Yelets Assumption Monastery
Yelets Assumption Monastery
Chernihiv region Yelets Assumption Monastery

An integral part of the historical heritage of Chernihiv and one of the oldest sanctuaries of the Orthodox world.

Chernihiv region
Official status:
Architectural Monument of national significance
Religious building
Date of destruction:
March 2022

Before March 7, 2022. Photo: @vikont19501

Chernihiv is one of the most ancient cities in Ukraine, and the Yelets Assumption Monastery, being an inseparable part of the city’s historical panorama, is one of the oldest shrines in the Orthodox world.
The temple was founded in 1060 by Sviatoslav Yaroslavych, the Grand Prince of Chernihiv and later Kyiv. According to a legend, an icon of the Mother of God emerged on one of the fir trees in the forest. And no matter how many times people removed this icon from the tree, it reappeared until a temple was constructed on this site. Presumably, monks began to settle in caves in this area.
Construction of the Assumption Cathedral, the main temple of the monastery, started at the end of the 11th century and was finished in the 12th century. It was a monumental architectural structure for that time. The 25-metre-high cathedral was crowned by a single massive tower. Elements of Romanesque architecture were present in the decoration of its walls.
In the 13th century, the Mongols attacked Kyivan Rus, and in 1239, they stormed Chernihiv, looted and burned it down. After these events, the Yelets Monastery was severely damaged and abandoned for almost two centuries.

After March 7, 2022. Photo: Oleksandr Tkachenko

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the temple changed hands several times, from Muscovy to Poland. Eventually, as a result of the Khmelnytsky Uprising, the Assumption Monastery became the centre of the Orthodox faith again. The church, decorated in the Baroque style, acquired its modern look during this period. The monastery’s architectural ensemble was also formed at this time. Cells from the middle of the 11th century, the burial church of Chernihiv colonel Yakiv Lyzohub from 1689, the bell tower over the gate from 1670–1675, the wooden house of archimandrite Feodosii Uhlytskyi from 1688, the Peter and Paul refectory church from the 17th century, the brick fence, and the ruins of the abbot’s house from the 18th century have survived to our time. Next to the monastery there is the world-famous Black Grave mound, built in the 960s. According to historical records, the last prince of pre-Christian Chernihiv, Chornyi (‘Black’), was interred here.
After the establishment of Soviet power in 1921, the monastery was closed. Various Soviet institutions were founded on its territory. In the 1960s, the Yelets Assumption Monastery became the filming location for the only Soviet horror film ‘Viy’, based on the eponymous novel by the Ukrainian writer Mykola Gogol. Only with the restoration of Ukraine’s independence, did the Chernihiv community return the status of an Orthodox shrine to the church and establish a nunnery here.
Without exaggeration, the Yelets Monastery has been an important sanctuary for Ukraine and all of Christianity for centuries. Despite numerous assaults and destruction, it was rebuilt in order to uphold the essential Christian values of life, love, mercy, honesty, and justice.
In the spring of 2022, the Russian military shelled Chernihiv as well as the Yelets Assumption Monastery. The facades of the monastery walls, the gate, the bell tower of the 17th century, and the domes of the 11th-17th centuries were damaged. It is how the monastery walls have perpetuated the traces of another atrocious war — the treacherous attack of Russia, which has been destroying the cultural heritage of Ukraine and trying to rewrite its history.
The site that once held memories for centuries may now turn into a memory itself.

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