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When a monument to Saint Volodymyr was being built, people kept saying, “King Volodymyr threw down the idols, and now is one of them”. [King Volodymyr in 998 baptized Kiev Rus, due to that he had to throw down the idols]. That is why in 1852 money gathering for the future Saint Volodymyr cathedral began. Thirty-year-old Petersburg architect Ivan Shtrom – the one, who had already built Cadets Building in Kiev – received an order to plan the temple. He decided to design it in old Byzantinesque style, like all the ancient Kiev churches were. In his opinion, the cathedral was to be covered with thirteen domes. Shtrom’s draw was submitted and appreciated by Emperor Mykola I.
However, large prospects were doomed due to little money. All the costs were collected via post. Architect of Kiev eparchy Pavlo Sparro was asked to compare the money with the project. That way, he left only seven domes out of thirteen. Kiev metropolitan (the head of the church) was sad: the church was far not a significant temple. The church turned to architect Oleksandr Beretti. Beretti remade the project. Therefore, Beretti managed to extend the length and width of the church 1.5 times more, so that now the volume of the temple grew up three times. His authority was high enough to be trusted. In 12, on the day of Saint Volodymyr, the laying of the temple took place.
For some time the works were going well. Suddenly, in autumn 1864 some arches couldn’t stand the weight of the ceiling and moved aside. Architect blamed the builders for the mistake. Nevertheless, the height of the domes was lessened. In 1866 the cracks in the arches became larger. Architect desperately fought against the critics, but his reputation was doomed. To Kiev from Petersburg, to find out the reasons for the accident was sent… Ivan Shtrom.
Eventually, Beretti was removed from the building process. The works have stopped, because no one dared to take the responsibility to continue the building. The walls could hardly stand, so they were strengthened using buttresses. This sad procrastination kept on until the Emperor Oleksandr II arrived in Kiev and on his way from the railway station to the apartments saw the unfinished site. Immediately extra money was found, and Kiev welcomed another master with a world-famous name – Rudolf Berngard. His figures became the basis for the future building. About the responsible builder – there was such a post at the time – he proposed his 28-year-old student Volodymyr Nikolaev who had just taken the post of Kiev eparchy architect. Young architect perfectly coped with difficult tasks. In 1882 the building was actually over. What was left to do was to paint the interior of the cathedral.
Famous art-critic and archaeologist Adrian Prahov was crazy at turning the cathedral into the treasury of contemporary religious art. Almost none took his idea seriously. However, Prahov, using his Petersburg friends and comrades, managed to become the head of the decoration department of Saint Volodymyr Cathedral in 1885. He invited best specialists: Viktor Vasnetsov, Michael Nesterov, brothers Oleksandr and Pavlo Svedomski, Wilhelm Kotarbinsky, Michael Vrubel, Ukrainian artists Mylola Pymonenko and Sergiy Kostenko. And the impossible happened! Even though the constant shortage of money, blames in the fact that the artists are too brave in their works and very long period of the works (11 years!), Prahov’s intention came true. The painting of the cathedral owing to the talent of artists, enormous emotional tension and the true historical environment soon became a significant monument to religious art of the XIX century.
On 20 August (1 September by new style) 1896 the heavy temple doors opened. During the festive ceremony people had no idea where to look first. Everyone wanted to see metropolitan Ionnikiy, who carried out the blessing ceremony, and Emperor Mykola II, who was present there. But the look was magically attracted by the magnificent works of art…