Lviv, an An­cient Euro­pean City

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Shasha Edited by Justin Davis Pho­tos by Zhou Xiaoqi

This fas­ci­nat­ing lo­cale has been in­flu­enced by many cul­tures over the cen­turies. It is cur­rently a mod­ern tourist lo­ca­tion with a lot to of­fer.

In 1256, King Daniel of Gali­cia (1201– 1264) es­tab­lished the city of Lviv in the west of present-day Ukraine and named it af­ter his son. To­day, Lviv is a ma­jor western Ukrainian city and on the main traf­fic route from Kiev and Cen­tral and Eastern Europe to the ports along the Black Sea and Baltic Sea. This ad­van­tagous geo­graph­i­cal po­si­tion has pro­moted the lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and cul­tural in­te­gra­tion. Lviv—the En­sem­ble of the His­toric Cen­tre, home to a myr­iad of places of his­toric in­ter­est, was in­scribed on the UN­ESCO World Her­itage List in 1998. Lviv was the first place in the Ukraine to be in­cluded on the UN­ESCO World Her­itage List af­ter the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence and has played an ir­re­place­able sym­bolic role for the coun­try. The city’s po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial sta­tus has at­tracted many eth­nic groups with dif­fer­ent cul­tural and re­li­gious tra­di­tions, which have blended to­gether and left be­hind a di­verse his­tor­i­cal legacy in the city. Var­i­ous ar­chi­tec­tural styles can be seen in Lviv, such as Western Euro­pean, Mediter­ranean, Gothic, Baroque, Byzan­tine and Art Nou­veau styles, rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent stages of Euro­pean ar­chi­tec­ture. Lviv is thus hon­oured as the allem­brac­ing “lit­tle Europe.”

‘Lit­tle Europe’

Lviv has a his­tory of more than 700 years and was some­times an ill-fated city. It

was trapped in war­fare due to its role as a trans­port cor­ri­dor. The city was also di­vided into dif­fer­ent spheres of in­flu­ence ruled by dif­fer­ent coun­tries, such as the Pol­ish-Lithua­nian Com­mon­wealth (16th–18th cen­turies), Aus­tria-hun­gary (1867–1918), Ot­toman Empire (1290–1922), Swe­den and the Soviet Union. Dur­ing the process, dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties brought about their own na­tional cul­ture, art, tra­di­tions and re­li­gions to Lviv, al­low­ing the city to ab­sorb the cul­tures from Cen­tral and Eastern Europe and from Western Euro­pean coun­tries. To­day, this his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural city is very leisurely and is a good travel desti­na­tion. It at­tracts tourists from all over the world and is a favourite desti­na­tion of Ukraini­ans also.

For hun­dreds of years, Lviv was suc­ces­sively con­trolled by many rulers but re­mained un­daunted in the face of his­tor­i­cal tur­bu­lence. Lviv came un­der at­tack in its south dur­ing World War II (1939–1945), but the his­toric build­ings in its cen­tre sur­vived and have been much bet­ter pre­served com­pared with the rest of the city. Lviv’s His­toric Cen­tre is not large. It is, how­ever, like a bot­tle of aged red wine, giv­ing off an in­tox­i­cat­ing aroma. The cen­tre is like a paint­ing de­pict­ing all of Lviv’s his­tory, glo­ries, and its rise and fall in front of vis­i­tors’ eyes. To­day, the city is full of leisurely el­e­ments on its streets, such as ven­dors, cafes, sou­venir shops, spe­cialty restau­rants and so on. Every cor­ner is per­me­ated by an an­cient and ro­man­tic at­mos­phere. It is a con­fi­dent city, and lo­cals take pride in the charm of their tra­di­tional cul­ture.

The lay­out of Lviv’s His­toric Cen­tre has hardly changed since the 15th cen­tury. Most of its old walls have been torn down. Those that have been pre­served show what the city was like. Vis­i­tors who come here do not want to miss a sin­gle de­tail of it. The cen­turies-old works of ar­chi­tec­ture, with their shad­ows re­flected on the nar­row streets, and the flag­stone roads that are very smooth as a re­sult of traf­fic over the years form a fan­tas­tic, an­cient Euro­pean city. It has ex­pe­ri­enced many vi­cis­si­tudes over the course of time. Lviv com­bines his­tory and modernity in an in­ter­est­ing way. Farm­ers from the coun­try­side come to the city to sell their hand­made pot­tery, while smart­phone shops in me­dieval build­ings be­side them sell the lat­est mod­els.

The Mar­ket Square is in the mid­dle of the His­toric Cen­tre and has wit­nessed the city’s long his­tory. The Mar­ket Square can be traced back to the 14th cen­tury. It was burned to ashes as a re­sult of two big fires in 1527 and 1556. All of the mod­ern build­ings that can be seen to­day were built af­ter the 16th cen­tury. In 2010, UN­ESCO des­ig­nated Lviv as an an­cient, Euro­pean cap­i­tal and al­lo­cated funds to re­store its an­cient build­ings. Many an­cient build­ings in the His­toric Cen­tre bear name­plates in­di­cat­ing when they were made and re­lated in­for­ma­tion.

Mar­ket Square, Heart of the Cen­tury-old City

The Mar­ket Square at the cen­tre of Lviv’s His­toric Cen­tre was built in the Mid­dle Ages (a. AD 476–1453). City Hall is in the heart of this area. Dis­tinc­tive build­ings around the square were built in the 16th cen­tury, where the up­per class lived for gen­er­a­tions. The Lviv His­tory Mu­seum, a 16th-cen­tury Re­nais­sance build­ing, lies at the north­east of the square. An­other mu­seum fea­tur­ing me­dieval fur­ni­ture and pot­tery is nearby. The build­ing that is now the Lviv Phar­macy Mu­seum was orig­i­nally built in 1735. It is

across the street from the His­tory Mu­seum. The Boim Chapel is to the east side of the His­tory Mu­seum. It is a good ex­am­ple of 18th cen­tury Baroque ar­chi­tec­ture. The Latin Cathe­dral is at the south­west cor­ner of the square. It be­longs to the Lviv Ro­man Catholic Arch­bish­ops and was built in the 14th and 15th cen­turies. The palace is now the head­quar­ters of Ukrainian Catholi­cism, a spir­i­tual pil­lar for Ukraini­ans.

All of the build­ings on Mar­ket Square are clus­tered around City Hall, which of course is door No. 1 in the area’s ad­dress sys­tem. A tall bell tower lies be­hind the hall, which was built in 1318 and re­stored in 1827 af­ter be­ing de­stroyed by fire. Peo­ple can en­joy a panoramic view of the His­toric Cen­tre af­ter as­cend­ing the 350-step spi­ral stair­case lead­ing to the top of the 60-m bell tower. Houses of dif­fer­ent heights, churches of var­ied sizes and criss-cross­ing roads can be seen from the top of the tower, re­veal­ing the rhythm of the city. Peo­ple can also get a view of the lush moun­tains in the dis­tance.

The Lviv His­tory Mu­seum is the No. 4 build­ing in the area. It is a dis­tinc­tive, all­black build­ing and of­ten re­ferred to as the “Black House.” There are a few all-black build­ings in the His­toric Cen­tre. Only Boim Chapel a short dis­tance away is on a par with it. Built be­tween 1588 and 1589, what is now the Lviv His­tory Mu­seum was trans­formed into a his­tory mu­seum in 1929. It is in fact made up of build­ings No. 4, 6 and 24. Build­ing No. 6 was built in the 16th cen­tury and used to be the res­i­dence of King John III So­bieski (reign: 1674–1696) of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, also known as “Lion of Lechis­tan (an­other name for Poland).” Fur­ni­ture and scenes from when the king moved in are on dis­play on the sec­ond floor of the build­ing. The Lviv His­tory Mu­seum also has an in­con­spic­u­ous Ital­ian court­yard, which was built by an ar­chi­tect for a wealthy busi­ness­man in Lviv. The deep and el­e­gant court­yard is one of Lviv’s few Ital­ian-style build­ings. Build­ing No. 24 was where Peter the Great lived and is the old­est struc­ture in the city of Lviv. Some his­tor­i­cal ma­te­ri­als are on dis­play there, pro­vid­ing a more de­tailed un­der­stand­ing of the his­tory of western Ukraine. Many small, fea­tured mu­se­ums are also worth a visit. The Mu­seum of Me­dieval Fur­ni­ture is a col­lec­tion of me­dieval Euro­pean fur­ni­ture, of­fer­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for vis­i­tors.

The Lviv Phar­macy Mu­seum is a com­bi­na­tion of an­tiq­uity and modernity. It fea­tures an­tique cash reg­is­ters as well as mod­ern, elec­tronic equiv­a­lents, sym­bol­is­ing the fact that the city in­te­grates his­tory and modernity. The phar­macy in the front is still in op­er­a­tion while the mu­seum in the back fea­tures an­cient, Euro­pean books about medicine, var­i­ous types of medicine, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal tools and medicine con­tain­ers from var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal pe­ri­ods. A mer­chant from Venice and con­sul of the Repub­lic of Venice in Lviv used to live nearby. In the past, a phar­macy li­cense was a key to wealth and power in the city. Phar­ma­cists could be­come wealthy mer­chants, aris­to­crats and coun­cil­lors. The own­ers of many stately houses on the Mar­ket Square ac­quired wealth via bulk trades be­tween ar­eas along the Aegean Sea and the Baltic Sea. Later, they built a se­ries of build­ings that have been handed down for gen­er­a­tions.

Walk­ing along wide, pedes­trian streets and through Taras Shevchenko Square, the Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let comes into view. Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861) was a fa­mous Ukrainian poet, artist and hu­man­i­tar­ian. His lit­er­ary works are re­garded as the foun­da­tion of mod­ern Ukrainian lit­er­a­ture and even the mod­ern Ukrainian lan­guage. Shevchenko has also left many mas­ter­pieces of fine arts. His stat­ues are found in al­most every city in Ukraine, and many uni­ver­si­ties are also named af­ter him.

The Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let built in 1900 is per­haps the most strik­ing his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ment in the His­toric Cen­tre. This Baroque-style opera and bal­let the­atre has long been the land­mark struc­ture of Lviv and fea­tures a mag­nif­i­cent, dig­ni­fied and el­e­gant ap­pear­ance. In the eyes of the Lviv peo­ple, the Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let ri­vals the world-fa­mous Vi­enna State Opera and the Bol­shoi The­atre. The corinthian or­der from an­cient Greece is ap­plied to its front el­e­va­tion, which is also dec­o­rated with niches, pi­lasters, rail­ings, cor­nices, stat­ues and re­liefs. There are com­i­cal and tragic sculp­tures above the front door to each side, re­spec­tively, and stat­ues of Muses in the mid­dle. Three large bronze fig­ures stand on top of the build­ing, each sym­bol­is­ing glory, poetry and mu­sic, also re­spec­tively. The lux­u­ri­ous dec­o­ra­tions in­side and out­side the Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let rep­re­sent Euro­pean paint­ing and sculp­ture from the late 19th cen­tury.

In 1895, Zyg­munt Gor­golewski (1845– 1903), then Pres­i­dent of the Lviv Ad­vanced In­dus­trial and Tech­no­log­i­cal Col­lege, stood out among many fa­mous Euro­pean ar­chi­tects and be­came the ar­chi­tect and de­signer of the Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let. A the­atre of opera and bal­let is said to be the em­bod­i­ment of an

an­cient city’s cul­ture and soul. As a cen­tre for eco­nomic and cul­tural in­te­gra­tion in the Ukraine and even Eastern Europe in gen­eral, the Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let is highly re­garded in the coun­try. Opera and bal­let are the core of Euro­pean per­form­ing arts. They par­tic­u­larly thrived in the clas­si­cal pe­riod and were en­joyed by no­bles. More and more peo­ple have been able to en­joy clas­si­cal art as so­ci­ety has been lib­er­alised. As a re­sult, opera houses and bal­let the­atres have be­come pop­u­lar through­out Europe. In Septem­ber 2006, the main cel­e­bra­tion ac­tiv­i­ties for the 750th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of Lviv were held around the Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let.

Churches, Holy Places of Art in Lviv

Lviv has a com­plex re­li­gious cul­ture and is an im­por­tant re­li­gious cen­tre in Ukraine. The city is the Ro­man Catholic cen­tre of Ukraine and was the cen­tre of Uni­atism in the coun­try be­fore Au­gust 21, 2005 also. About 35 per­cent of the city’s re­li­gious build­ings are Uni­a­tian, 11.5 per­cent be­long to the Uk­train’s au­ton­o­mous Or­tho­dox church, nine per­cent be­long to the Ukrainian Or­tho­dox-kyiv Re­li­gious Dis­trict and the Ro­man Catholi­cism of Latin eti­quette have six per­cent.

Saint Ge­orge’s Cathe­dral is af­fil­i­ated with Ukrainian Catholi­cism and was orig­i­nally built in the 13th cen­tury. This wooden cathe­dral was de­stroyed by the Pol­ish king in 1340 and re­built in the mid-18th cen­tury. The new struc­ture looks gor­geous and dis­tinc­tive. It fea­tures del­i­cate carv­ings; qui­etly, el­e­gant colour; a strong, Western Euro­pean style and lo­cal Ukrainian flavour.

The Ar­me­nian Cathe­dral is lo­cated around the Mar­ket Square and was built in the 14th cen­tury. Un­like the other sim­ple, Ar­me­nian churches, it boasts colour­ful fres­coes and daz­zling glass paint­ings in­side, which are worth see­ing. Since its com­ple­tion, the Ar­me­nian Cathe­dral has un­der­gone many re­pairs and ad­di­tions, grad­u­ally be­com­ing what it looks like to­day. Be­fore the Age of Sail (a. 16th–mid-18th cen­turies), the Ar­me­ni­ans con­trolled over­land trade be­tween Europe and Asia. Many of them were ar­ti­sans. They be­gan to ex­cel in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try. When Lviv be­gan to flour­ish, it be­came a multi-eth­nic, multi-re­li­gious set­tle­ment that at­tracted Ger­mans, Ar­me­ni­ans and peo­ple from other na­tion­al­i­ties. To­day, there are still many Ar­me­nian set­tle­ments in western cities in Ukraine, such as Lviv and Kami­anets-podil­skyi.

The Latin Cathe­dral lies at the south­west cor­ner of the Mar­ket Square. It was orig­i­nally a wooden, Ro­man Catholic cathe­dral orig­i­nally built in the mid-14th cen­tury. It was lost in a fire only six years later. In 1360, King Casimir III of Poland (reign: 1333–1370) re­built the church that can be seen to­day. It was ren­o­vated sev­eral times in the years that fol­lowed. The church looks sim­ple from the ex­te­rior but fea­tures ex­quis­ite dec­o­ra­tions in­side, with a riot of colours on its ceil­ing in the fres­coes in var­i­ous shapes vividly de­pict­ing an­cient sto­ries from the Bible.

The Boim Chapel is not far from the Latin Cathe­dral. It has the same dis­tinc­tively black look and el­e­va­tion as the Lviv His­tory Mu­seum. The chapel is not large and serves as the grave­yard and church of the Boim fam­ily. It is one of the most splen­did and fea­tured churches in Lviv. The chapel was built be­tween 1609 and 1615 by the fa­mous for­eign busi­ness­man Ge­orge Boim for his fam­ily in Lviv. Boim was a liquor mer­chant and be­came a cit­i­zen of Lviv af­ter gain­ing huge wealth and suc­cess. He built this chapel at the site of his fam­ily’s ceme­tery with the ap­proval of the mayor at the time. There are nu­mer­ous sculp­tures and dec­o­ra­tions on its out­side and in­side, all of which were cre­ated by fa­mous artists. The Boim fam­ily were pow­er­ful eco­nom­i­cally. The chapel was a re­li­gious mas­ter­piece dur­ing the Re­nais­sance pe­riod. It has be­come a must-see site for tourists to Lviv.

The Church of Saint Olha and Eliz­a­beth is the only Gothic style church in Lviv. Its tow­er­ing spires make it con­spic­u­ous from a dis­tance. Walk­ing along the streets of Lviv’s His­tor­i­cal Cen­tre, peo­ple can also get a view of the city’s an­tique tram­cars, which have been in use for decades. Lviv’s trams be­gan to be con­structed in 1880 and were fully elec­tri­fied in 1894. To­day, there are about 220 tram­cars from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods in Lviv, which are slow but sta­ble, safe and cheap. The city’s res­i­dents still use them of­ten and they are a must-try at­trac­tion for tourists.

Lviv has three trea­sures: cof­fee, beer and choco­late. The city’s choco­late is well known through­out the world. Lviv ex­ports hand­made choco­late. It fea­tures a del­i­cate taste and var­ied shapes. Many vis­i­tors to Lviv’s His­toric Cen­tre like to buy choco­late in the area. The choco­late shops are usu­ally on the sec­ond floor of side­walk cafes. The cafes pro­vide a great place to sam­ple cof­fee and en­joy the view. The city’s many cafes of­fers lo­cals and vis­i­tors a chance to en­joy some leisure time in the af­ter­noon and in­ter­act with each other.

A tram­car in Lviv


The Lviv State Aca­demic The­atre of Opera and Bal­let

Saint Ge­orge’s Cathe­dral

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