проникли самозванці 16/10/2011Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
Tags: history, kiev, kyiv, Mihaylivskiy Zolotoverhiy, religion, russia, Saint Michael's Cathedral, St. Barbara, Svyatopolk II Iziaslavyc, tourism, travel, ukraine, urban, walks, wandering
Rag pickers held the gates, their eyes prowling a majestic expanse of flagstones. Hardened professionals with no affectations of serving the unprepared or groveling for sympathy. City-wide, lurking near the entrances of hallowed ground, scarf hawking women demurely proffered their ways in silent desperation that heedless tourists would find themselves blasphemously naked under the gaze of God. Banshees had spawned these sentinels clustered at every gateway, eager for confrontation.
Reconnaissance made contact while we watched hidden within the anonymity of a milling crowd. Savage jabbering assailed the ears and arms flailed with violent spasms. The skirmish was on the verge of the physical when suddenly the din subsided. Tourists slipped through and enraged beggars regrouped, digging in for the next assault.
No one outside the third world can ignore a man drowning in his own shit on the sidewalk like a born and bred San Franciscan. Our home has been corrupted by outsiders, our ranks infiltrated by impostors, our lives a ceaseless torrent of imposed bullshit. Yet this firestorm tempers the soul, wrapping our hearts in chainmail in which we walk impervious to the parade of lunatics, wannabes, con artists and yuppie scum.
No one except Ukrainians.
But, just like a schoolyard bully crying at the blackboard, the foreign overwhelmed me. Crackheads are incomprehensible but they’re incomprehensible in English. I didn’t know the terrain, I didn’t know the rules of engagement and massive golden domes were floating above the wall.
Desertion was thwarted when Janice grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and threw me headlong into the fray. A terrible battle-cry pounded in my ears as limp, tattered prayer sheets and stained icons rose to repel our advance. Janice scattered the crows with frenzied hands and calls of ‘Nie! Nie! Nie!’.
The wall was breached, a beachhead was established. Shellshocked and shaking I fought to control my breathing while blood receded from my face. Mihaylivskiy Zolotoverhiy rose from the earth and darkened the sky. We had conquered an Orthodox monastery.
St. Michael’s Cathedral was built in celebration of a military victory in honor of Michael the Archangel. During the waning years of Kyivan Rus’ golden age Svyatopolk II Iziaslavyc, grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, replaced a wooden church after routing the Turkic Cumans. In 1108 Svyatopolk’s wife interred the relics of St. Barbara inside while her husband weakened the kingdom through a series of petty familial squabbles and power grabs. After the king’s rein had ended his body was placed inside the cathedral, but he lacked the popularity to compete with canonized remains.
When Batu Khan and The Golden Horde toured through in 1240 the golden cupolas were stripped and the monastery ravaged. Decay and poverty may suit monastic adherents but not the petty nobles who rose during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries money poured into reconstruction and crafting a greater and grander house of worship. Bhodan Khmelnytsky is rumored to have paid for the gold gilding himself.
Through the shifting borders of occupation and war pilgrims continued to fight their way to pray. The popularity of Saint Barbara’s bones inspired local clergy to begin fabricating and selling commemorative rings to ward off witchcraft and plague.
Fortified against the urban blight of cars and noise the courtyard was a vacuum of calm. We circled the chipped blue walls and carefully leaned our heads through open doorways to marvel at ornate frescoes and the gleaming instruments of God. The wood shingled refectory was terribly quaint. The skinny Jesus veranda was terribly amusing. Tourists were suffocating in the bell-tower’s stifling stairwells, leaving us to wander freely.
And we wandered freely out the back gate, through the broken remains of defeated rag pickers. After ten minutes in a neighboring park where no children played we walked along the outer edge of Mihaylivskiy Zolotoverhiy back towards the square. Ashen supplicants held the trains of Orthodox priests, scurrying to keep pace with the towering hats and long staffs thundering into church.
And we wandered freely across the street to an imposing neoclassical citadel dressed in a hundred yards of Ukrainian flag. Columns and balustrades as far as the eye can see. What regal forum have we found, the National Symphony or the Ballet? No, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an arm of the fresh-faced government apparatus which clawed up the heap after independence.
Pilgrims trekked through perilous lands to pray before relics, but poor beheaded Barbara couldn’t impress the Soviets whose architectural experts declared the compound historically insignificant. Byzantine construction had been perverted by Ukrainian Baroque which reeked of nationalism and religion. Centuries-old mosaics disappeared to The Hermitage or the locked storerooms of St. Sophia’s. Artifacts and antiquities were smashed, golden domes stripped and sold, the gates melted for scrap. St. Barbara joined the collected curiosities of the Museum of Atheism, formerly St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral. In the summer of 1963 the exterior walls and the bell-tower were dynamited.
Stalin’s minions cleared away the wreckage of St. Michael’s with grand designs on the horizon. The first building was commissioned for the Ukrainian Communist Party, a proud headquarters for the new guard. But it was also the last building before Germany began to move.
While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was being thrown together amidst celebrations of freedom the church was hastening the rebuilding of a martyred cathedral. Work was completed in 1999, with new frescoes and reclaimed mosaics appearing through 2000. Today’s St. Michael’s sits across a dead-end street from its origins, the holy grounds now buried beneath tons of concrete and harried citizens begging for visas out of the country.