The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv, Ukraine is many things.
Also known as the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, first and foremost it is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery, built on top of a massive series of tunnels. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the one of the largest museums in Kyiv with many sub-museums held within it.
Though from a distance it looks like a standard orthodox church it is built on top of a huge and “very complex system of narrow underground corridors” that contain monks’ living quarters. Travelers in the 16-17th century wrote that “that the catacombs of the Lavra stretched for hundreds of kilometres, reaching as far as Moscow and Novgorod” which, though an exaggeration, helped make the complex famous. The catacombs also contain numerous burials and relics, such the bodies of mummified saints such as Saint Kuksha, Nestor the Chronicler, and Alipy of the Caves, which today are displayed covered with cloth.
Among the museums in the above-ground complex are the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, a book and print history museum, a museum of Ukrainian folk art, a theater and film arts museum and the state historical library, but by far the strangest and most curious of the museums is the microminiature museum.
This too has a Ukrainian connection, as the micro miniatures are the work of the world microminiature master Mykola Syadristy. Syadristy was born in Ukraine in 1937 and has been crafting micro-miniatures since he was in his twenties, or for nearly forty years. Among his creations are the words “Long Live Peace” in Ukrainian engraved on a human hair, minuscule portraits of Ernest Hemingway and Yuri Gagarin, and what is believed to be the world’s smallest book with 12 pages at an astonishing 0.6 square millimetres, each page filled with the writing and illustrations of Syadristy himself.
Among the other items to be seen (all of which must be viewed through a microscope) are a golden chess set on a pin head and the picture of Russian composer V V Andreev etched onto glass and fitted into one half of a poppy seed.
Visit Ukraine with Atlas Obscura Trips
Kyiv, Chernobyl, and the Borders of Bessarabia
On this once-in-a-lifetime tour of Ukraine, Transnistria, and Moldova, we'll delve deep into local cultures and traditions, explore unusual underground spaces, and visit an unrecognized republic.