plate 2.

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Site updated: 13 Aug 23