Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kyiv, the city’s second-oldest Roman Catholic church, caught fire and was severely damaged on the night of Sept. 3.

Priest Bohdan Savitsky told news outlet Hromadske that the wiring inside the cathedral’s famous organ had caught fire. The police are still investigating the possible causes of the fire.

The fire destroyed the organ and damaged the interior of the church. As seen from the photographs released by Kyiv officials, a large chandelier also fell on the floor. There were no casualties, the State Emergency Service reported.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Information, the fire broke out during an organ music rehearsal. The cathedral has been shared between the Roman Catholic Church of Ukraine and the National House of Organ and Chamber Music, which hosted organ concerts.

The fire in the church of St. Nicholas is being liquidated late in the evening of Sep. 3, 2021. (The State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

“Significant damage to the building was avoided. The church is safe. However, we have a painful loss – a unique organ. Unfortunately, the fire destroyed it,” Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko wrote on Facebook.

“The exact cause of the fire will be established by the investigation. We at (the ministry) are starting a detailed assessment of the damage to the church in order to compile a list of urgent anti-accident and restoration works,” Tkachenko added.

He also said the ministry is looking for a place to relocate the band rehearsals of the National House of Organ and Chamber Music, which previously used the organ in the cathedral.

“We are still assessing the material damage. But it is impossible to estimate the loss for organ work in Ukraine. The musicians are left without an instrument and without a platform,” said Galyna Grygorenko, the head of Ukraine’s State Agency for Arts and Art Education.

The organ that was destroyed by the fire, had been commissioned from a Czech firm Rieger-Kloss for the cathedral. A new instrument like that can cost 1.2-1.5 million euros, RFE/RL reported.

The St. Nicholas Cathedral in Kyiv was built in the early 20th century in the neo-Gothic style, by a famous polish architect Vladyslav Gorodetskyi.


In Soviet times, the building was closed and used as an office space. Due to neglect, it sustained damages and was left in poor condition.

A man wearing a medical mask walks on the street in front of the Church of St. Nicholas in downtown Kyiv on July 13, 2020. The church caught fire on Sept. 3, damaging the interior and its famous organ. (Volodymyr Petrov)

The Ukrainian government hasn’t provided funds for substantial repairs in recent years.

The religious community says the cathedral’s walls are being eaten away by mold, while the leaky roof lets precipitation fall into the temple.

In 2009, it was reported that due to the damaged foundation, the cathedral stood at a small angle of inclination. This allegedly happened after subway tunnels were laid under the cathedral, and high-rise buildings were built near it, both of which raised the groundwater level.

Whatever money the city authorities periodically allocate to the church goes to cosmetic repairs, and it’s not enough to prevent serious damage, activists say.

Both in 2020 and 2021, culture ministers said significant funds were allocated in the state budgets for the restoration of the cathedral’s facades.

The current minister Tkachenko said the restoration would be completed by the end of 2021. Four months until the end of the year, the restoration is yet to begin.

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