Tithe Church, Kiev

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The most ancient church in Kiev was built between 989 and 996 by Prince Vladimir, who dedicated it to the Virgin Mary and supported it with one-tenth of his revenues. Destroyed by a fire in 1017 and reconstructed in 1039, the church was looted in 1177 and in 1203 by neighboring princes, and it was finally destroyed in 1240 during the siege of Kiev by the Mongol armies of Khan Batu. Various stories exist concerning the cause of the structure's collapse; as one of the last bastions of the Kievans, it came under the assault of Mongol battering rams, and it may have been further weakened by the survivors' attempt to tunnel out. Nonetheless, part of the eastern walls remained standing until the nineteenth century, when, in 1825, church authorities decided to erect a new church on the site. Rejecting the idea of incorporating the old walls into the new, they leveled the existing walls down to the foundations and commissioned the architect Vasily Stasov to construct a neo-Byzantine church. This church was demolished by the Soviets in 1935 and the site covered with pavement.

From twentieth-century excavations, however, there emerged a plausible notion of the original plan, with the arms of a cross delineated by the aisles at the center of the church. While there is no way of determining with any accuracy the church's appearance, some sense of its decoration may be gleaned from the salvaged fragments of mosaics, frescoes, and marble ornaments. The walls were probably composed of alternating layers of stone and flat brick in a mortar of lime and crushed brick.

See also: architecture; cathedral of st. sophia, kiev; kievan rus; vladimir monomakh


Brumfield, William Craft. (1993). A History of Russian Architecture. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Rappoport, Alexander P. (1995). Building the Churches of Kievan Russia. Brookfield, VT: Variorum.

William Craft Brumfield