Saint Barbara in Kyiv

“We are not allowed to attend worship services Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, but to go to St. Vladimir cathedral and bow down before the relics of St. Barbara is a holy cause for every Christian.”  a 26-year old student of the Theological Academy Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Sergey Zinchenko tell me.

St. Barbara is one of the most popular saints in Ukraine. Christians, no matter what branch of Christianity they belong too, honor her. Catholics called her St. Barbara. However, in the Orthodox world she is known as St. Varvara.

In Ukraine, St. Varvara- Barbara became popular as long ago as in the early 12th century. At that time, the ruler of the Kyivan Russ state was prince Sviatopolk – grandson of Yaroslav the Wise. Together with his father, Sviatopolk built a new town along the Dnipro river cliffs. The highlight of palaces and churches became St. Michael’s Cathedral. Sviatopolk ordered to cover cathedral’s domes with gold. This building surprised even foreign ambassadors. Back home they told their rulers: “In fact the Russian prince has so much gold that even churches are covered with gold there!”

Prince Sviatopolk took as a wife a Greek princess whose name was Barbara. When her father saw Barbara off to the far northern country, he gave an extraordinary present to her – the relics of St. Barbara.

The holy relics were placed in St. Michael’s Cathedral and made it a big pilgrimage center.

It also become popular to call girls Varvara or Varka in Ukraine. St. Barbara is known as a patron of  girls. The girls who would like to marry, used to pray to the sant.

In the 1800’s monks built pilgrims hotel. The Ukrainian intelligentsia liked to stay there, for instance the famous poetess Marco Vovchok. The room there cost only 50 kopecks and was rather comfortable. In comparison, a luxury hotel beside the Golden Gate cost 12 ruble! (Two cows price).