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Ukrainians raise $1 million to restore burned St. Nicholas Cathedral in Kyiv

On 3 September 2021, a fire broke out at the St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral in Kyiv. No injuries were reported, but the blaze damaged the pipe organ and the interior of the church. Fire responders involved 80 people and 16 pieces of equipment in the extinguishing operation.

According to preliminary estimations, the restoration of the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Kyiv will cost at least UAH 75 million ($2.8 million), said the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine Oleksandr Tkachenko. This money covers emergency restoration work and replacement of the organ.

The other UAH 148 million ($5,5 million) was already allocated by the state for the planned restoration of the façade and decor.

Ukrainians, including multiple entrepreneurs, have already collected UAH 5.8 million. Big Ukrainian companies publicly promised to donate another UAH 20 million. The fundraising company is ongoing on the web page where they describe the restoration plan.

The Church of St. Nicholas in Kyiv is one of the two oldest Roman Catholic churches in the city. The church was built in 1899-1909 in the neo-Gothic style by the Kyiv architect Wladyslaw Horodecki (1863-1930). After the Soviet occupation of Kyiv in 1919, the Cathedral was turned into a storage facility. In 1981 it became the concert hall. Currently, the Cathedral is shared by the Catholic community of Kyiv and the National House of Organ. The full transfer of the Cathedral to the Catholic community was agreed to happen after a new House of Organ is built in Kyiv.


Restoration plan

Minister Tkachenko and other members of the team have preliminarily assessed the damage and outlined the restoration plans.

The first task is to cover all broken windows so that moisture does not get inside. Further work is possible after a detailed assessment of the condition of structures by experts.

“We must be sure that the high temperatures did not cause hidden cracks or changes in the geometry of the structures. This is an extremely painstaking but necessary job because it is a matter of visitor safety.”

Tkachenko explained that the team is currently waiting for the conclusions of the State Emergency Service. This is the basis for ordering an expert assessment of the scale of material damage. The initial restoration is due to begin in October.

A view of the Cathedral from the neighboring quarter

What caused fire

Simultaneously, the National Police have been investigating the possible causes of the fire. The main version of the investigators is an ignition of electrical wires inside the wooden casing of the organ. The police, however, are currently considering all possible versions. The Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Denys Monastyrskyi, said that after studying the recordings from internal and external video surveillance cameras, questioning witnesses, and examining evidence, it will be clear what exactly has happened.

The minister noted that employees of the cultural institution didn’t call rescuers immediately after the fire emerged, trying to put it out on their own. As a result, precious minutes were lost.

“Rescuers responded instantly and were at the scene within 6 minutes after the call. I will say frankly, if not for their professional actions, we would have lost one of the most beautiful architectural monuments in Kyiv – just as Paris lost the ancient cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris,” he stressed.

The fire broke out between the first and second floors and spread to the roof of the building, endangering to destroy it fully if not eliminated quickly.

The lost organ

The new concert season was to begin on September 10 with the concert Parade of Organists. It is now canceled as the organ has been entirely destroyed.

Firefighters struggling with fire near the organ. Source: State Emergency Service of Ukraine

The Cathedral’s pipe organ was ordered from the famous Czechoslovak (now Czech) firm Rieger–Kloss and built in 1981. At current prices, the organ value estimation starts at $1.5 million. The organ had 55 stops and 3,945 pipes. The music instrument was believed to be one of the best concert organs in Ukraine. At the same time, the possibility of repairing it is unclear. Most likely, the new one has to be ordered. Minister Tkachenko said the state would pay for the organ. The donated money is going to be used exclusively for the most urgent and important works to preserve the Cathedral, restore windows, roof, and interior.

Currently, the Catholic community holds services outside the Cathedral building.

Catholic priests conduct holy mass outside the Cathedral. Source: hmarochos

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