Three Babylonian Youths in the Paintings of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv


  • Serhii Bozhko PhD (Political Sciences); Senior Research Fellow of the Research department “Saint Sophia Institute” of the National Conservation Area “St. Sophia of Kyiv”. Main research fields: history and culture, monumental art of Rus-Ukraine.



St. Sophia of Kyiv, three Babylonian youths, fiery furnace, monumental painting, fresco


In order to realize our own identity, we look closely at the past, at the sacred cult tradition of our ancestors. The real treasury of this tradition is St. Sophia of Kyiv, a monument of the first half of the 11th c., where hundreds of images of holy men, women and youths have been preserved. Among the saints of all times, children occupy an important place in the Orthodox calendar. Orthodox piety has a special love for children who have fallen victim to sudden violent death. This article analyzes how the Old Testament story “Three Hebrew youths in the fiery furnace” is illustrated in the monumental fresco painting of St. Sophia of Kyiv. The characterization of the images of the holy youths, specification of the attribution of their individual images and accentuation of the role of the plots in the general system of painting are given. The Babylonian youths are depicted four times in the monumental painting of St. Sophia Cathedral. In three cases, it is the primary fresco painting of the 11th c. in the central nave, St. George’s Chapel and the choirs. In the fourth case, this is a 17th c. painting in the central nave. According to the Byzantine tradition, in the paintings of St. Sophia of Kyiv the images of the three children are related to the theme of the Saviour’s Resurrection, which was relevant at the time of the creation of the cathedral. The multiple depiction of the three Babylonian youths in the monumental painting of St. Sophia of Kyiv testifies to the popularity in old Rusian religious art of these young righteous and the miracle that happened to them “in the fiery furnace”, as well as to the symbolic importance of this Old Testament story in the baptism of Rus and in the inheritance of old traditions in the art of Ukraine.

Manuscript received 15.03.2020


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