Saint Cyril Church was built near Dorogozhichi region in the middle of the 12th century. The church was founded on the territory of old monastery, on the hill. It served as a summer residence and family burial place for the dynasty of Olgovitch princes. In 1194 in the church Kiev prince Svyatoslav, the hero of the ancient Russian poem The Lay of Igor's Host, was interred.
The church was named in honor of Saint Cyril, one of the most eminent Orthodox saints. Cyril is also known as a Slavonic apostle. Cyril and his brother Mephody preached the Gospel to the Slavs in Moravia, the land, from which Christianity spread to the Slavonic lands, including Kievan Rus. They originated Cyrillic alphabet and translated the Gospel and some other Christian books into Old Slavonic language.
Saint Cyril Church changed through the centuries according to architectural and aesthetic tastes and tendencies. It has always been considered first of all as a functional church, not as a monument of old architecture. As the result of the reconstruction of the 17th century, the church turned into Ukrainian baroque building. Cupolas give the whole construction lightness and loftiness.
Interiors of the church had not been changed dramatically, so it gives an idea of the church's original look. Inside the temple there are several sources of natural light, so twilight perfectly contrasts with a very well lighted central part under a large dome. In the second half of the 19th century under the plaster fresco paintings of the 12th century were found. Most old frescos are dedicated to the deeds of Saint Cyril. It was decided to clear the precious frescos and restore them. The works were supervised by professor Prakhov. Outstanding Russian artist Vrubel participated in those works: he had to paint the old frescoes in oil and decorate marble iconstand. Vrubel's works, including Christ, Cyril and Afanasiy stand apart for their expressiveness, realism and superb artistic mastery.
There is a romantic story connected to the icon Mother of God painted by Mikhail Vrubel. When the icon was finished, the contemporaries paid attention that the Virgin's face bears features of professor Prakhov's wife. It didn't break the canons, but still it looked very unusual. There is no reliable data what happened afterwards, but Mikhail Vrubel, in spite of his recognized talent, was never again invited to work in the temples of Kiev.
The frescos of Saint Cyril church range among the most interesting examples of wall painting of the 12th century Russian art. The frescoes feature bright colors, plenty of details, compositional innovations. One of the gems of the church is tempera painting of the 17th century. It depicts Superior Father Innocent Monastirsky, an outstanding diplomat and public figure. His portrait on the pylon of the southern aisle is a valuable example of Ukrainian portraiture of the period.
The old architecture of Saint Cyril Church and its magnificent wall paintings make this temple one of the most valuable and interesting museums in the country.
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