Lavra in Kiev

Kiev-Pechersk Lavra

Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery, founded in the mid-11th century. The monastery was built near the village of Berestove, in a cave. The first monks excavated more caves and built a church above them. Many educated men became monks at the monastery shortly after. So, the Lavra eventually became a preeminent center of the Eastern Orthodox Church. One of the most important features of the Lavra was its printing house. It was crucial for educating and spreading Christian teachings to the masses.

View of Kiev Pechersk Lavra Cave Monastery, symbol of Kiev and must-visit place in Ukraine.

Monastery Press

Kyivan monastery press (Києво-Печерськадрукарня) was founded between 1606 and 1615. Archimandrite Yelysei Pletenetsky  founded the printing house. It subsequently became the most important center of printing and engraving in Ukraine.  The oldest book in Lavra is the Horologion from 1616. Kiev Pechersk Lavra produced several hundred titles on various subjects, both original works and translations. These works were in Ukrainian, Church Slavonic, Polish, Russian, Latin, and Greek. The books mostly  included ecclesiastical and liturgical texts. However,  Lavra printed hagiographic studies, Orthodox polemical treatises, didactic and literary works as well. Beautifully engraved and ornamented, they were distributed throughout the Slavic and European lands. In the 16th and 17th century, the printing house played an important role in raising the level of education and culture in Ukraine. It also helped the Orthodox Ukrainians in defending themselves against the inroads of Catholicism.

The Fire

Fire engulfed most of the monastery’s buildings in 1718, including the main church as well as the printing house, destroying even the library and archive. Many titles vanished. As a consequence, the printing house had to get back on track and replace massive cultural treasure that was lost. Soon after,  the ukase of 1720 limited Kiev Lavra press to print religious works only, which lasted until 1918.

Books from the 18th century

One of the most important books was the Akathist printed in 1738. Akathist was a prayer book, dedicated to Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. Another Akathist was dedicated to him later, in 1783. Both are beautifully illustrated and decorated.

Title page of the Akathist, printed in Kiev Pechersk Lavra, 1783.

Lavra employed some of the most talented and educated men of the time. So, all the books printed there were beautifully done. The 18th century and the period after the fire was extremely fruitful. Everyone involved put extra effort in producing some of the best works done in history. Some of the more important works of the period include the  Holy Evangelion from 1754, and the Pravoslavno Ispovedanie from 1764.

Feel free to check out out the books printed in Lavra from our collection.

Stay tuned for more articles!

Photo 1:
Photo 2 is from our private collection.

Miloš Stanković
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