The Old Kyiv Hill is located in the centre of the ancient Upper City. On it, by order of the Baptist of Kyivan Rus, Volodymyr Svyatoslavovych, the first stone church in Kyivan Rus was built by ancient Russian and Byzantine masters and solemnly consecrated in 996, the Church of the Holy Mother of God, also known as the Church of the Tithes.
This name is associated with the tenth part of princely income (tithe), annually allocated for the construction and maintenance of the Church. The Church of the Tithes was the most important centre of the ancient Rus culture. Christian relics (e.g., the relics of St. Clement of the Roman Church), church tithes, ‘trading measures’, i.e., standards of weights and measures, were kept there; there were a rich library and a school; the first chronicles were created; the first Eastern Slavic Christian rulers were buried, in particular Princess Olha, Volodymyr the Great and his wife, Byzantine Princess Anna.
In December 1240, Kyiv was captured by the Tatars and the Church was destroyed by battering rams, leaving to the descendants only the possibility for a scientific reconstruction of this unique building.
Scientists assume that it was a three-nave, cross-domed, six-column temple, surrounded on three sides with galleries and decorated with mosaics and frescoes in the early 11th century. As a result of many-year excavation of the Church’s remains, fragments of authentic foundations and mosaic floors were found. They can be seen on the Old Kyiv Hill, near the building of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine.
To the right of the entrance to the museum, one cannot but notice the temple, reconstructed by famous archaeologist Vikentiy Khvoyka in 1907–1908, and the Kurgan stelae near the museum walls which are evidence of the pagan period of our history. Going around the museum building on the left, one can reach a sightseeing platform offering a view of Podil. In the centre of the site, there is a stone with the famous words of Nestor the Chronicler carved in ancient Slavic elm: “From here, the land of Rus began”.
The Upper City is the oldest part of Kyiv, limited in the modern topography by Yaroslaviv Val Street, Lvivska Square, hill slopes behind Velyka Zhytomyrska and Desiatynna Streets. At that time, its total area with the courts of the Grand Prince and the Metropolitan, cathedrals, and palaces exceeded 80 hectares.