At the intersection of Honta Street and Osmomysl Square, right at the beginning of Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street, go up the stairs leading to the Church of Mary of the Snows (1 Snizhna Street). This church was founded by German colonists, who had settled in Lviv during the reign of King Danylo and Prince Lev in the XIII century. The Church of Mary of the Snows was a parochial institution until the Cathedral was built in the new centre of the city. From 1888-1892, the church was completely restored by the Lviv architect, Yulian Zakharevych; this was done in the Neo-Romantic style, which was to recall certain features of the original ancient structure. The small building attached to the church on the left side is especially interesting. A figure of the Virgin Mary, created by the famous sculptor, Johannes Pinzel, stood before the church until 1962, when it was destroyed by Soviet authorities. Inside, you can see frescoes dating from 1893 attributed to Edvard Lepszy. The church was used as a warehouse and subsequently, as a museum of photography by the Soviet government. It has been under the care of Redemptorist priests since the 1990ies. Today, it is called the Church of the Virgin Mary’s Assistance; it is a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

ArticleImages_430_02_benedektynky.jpgGo up this pretty street called Snizhna until you come to the main gateway of the Church and Monastery of Benedictine Sisters on 2 Vicheva Street, built at the end of the XVI century. Today, it is called the Greek-Catholic Church of All Saints and the Monastery of Holy Protection. The monastery ensemble just below the castle resembles a fortress. The Benedictine Monastery was founded by three nuns, daughters of a wealthy nobleman, Adam Saporowski. The church was built at the end of the XVI century in the Late Renaissance style by the celebrated Lviv architect, Pavlo Rymlianyn. At the beginning of the XVII century, the monastery was extended and isolated from the secular world by thick walls. A large part of the original strong fortifications have remained till our times. The walls of the church are supported by powerful stone buttresses. The uppermost tier of the tower is decorated with carvings and crowned by a beautiful arch. The stylistic purity of the tower distinguishes the church as one of the foremost monuments of the Renaissance period in Lviv. The arches in the gallery are framed by white stones; above them, wonderful statues stand in the niches. Now, leave ancient Vicheva Square, and go through the well-proportioned Baroque gateway in front of you. You find yourself standing in a wide courtyard with a church and monastery buildings before you.

ArticleImages_430_03_ivana_khrestytelja.jpgAt first, you may be struck by the apparent defensive military atmosphere, but after a while and most strangely, the architectural harmony of the fortified monastery begins to rhyme with tranquillity, peace and optimism. When Ukraine became independent, the former nunnery was restored on the premises, and artistic activities (weaving, embroidery, and egg painting) have become the main occupation of the nuns of the Studite Monastic Order. The St. Sophia school, popular among Lviv youngsters and children, was opened in the monastery. Students of this school paint Easter eggs and sell them during parish auctions in order to gather funds for the renovation of the statue of the Virgin Mary, which stands over the vaulted arch of the church. In 1947, an unknown wicked sinner destroyed this holy figure by breaking off the golden-crowned head of the statue.

ArticleImages_430_04_mykolaja.jpgWhen you go back through the gateway, turn right and walk along Chornomorska Street until you reach Stary Rynok Square (Old Market Square). Stop near the beginning of Uzhhorodska Street, in front of a small, but beautiful church – the Church of John the Baptist (3 Stary Rynok Square and 1 Uzhhorodska Street). This church was built in the middle of the XIII century by Lev, Prince of Galicia-Volhynia, for his wife Constance, daughter of the Hungarian King, Bely IV. Apparently, Constance so grieved for her homeland and her Roman-Catholic faith that her husband decided to build this church for her. According to legend, Constance was buried in a crypt in this same church. The original structure did not survive to our days; it was rebuilt in the Neo-Romantic style by the architect Yulian Zakharovych in 1886, although some ancient elements have been preserved. Sections of some mural paintings in the interior date back to the XVII century. In 1989, the Museum of Ancient Memorials was opened here, but liturgical services are still conducted in the church.

ArticleImages_430_05_onufrija.jpgFrom Stary Rynok Square, walk along Pylnykarska Street until you get to the oldest building in Lviv, the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas (28a Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street), a striking model of ancient Ukrainian architecture from the XIII century. In 1292, Prince Lev issued a charter to this church, whereby it was allowed to administer land till the end of time. It is believed that this church was the princely court’s place of worship. The princes of Galicia-Volhynia attended liturgies in this church and were buried here. Thick walls were constructed with large squared blocks of stone; imposing cupolas with lanterns crown the edifice. The church was built according to the requirements laid down by Byzantine architecture: the building has a cruciform shape with a semicircular apse covered with a semi-dome. The unknown architect of the church planned the church according to Orthodox dogmatic principles, giving it the strict form of a Greek cross, and thus making it look very similar to Orthodox churches of south European countries. The church has a long and turbulent history of fires, floods, epidemics, and attacks by foreign armies. The church was often set on fire and plundered, but some holy relics managed to be saved. When the Patriarch of Antioch, Joachim stayed in Lviv, he personally blessed the church with some relics of St. Nicholas. The church takes pride in the beautiful icon of St. Nicholas, the Miracle Worker; here, the saint is portrayed on a gilded background in splendid Byzantine sacerdotal vestments. There is also another icon, which was saved from the former neighbouring Church of St. Theodor; this icon has become a testament to all the Ukrainian churches which were destroyed by the Austrian government at the end of the XVIII century. The frescoes on the main façade were painted by the Ukrainian artist, Petro Kholodny, Senior in the 1920ies.

ArticleImages_430_06_paraskevy.jpgLeave the Church of St. Nicholas behind, continue along Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street and very shortly, you will arrive at the Basilian Monastery and the Greek-Catholic Church of St. Onuphrius (36 Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street) – a monument dating from the XVI – XIX centuries, which holds a special place in Ukrainian history and culture. The Monastery of St. Onuphrius is one of the oldest holy places in the city; a church existed at this very site already in the XIII century, during the reign of Prince Lev. According to legend, the image of the Virgin Mary, painted on a cypress table board by St. Luke the Apostle, had been preserved in this church. Emperor Constantine took the painting back to his capital, and then it made its way from Constantinople to Kyiv when the Byzantine Princess, Anne travelled there later on. After a period of 300 years, the icon then found its way to Prince Lev in Lviv, who presented it to the Basilian Monastery. At the end of the XIV century, the icon again appeared in Czestochowa, Poland, where it has become famous for its miracle-working wonders.Today, the ancient icon of the Virgin Mary of Częstochowa is one of the holiest relics in Poland. The monastery from the princedom era has not survived to our day. In the middle of the XVI century, construction of a stone church was commissioned by Prince Kontantyn Ostrogski, one of the most powerful patrons of art and culture in Ukraine. Another important Ukrainian figure, Ivan Fedorov – “printer of unprecedented books” – found refuge here in 1573.

The following year, Fedorov printed the first Ukrainian book, “Apostol” (Apostle) in the printing shop which was situated in the monastery, and which remained on the premises until 1615. The celebrated Ukrainian printer was buried in the princedom cemetery near the monastery in 1583. An iconostasis adorns the interior of the church; it was created by the prominent artist, Luka Dolynsky in the XVIII century, and new icons were added by the artist, Sosenko, in the XX century. Now, continue your way along Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street until you come to an underground passageway. On the other side, you will find yourself in Dolynsky Street, and a hundred meters further, you will be standing at the intersection of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Haydamatska Streets, right near the Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva Pyatnytsia dating from the XVII century (77 Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street) – a lovely architectural monument of ancient Lviv, where you can observe a harmonious combination of Ukrainian, Moldavian, and West European building techniques and architecture. The Church of St. Paraskeva is one of the oldest structures in Lviv; it was built during the princedom period. Its present-day appearance dates back to the XVII century, when Vasile Lupu, Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s ally and father-in-law, contributed to its actual building. The name of the founder is immortalized on a memorial plaque together with the coat of arms of Moldavian rulers: the sun, moon and crown crowning the head of a buffalo; it is mounted in the church walls. The church has preserved its original appearance of a citadel.

The bottom part of the church was constructed with quarried stone, giving the church the appearance of a stronghold with a high lookout tower. As the church was located outside the city fortifications, it was forced to incorporate defensive structures. The walls are almost two meters thick, whereas the top tier of the high tower has crenellated battlements. Gothic and Baroque styles intermingle in the interior of the church. The pediment (triangular gable) of the southern façade brings to mind Gothic finishing elements of many old Lviv churches, none of which have survived to the present time. Right-angled niches on the sides are usually associated with Wallachian (Moldavian) or Bukovine (region of West Ukraine) churches, whereas the main façade of the building reflects obvious features of Baroque architecture. The interior of the Church of St. Paraskeva has been well preserved. It holds the most important monument of ancient Ukrainian art – the iconastasis created by talented Lviv master craftsmen at the beginning of the XVII century. Six rows of icons joined together by a remarkable wood-carved tracery bear witness to the skill and craftsmanship of artists and carvers of that period.

text: Il'ko Lemko
foto: Yurko Dyachyshyn

Watch "Ancient Lviv" Excursion at the larger map


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