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Armenian Cathedral of Lviv, Lviv, Ukraine

The Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary (Вірменський собор) is one of the oldest Armenian churches in the Europe. The cathedral is located in the heart of Western Ukraine - in amazing Lviv. Probably the geographical location of the city and hence the church (on the borderline of Ukraine and Poland) is a reason for its unique religious and architectural history. The Armenian Cathedral was rebuilt and renovated, survived in a fire, changed ruling dynasties and is still a functioning church for more than 6 centuries.

Armenian Cathedral, located in the Lviv’s Old town not far from Armenian Street (Virmens’ka Street), is believed to be initially constructed in the likeness of Cathedral of Ani. Indeed, despite of numerous reconstructions and later annexes, the building has striking similarity with the Cathedral of Ani. The central dome of the building is very similar to the extant descriptions of the Ani Cathedral’s one. While standing next to the Armenian Cathedral of Lviv, one can imagine how impressive and beautiful the cathedral of Ani was.

The church was built in 1363-1370, thanks to the donation of a reach Armenian merchant from Caffa (Feodosia). Later it was renovated and some parts of the building were even rebuilt. The changes touched not only the architecture of the building, but also its religious function: until the end of World War II the cathedral was under the control of Armenian Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv, from 1945 till the fall of Soviet Union the cathedral was used as a depot for the forbidden icons of the Lviv National Museum. In 2000 the cathedral, thanks to the demands of local Armenians, became the Eparchy of Ukraine of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Today both apostolic and catholic Armenians can use the church. Though the cathedral is always crowded and full of touristic groups, it is very hard to meet an Armenian inside the cathedral.

One of the most interesting characteristics of the church is that despite its external similarity with Armenian churches, inside, because of the numerous icons, rich colors and decoration, it does not represent traditional Armenian church interior, but is more like European catholic ones. Only four-winged Armenian cross on the walls and windows, the Armenian style depictions of cherubs and also the khachkars, standing next to the building’s entrance remind about the origin of the creators of this amazing building. Other elements reminding Armenians are the coasters for the candles, filled with sand.

Because of the numerous renovations, among its initial gothic features the church got elements from renaissance and baroque and even modern architectural styles. Probably the latest elements within the building are the modern style wall murals, made during the 1920s by Jan Henryk de Rosen. The murals represent different religious scenes and make the interior of the church amazingly colorful and bright. Rosen, who was a bit more than 20 years old at the moment he started working on Armenian Cathedral, was quite courageous and used rich colors and real people as prototypes for his frescos. The result of his work makes Armenian Cathedral one of the most colorful religious buildings of incredible Lviv.

By Anna Pambukhchyan,


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