Churches take a special place among Lviv memories to the past. Each of them has its own history and its own memory. Still most of them can be categorized due to some features like era or architectural stile. The oldest Lviv churches worth visiting are:
Churches of Kniaz’ (King’s) Period
They were located in Lviv suburbs on the way from Volyn’ to Halych (today it’s near Bohdan Chmel’nyts’kiy street). None of the churches remained today in its original appearance. It’s known that the first churches were wooden so they were destroyed by fires. The ones we can see today were built on there foundations.
St. Nikolas’Church of Lviv is the oldest church in our city. It’s believed to be the family burial place of Halits’ko-Volyns’k Kniazs. Who of the representatives of the Kniaz family was buried there is still unknown, though. It is believed to be founded by Danylo Halits’kiy in the 13th century. A straight lane connects this street with the High Castle (the Kniaz’ residence). The church suffered a number of fires and enemy attacks during the centuries. Still even after several reconstructions the building preserved the main features of old Ukrainian-Bizantine architecture – the design of a Greece cross, the central dome. Church buildings similar to Lviv St. Nicolas’ Church were also typical for Istiya and Dalmatiya (the territory of Croatia today). The combination of the classical Bizantine-Rus’ cross-like dome design with the Rome building techniques created a new original stile peculiar for old Halychyna. The building was erected instead of old cemetery. St. Nicolas’ Church used to be not only Lviv religious centre but the centre of social and political life too. St. Nicolas’ Fraternity of tradesmen existed by the church in 1544. During the 17th century St. Nicolas’ Church was one of the main Orthodox centers of Lviv.
The original altar of St.Nicolas’ church burned down in 1783. The only icon that remained from it is the Icon of Jesus Christ with the Mother of God and the Apostles. The Icon of the Mother of God in the left altar was painted in 1848. The Icon of the Virgin Hodigitria (in the right altar) is a valuable creation of Lviv painters of the first part of the 17th century. This icon is a bit similar in style to painter Fedor Sen’kovich’s school. St. Nicolas’ Icon and the miracle-working holy relics of the Saint, ancient carved crosses are specially honored by the believers in the church. Frescoed interior of St.Nicolas’ church dates back to the 20th century. Some of the frescoes were painted by the famous Ukrainian painter-impressionist Petro Cholodniy who was fond of the neo-Byzantine artistic traditions. Modern altar was made in pseudo-Byzantine style in 1947-1949 and the wall paintings were made in 1955-1957. The church paintings were renovated in 1990.
The location of the church – Bogdan Chmel’nyts’kiy str., 28.
St. John the Baptist’ Rome Catholic Church
(the Museum of Lviv Relics)
The historians argue about the date of construction of one of the oldest Lviv churches. Some of them claim that it was built in 1201 to honor the birthday on Danylo Halits’kiy. In 1230s monks-Dominicans stayed in it and in 1240-50 the church was presented to a zealous catholic Constantia. She was a daughter of a Hungarian king Bela the 4th and Leo’s wife. After her death the church was given to Armenian members of Uniate Church.
The others argue that King Leo ordered the construction of the church for his wife Constantia and it was erected by the monks-Dominicans in either 1260 or 1270. Later the church was given to the Armenians
The third believe the church was built by the Armenians themselves in 1270. And soon it became a catholic church.
Still it’s quite likely that none of these versions is truthful enough. The results of the present-day brick church examination carried our in 1984-1985 don’t permit us to date it back to the 13th century. On the contrary the discovered architectural details prove that it was built not earlier then the middle or the second part of the 14th century.
During the centuries the building was several times destroyed. It burned down during the fire in 1800. The first real reconstruction of the church was carried out 37 years after. And in 1886 it was completely rebuilt in Rome-Catholic style by the project of an architect Julian Zachariyevich. A unique huge baroque altar with Christ image on it could still be found in the church in 1920s. But there is no information about its location today.
The church was closed down after the World War II. The recent restoration of the church was carried out in 1989. Its aim was to give the church its original appearance. Today the only reminder of its neo-roman style is its front part. It’s hard to define the architectural style of the church after numerous reconstructions. Nowadays architects in the process of studies and examinations have managed to restore the original appearance of the brick church. In particular a number of gothic elements were found. It let them speak about the Gothic character of the building.
In 1993 the the Museum of Lviv Relics was opened in the building of the church. The model showing the original appearance of the church is exhibited in the museum.
Neither ornaments nor icons were preserved from old decoration of the church.
An old legend of St. John the Baptist’ Rome Catholic Church
There was a miracle-working Icon of the Mother of God painted by st, Lucas in the church. It was passed from Volodymir the Great to Kniaz’ Leo who presented it to his wife Constantia. The icon was kept in the Dominican’s church in Lviv till 1940. Today it can be found in Dominican’s church in Hdans’k (Poland). Still modern scientists believe it to be the work of the 15th century. It means that the icon could belong neither to Volodymir the Great nor to Constantia.
The location of the church- Uzhhorods’ka str.,1
ST. ONUFRIY’S MONASTIC CHURCH
St. Onufriy’s Monastic church is believed to be another Lviv church of the kniaz’ period. It is mentioned in the oldest Lviv documents together with St. Nicolas’ church. It is likely that the first wooden church with monks living at it existed at kniaz’ Leo’s times. Due to the legend an Icon of the Mother of God painted by evangelist Lucas on cypress board was kept in the monastery. Costiantyn the Emperor brought the Icon to his capital. Princess Anna brought it from Constantinople to Kyiv. King Leo got it 300 years after and he gave it to the monastery of Basilians. Later the Icon was transferred to Bels and from there to Yasna Hora in Chenstochova (Poland) in 1377. It got famous as a miracle-working icon there. Today the ancient kniaz’ Icon of Our Lady of Chenstochova is considered to be the biggest shrine of Poland.
Unfortunately the kniaz’ times monastery was destroyed. A construction of brick church began in the middle of the 16th century. It was sponsored by kniaz’ Costiantyn Ostroz’kiy who was the most powerful cultural Maecenas of Ukraine. In the 17th century a set of monastery buildings located outside and far from city walls were several times destroyed by fires and were regularly attacked and ruined by invaders. Later the monastery was regularly rebuilt.
The building and reconstruction of the shrine had been going on for about 400 years. It was completed in 1902 when a famous at the time in Halychyna architect Ivan Levyns’kiy added the right chapel to the main church building. During its history the monastery had been under patronage of Stavropihiys’ke brotherhood of the Virgin Mary Dormition Church. From the end of the 16th till the end of the 18th centuries a number of “hospitals” operated at the monastery. They were a kind of shelter for lonely, weak and sick people. A school and a theological seminary for poor pupils of the brotherhood school operated there as well. Central Archives and a Basilians Library - there were over 600 manuscripts and more than 40,000 volumes in 1939 there - were founded at the monastery. “Records of the Basilians” had been published since 1924 there. From this monastery the renewed Basilians Chief Counsel had been planning and controlling entire activity of the Basilians’ both in the country and abroad for 50 years. In 1931 they transferred their chief residence to Vatican leaving behind just the Proto-hegumen ministry of the local Halyts’ka province there.
In the 20th century the monastery was closed down and the monks were evicted from there by the Soviet power. For some time Moscow patriarchate priests were still conducting the Service in St. Onufriy’s Church.
The church had been closed and not used for many years. In 1977 a museum of Ivan Fedoriv as a branch of Lviv Picture Gallery was open there. In 1990 the monastery and the church was given back to the Basilian Priests.
Ivan Fedoriv the “Publisher of the books never seen before” found the shelter in the monastery in 1573. In 1583 he was buried in the monastery cemetery that dates back to kniaz’ period. The remains of the printing pioneer are kept in an urn at the Ancient Ukrainian Book Art Museum.
The jewelry of the monastery church was an iconostasis created by a famous painter Lyka Dolyns’kiy in the 18th century. At the beginning of the 20th century the iconostasis was decorated with the icons painted by Modest Sosenko.
The location of the church – Bohdan Chmel’nyts’kiy str., 36.
Rome Catholic Church of Mary the Snowy
The full name of the shrine is The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Snowy Church. It was probably built in the 13th century. Though it is generally believed to be the historic landmark founded by the German community of Lviv approximately in the middle of the 14th century, it is a fact that German tradesmen and craftsmen had settled in our city at kniaz’ Lev Danylovich period. The settlers must have probably had their own shrine located in Lviv suburbs of the time. A document of 1368 testifies to it claiming that this Rome-Catholic Church had owned a mill at Poltwa since long ago. This building was initially wooden and since 1350 it was probably brick. Unfortunately it didn’t retain its original appearance. The dedication of the church to the Virgin Mary the Snowy is linked with the history of building of one of the main Rome basilicas - one of Santa Maria Majore - which was the first European Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. During its long history Lviv Rome Catholic Church of Mary the Snowy was often rebuilt. This consequently spoiled its original appearance. The recent rebuilding and restoration works were carried out in 1888-1892. They were based on the project of a professor of Lviv Polytechnical Institute architect Julian Zachariyevich. In 1893 the church walls were decorated with murals painted in neo-roman style by a painter Edward Liepshiy. A sculpture of the Virgin Mary of the 18th century could be seen to the right of the church main entrance but at the beginning of 1960s it disappeared.
Today the church reminds a single-nave basilica-like building with prolonged altar part, a thorough faceted apse and a square narthex with a single-axis tower. The western catholic building traditions are obvious at the church. The elements of baroque wooden carving of the 18th century can still be seen as an element of the interior. A Museum of Photo Art is operating here today.
The location of the church – Mary the Snowy str., 2
Church of St.Parasceva, Marter, sunamed “Friday”
The church of St.Parasceva, Marter, sunamed “Friday”- is another of the oldest Lviv churches in the shape of a solid defense building with a high tower. The shrine we can see today was built at the foot of Castle Hill in the middle of the 17th century instead of a church erected at the end of the 13th –at the beginning of the 14th centuries. The brick church building was sponsored by a Moldavian Vasyl’ Lupul who was Tymosh Chmel’nyts’kiy’s (Bohdan Chmel’nyts’kiy’s son) father-in-law. Ukrainian, Moldavian and west-European architectural styles are naturally combined in the church. To perpetuate the memory of the church sponsor memorial brasses with Moldavian rulers’ coat of arms (the sun, the moon and the crown all above a bull’s head) were built into the church wall. The church preserved its original appearance of a church-stronghold up to the present. Its lower part is built of broken stones which makes it look similar to a solid bastion with a high keep. The distant location of the church from the city walls explains its defensive nature (2m thick walls, gun slots in the top layer of the keep). Extensive influence of gothic, renaissance even baroque styles can be observed in the church architecture.
Fronton of the eastern pane of the church reminds gothic finish of most old Lviv Rome-Catholic churches, all of which were destroyed up to now. Rectangular niches on both sides remind Wallachian and Bukovina churches and elements of baroque architectural style are easily recognizable in the front part of the church. The church was the richest among the ones located in Lviv suburbs. A brotherhood hospital, a cemetery, a school, a rectory were located at it.
The church interior is still well preserved. The jewel of old Ukrainian art – 5-layer Renaissance iconostasis - is located here. It was created by gifted Lviv craftsmen at the beginning of the 17th century. Six rows of icons joined by laced wooden carving testify to the extraordinary skills of the painters and carvers of that time. The iconostasis was being created by several artists with bright personal styles. It was probably for the first time in the history of Ukrainian icon painting that some specific elements of landscape and architecture were used as a background in the icons of glorious and passion cycles. Four out of seventy icons of the multi-layer composition were created in the 19th century. Frescoes of a famous Ukrainian painter Luka Dolins’kiy of the end of 18th century can be seen in the church.
The location of the church – B.Chmel’nits’kiy str., 77