One of the most expressive architectural ensembles of Ukraine is Troitsko – Illinskyi (St. Trinity-St. Elijah) monastery of the ХІ – ХУІІІ centuries in Chernihiv.
It consists of two parts - former St. Elijah monastery of the ХІ – ХУІІ centuries and St. Trinity monastery; built on the highest plateau of Boldyn Hills during 1677 – 1780, incorporated a landscape and architecture in the unique ensemble.
The beginning, according to a chronicle, was fixed by a monk Anthony Pecherskyi in 1069.
The “dug up” by his followers and him caves in the ravine of Boldyn Hills in course of time grew into a two tier large underground complex – known today all over the world monument of underground building as “Anthony caves”
In the ХІІ century at an entrance to caves a cruciform pillarless St. Elijah church with one top was built. In 1239 the monastery was destroyed by the hordes of Batyi. “In a year 1649 God church of the Saint prophet Elijah, and the monastery through the efforts and cost of church warden, mister Stephan Podobaylo, Chernihiv colonel, were restored by Zosim Tyshkevych, Father Superior of that monastery...” Due to the reconstructions it got the form of a three dome church, the most widespread in Ukraine during the Cossack times.
The initiator of St. Trinity monastery construction was a well-known political, church figure and writer of the end of the ХVІІ century Chernihiv archbishop Lazarus Baranovych. In 1672 he moved in Chernihiv from the former residence in Novgorod – Siverskyi.
The ensemble of St. Trinity monastery was formed during the ХVІІ – ХІХ centuries. The construction of this majestic complex became possible because the monastery was a large feudal sector which possessed almost 10 thousand peasants, 24 villages, 30 windmills, 31 factories including brickworks in the middle of the ХVІІІ century. “The gallery built up on the stone arches and posts” united St. Trinity and St. Elijah monasteries.
First the refectory with Vvedenska church (1677 – 1679) were built, the only two dome church among those refectory churches which remained on Left-bank Ukraine; later there were built three corps of monastic cells and utility rooms which created picturesque baroque surroundings of main building – St. Trinity cathedral, built in 1679 – 1695 years by architect Ioann Zauer-Baptyst’s project.
An interesting fact: in the cathedral’s head tholobate the fragment of inscription of hetman Mazepa times about Lazarus Baranovych’s and Ioanna Mazepa’s money offerings on cathedral construction remained.
At the end of the ХVIII century instead of wooden there was built brick enclosure of monastery with square and octahedral angular towers; from the north part of cathedral a majestic 58 meters bell tower of baroque forms was built.
A bell tower was built between 1770 and 1780 by an archimandrite Ioil (Bikovskyi). The last name of architect – builder is unknown; according to some information the project drafts by Iogan Shedel, the author of the Large Lavra bell tower were used. Placed in the ensemble of monastery, a bell tower became the main reference point for a traveler from the side of Kyiv, Nizhyn, Lyubech.
In the seven chamber burial vault of the cathedral temporal and spiritual agents were buried in the ХVIII-ХIХ centuries, particularly Chernigiv archbishop and prominent researcher of history of Ukraine Filaret Humilevskyi, representatives of well-known families of Miloradovich, Kochubey and others.
In the church near the altar the remains of saints Theodosius of Uhlych and Lawrence of Chernihiv are lying. Near-by a temple, among others there is a burial place of prominent Ukrainian fable writer Leonid Hlibov, diplomat and scientist Hryhorij Scherbyna, Chernihiv and Nizhyn archbishop Anthony.
St. Trinity-St. Elijah monastery operated till 1786, when by the order of Katherine the II the patrimony of monastery were secularized. The special role was given to St. Trinity monastery: on its territory it was appointed to place Chernihiv university, a monastery also had a printing-house and a library which counted more than 11 thousand books.
After the death of prince of Tavrida Grigoriy Potyomkin, who especially took care of this question, an order was not executed. Therefore in 1790 the fate of monastery was changed: an empress defined the Chernihiv bishop to move from St. Borys and Hlib in to St. Trinity monastery.
From that time there was so called “Bishop house” - the residence of Chernihiv archbishop on the territory of former monastery. As for a friary on Boldyn Hills, it was closed again in 1918. St. Trinity cathedral functioned as a parish temple till 1929.
Till the II World war the buildings of monastery were in use by Chernihiv zootechnical school.
During the occupation in November, 1941 St. Trinity monastery became an operating nunnery; which mother superior was Anthonia (Sorokina). Buildings of monastery considerably suffered during the bombardments in 1941 and 1943 that is why a diocese in the 40s of the ХХ century conducted repair works. A nunnery operated till 1961; from 1967 the complex of St. Trinity monastery was the part of Chernihiv state architectural historical park.
In 1988, after the restoration works, conducted by a well-know architect Marionila Govdenko and restorer of painting Volodymyr Babyuk, buildings of former St. Trinity monastery were returned to the Chernihiv diocese.
Today a former monastery continues to be the residence of archbishop of the Ukrainian church of Moscow patriarchy. In the house of abbot the spiritual school on preparation of priests and regents – parish clerks operates from the 90s of the XX century. St. Trinity cathedral, the remarkable sample of Ukrainian masters of the end of the XVII century, is an operating church.