St. Tatiana of Rome, arsonists attempted to open and set fire to the Church of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir and Princess Olga, built on the territory of the historic Church of St. Vladimir of Kiev (the tenth century, blown up in 1936). At the moment of detention the raiders called themselves followers of the C14 (“Sich”) Ukrainian radical nationalist organization. They were taken into custody. The lawbreakers were tried in the court but were soon released on a petition of the brethren. However, that incident became a pretext that the enemies of the Church used to initiate the takeover and destruction of the newly-built little church of the new monastery. The brethren addressed their appeal to the Orthodox public:
“Dear brothers and sisters! Under the guise of a peaceful protest of architects, the schismatics and pagans, backed by radical groups and incited by some people’s deputies, are preparing a forcible takeover of the Monastery of the Tithes (“Desyatinny”) in honor of the Nativity of Holy Theotokos.”
In response to this appeal thousands of Orthodox Christians performed a prayerful standing day and night and prevented the evil’s forces from carrying out their wicked design. But the criminals managed to find supporters in the Kiev City Administration whose commission made a decision to demolish the Church of Sts. Vladimir and Olga “as it was illegally built on the territory of the National History Museum”, though the monastery has firm legal ground to function. The Ministry for Culture obliged the National History Museum to bring in an action against the Tithes Monastery. This is what the situation is like today.
—Fr. Gideon, you have had to give many interviews to the mass media concerning the latest events. What is the main point of your statements?
—It is yet another obvious violation of rights of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (the UOC-MP) and a desire of the anti-Church forces to block the revival of the most ancient Monastery of the Mother of God in this holy place. This is yet another sign that the main enemy of mankind does not want peace in Ukraine, he feels that the Orthodox Church, which unites people from the east and the west of Ukraine, prays for peace and calls for love, forgiveness and good works, is standing in his way. There are certain people and forces wishing to take vengeance on the Church, striving to destroy it, as it was in the period of the anti-religious persecutions of the last century.
—In connection with the trials that have befallen you I would like to recall the unique project of the restoration of the Tithes Cathedral. Please, can you tell us about the history of this church?
—The main building of Kiev in the tenth century was the famous Church of the Tithes, the foundation of which was laid, according to The Tale of the Bygone Years, in 989, right after the Baptism of Kievan Russia (Rus’). In 996, the church was completed and solemnly consecrated. It was the very first stone church in Kievan Russia. St. Vladimir promised to dedicate ten percent of the income from his lands for the maintenance of this church (hence its name) and the Metropolitan See of Kiev. The written evidence and archeological excavations give us an idea how this largest church of the city may have looked. We can judge its size by the traces of the foundations outlined in stone on the territory of the National History Museum of Ukraine. Streets radiated from the detinets [the central walled and fortified part of ancient Russian cities; also a kremlin or citadel; the term is sometimes used today in reference to the kremlins of the earliest Russia’s cities.—Trans.]: one ran along the present Desyatinnaya Street, the second one ran towards Podol down the Andrew’s Descent, and the third one towards the City (Sophia) Gate via Vladimir Street. The church was surrounded by religious buildings and boyar1 mansions.
The first Tithes Church, built in the Byzantine style, was destroyed by the Mongol-Tatar horde led by Khan Batiya in 1240, and its ruins stood as a sad reminder of the destruction that caused the fall of Kievan Rus’.
A new church was built under the holy hierarch Peter Moghila, but in a different style—Ukrainian baroque. We do not know exactly how it looked. That church was eventually replaced by a third, built in the nineteen century, when Kiev was part of the Russian Empire. The church was constructed ten years after Ukraine was united with Russia after the uprising against Polish rule led by Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky. This church was built in the neo-Byzantine style.
This church was destroyed at the beginning of the twentieth century by the communists as a blow to Orthodoxy in Kiev.2
The project of the restoration of the Tithes Cathedral was approved by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate under the ever-memorable Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) in 2006. It can be rightly called “international” because this is the first cathedral church of Kiev—“the mother of the Russian cities”—the center of the Orthodoxy of the Slavs, and, according to the holy fathers, “the second Jerusalem”. It was the place from which the Light of the Truth of Christ—the Holy Gospel—began to shine, it was here that the flame of Divine love was kindled for the whole of the Slavic nation when the Holy Prince Vladimir embraced Christianity and built the cathedral in honor of the Mother of God. This place is dear to the heart of every Orthodox Christian. It was here that St. Michael, the first metropolitan of Kiev, prayed, and all the relics that were given to St. Vladimir by the Byzantine Empire were originally kept here. The Church of the Tithes was the burial place of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Princess Olga, her grandson the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Prince Vladimir, and his spouse—the Byzantine Princess Anna. It also housed the relics of a great many saints of God, for example, of the martyred infant John and the myrrh-streaming skull of St. Clement, the Pope of Rome.
The grandeur of the temple and the elegance of its interior amazed everyone. At that time one could not find a more beautiful building in all Russia. The edifice was adorned with mosaics, frescoes, carved marble and slate; icons, crosses and church vessels were transported from Korsun—that is, from the Chersonese in what is now Sevastopol.
It was from here that Prince Vladimir with the blessing of Metropolitan Michael would travel together with clergy to all corners of Kievan Russia, including parts of what is now Ukraine, erecting new churches all over the Principality of Kiev.
—It seems that the revival of this holy place is especially significant today because thus a connecting link between different historical epochs is preserved for the present and future generations.
—Absolutely! Without knowing his past man cannot build his future.
—Fr. Gideon, can you tell us how the idea to found an Orthodox monastery here was conceived?
—The modern history of the Church of the Tithes began in 2006 when His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir gave the Kiev clergy permission to celebrate a Paschal service in this ancient holy site. Then a church tent was installed there for this purpose. That day will remain in the hearts of our church parishioners forever, because after seventy years of desolation we were able to worship on the site of the destroyed church and to hear the joyful exclamation of people, “Christ Is Risen!—In truth He is Risen!” The joy of the service was so great that we served there till the end of Bright Week and celebrated the Divine Liturgy daily. And it was then that this idea was conceived.
—It is known that the Tithes Church was destroyed more than once…
—Over the many centuries of its history the temple was destroyed and reconstructed a number of times. And in the Soviet era under the godless government the great church did not escape the same fate. In March 1936, the Presidium of the Kiev City Council decided to pull down the Church of the Tithes.
—In some sense, the same events are happening again, for they intend to get rid of the small Church of Sts. Vladimir and Olga which is already completed and holds services…
—The monastery brethren and the faithful who are defending it believe that it will not come to that point. We also believe that the project of the Tithes Church’s restoration will be carried out successfully. After all, at one time it was approved by the President of Ukraine himself, and the best architects were involved in its construction. Over the past years the monastery acquired new relics: for example, the UOC-MP’s Holy Synod approved the local veneration of the Desyatinnaya (“of the Tithes”) wonderworking icon of the Mother of God. Many people were healed from various diseases in this holy spot. All the cases of miracles have been recorded in the new chronicle of our monastery. Now a relic of the Greatmartyr George the Victorious (his hand, to be exact) is visiting us—it was brought from Mt. Athos on February 6. So St. George himself is protecting us! The heavenly host is praying for us!
—In your sermon at the period of the prayerful standing you mentioned numerous cases of the help of God…
—The Lord is showing us that He protects this holy monastery in a visible way. On December 15, 2012, unidentified arsonists set our church on fire, but the flames, contrary to the laws of physics, did not at all touch the holy Orthodox relics. A particle of the Blessed Matrona’s relics along with the Desyatinnaya (“of the Tithes”) and the Minsk miracle-working icons of the Holy Virgin were in flames for two and a half hours but remained absolutely intact! Everything around them was damaged: air-conditioners melted down, the interior paneling of the dome fell down, the church furniture burned down along with all wooden items, while the icons remained whole. And recently, during the latest events, when the arsonists poured gasoline on the church roof, the fire started and immediately died out by itself. Thus the miraculous properties of the holy relics manifested themselves in a visible way!
—That is wonderful! And what are the major stages of the monastery’s modern history?
—The key dates are the following. In 2005, a church tent was erected beside the foundations of the Church of the Tithes. In 2007, it was replaced with a wooden church which was consecrated by the primate of the UOC-MP His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) on July 25 of that year. On July 9, 2009, by decision of the UOC-MP’s Holy Synod the Monastery of the Tithes in honor of the Nativity of Theotokos was established in Kiev.
Another significant date was December 29, 2015. On that day St. John the Barefoot, a “Fool-for-Christ”, was canonized at the Monastery of the Tithes.
On May 6, 2017, a solemn Liturgy was celebrated at the monastery during which the veneration of the new Vladimir icon of Holy Theotokos “of the Tithes” was established. The Liturgy was headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry.
Over these years the brethren have been actively involved in missionary and charitable activities, which include holding cross processions, and charitable and educational activities. Imitating the Holy Prince Vladimir, we are struggling with the satanists and pagans that are desecrating the holy space on the monastery’s territory by their pagan offerings and outrageous behavior! And now we are going through a new trial…
—It is known that the brethren of the Monastery of the Tithes called for the cessation of bloodshed on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (“Independence Square”) in Kiev in 2014 and stood along the line of contact.
—Orthodox monks and nuns, clergy, and laypeople have always stood for peace, for truth; they have always been opposed to fratricidal wars and ready to lay down their lives for their friends, as Christ Himself taught us (cf. Jn. 15:13). So our adversaries are wrong to think that they will be able to close our monastery.
—The enemy of the mankind, as ever, seeks for corrupted souls and fills them with anger and animosity towards the Holy Church. Now we must unite with the whole Orthodox world and stand up for the monastery with all our might, so that we might continue the chronicle of the ten centuries of Christianity that our forefathers kept before us and open a new, glorious page of the immortalization of the great relics and shrines of Kievan Russia.