Churhes of Ukrain
CHURCHES OF UKRAIN
BEYOND THE BOUNDS OF TIME
In 988, Grand Prince of Kyiv, Volodymyr, introduced Christian faith in his land. Worshipping a new God, our ancestors began construction of new sanctuaries on the sites of heathen temples, in sacred woods and forests, on ancient barrows left by the mystical Scythians, Cimmerians and Sarmatians. Thus, only in three decades after the Baptism by Volodymyr, amazed foreigners counted more than four hundred churches in Kyiv alone, then a city of small area. Our first chronicle mentions Prince Yaroslav the Wise, son of Volodymyr, under the year of 1037: “Rejoices Yaroslav beholding a host of churches.
Orthodoxy sees the highest sense of Christianity in divine service, in communion with the heavenly powers that are present in the church invisibly.
First Kyivan princes understood that the church is not only God’s house, not only an eternal monument to them and their times, but the highest opportunity to beautify and glorify their capital city, their land and their people.
This land, bound by hard frosts, buried under deep snows could not produce severe, heavy stone Romanesque or gloomy Gothic cathedrals.
The churches built there were buoyant, colourful, smiling. It is known that first Kyivan stone cathedrals – the St. Sophia and of the Tithes – were painted with frescos even on the outside. Later, all of our churches were built only on eminences, on hills and mounds with much of space and sun, be it the famous Kyiv and Pochaiv Lavras, or Chernihiv and Lviv cathedrals, or Cossack Churches of the Intercession in Naddniprianschyna, or else wooden churches of the Carpathians and Podillia, unique in the Christian world for their fantastic architecture.
For every Ukrainian church is like a message from the olden ages. The Divine Eye. The shadow of eternity, the light gloam that never turns into the night. Through centuries, our ancestors looked at their churches with serene eyes, rejoicing gently and protecting them, decorating them with icons and artistically carved ornate iconostases, valuable vessels, shrouds, and gonfalons. However, not all of them were bright-eyed, there were also those who looked at God’s houses with heavy, sinister eyes of a destroyer. But those good-for-nothing herostratoses are only a fleeting shadow in the endless train of noble generations that protected the divine beauty even after their death.
The church stood above the world, above human triviality, above daily vanity, it was fate, a sign of eternity in this unstable and fragile life.
Despite the ages of barbarous invasions, oppression, humiliation and prejudices, churches united all of us and were mysterious bridges between us and the world, between the poorest Ukrainian hut and world civilisation. The church was visited by German Bishop Thietmar von Merseburg (11th c.), French engineer Beauplan (17th c.), or great Austrian poet Rilke (20th c.), and all of them saw the same God whom they worshipped as well, the same angels and hosts of saints, though even more exalted, mysterious, brought from the beginning of Christianity.
However much we may be proud of this great heritage of ours, it should be said that the church cannot exist as an historical absolute, because it is not only memories and golden dreams about the past but an essential unity of all three measures of time, an appeal to the future, to eternity.
In view of all tragic historical reasons, sacral art in our land did not develop practically during almost the entire 20th century. It could not get over millennial canons, as it was done in all civilised Christian countries. And now Ukraine, from the standpoint of church architecture, remains a peculiar preserve of Orthodox culture, though for a long time life has been demanding new forms that knock persistently at the high gates of our cathedrals from far and near abroad.
Meanwhile, waiting for new discoveries, let us glorify millennial attainments of our folk genius.
A WORD CHURCHES
In the time when the Ukrainian statehood is being established and the revival of the national culture and spirituality of the people is going on, the historico-cultural and artistic comprehension of the thousand-year history of ecclesiastical architecture in our lands should be given special consideration. The Ukrainian people have embodied the highest achievements of science, culture and arts, all of their finest accomplishments and the most ardent aspirations in church structures.
A small part of these creations, representing certain periods in the history and social development of the society, has come down to our times. They have lived through numerous evil years and those that have survived should be taken care of and protected. They should stimulate contemporary architectural activities, and their investigations and creative reinterpretation are necessary for the further development of church construction in this country.
This edition represents the most significant and well-known churches of Ukraine. The monuments of ecclesiastical architecture presented selectively in chronological order give a picture of original culture of the Ukrainian people and testify to their great contribution to the treasury of world civilization.
With the development of historico-architectural science, churches, as outstanding monuments of architecture, have become objects of investigation and study for many generations of researchers. This short essay is not going to cover scientific activities of researchers who made a considerable contribution to the studies of church architecture in Ukraine. However, some of them should be mentioned at least in brief.
Professional foundations of studies of ecclesiastical construction in Ukraine were laid down in the late nineteenth – first quarter of the twentieth centuries by such researchers as H. Pavlutsky, V. Scherbakivsky, V. Leontovych, S. Taranushenko, M. Drahan, F. Schmit and F. Ernst.
In the post-war years, church structures were studied by P. Yurchenko, Yu. Aseyev, H. Lohvyn, I. Ihnatkin,
M. Tsapenko, M. Kholostenko, D. Yablonsky, P. Zholtovsky, P. Makushenko, V. Yasiyevych, V. Chepelyk, M. Hovdenko,
Ye. Lopushynska, I. Staroselsky, and B. Sobolevsky. Later they were joined by I. Mohytych, L. Miliayeva, S. Kilesso, O. Hodovaniuk, V. Tymofienko, Ye. Tymanovych, T. Trehubova, O. Lesyk, B. Kolosok, V. Vuitsyk, V. Vechersky, O. Plamenytska, V. Zavada, and T. Kilesso. Many of them have greatly contributed to the protection and restoration of monuments of church architecture in Ukraine.
This list should be supplemented with the names of such restorers as V. Korneieva, O. Hrauzhis, V. Otchenashko,
Ye. Osadchy, Yu. Losytsky, and V. Shevchenko, who not only preserved numerous monuments but enriched the historico- architectural science with new discoveries.
Professional investigations of wooden church structures as creations of architectural art began at the turn of the twentieth century. Much credit for studies of folk traditions in church construction is due to H. Pavlutsky, V. Scherbakivsky, V. Leontovych, M. Drahan, V. Sichynsky, P. Yurchenko, S. Taranushenko, P. Makushenko,
H. Lohvyn, and I. Mohytych.
H. Lohvyn and P. Yurchenko, touching upon the process of historical development of Ukrainian church forms, examine architectural and typological peculiarities of churches with regard to historico-ethnographic regions, distinguishing such schools of folk church architecture as Hutsul, Boiky, Halychyna, Lemky, Bukovyna, Volyn, Podillia, Slobozhanschyna, Chernihiv and Middle Naddniprianschyna.
Considering planning organisation and spatial structure, H. Lohvyn divides traditional wooden churches into three groups:
– three-frame churches without domes or house-type churches;
– single-domed (three-frame, five-frame);
– multidomed (two-domed two-frame, three-domed three-frame, three-domed five-frame, five-domed five-frame, and nine-domed nine-frame).
The simplest type of the church is three-frame, covered by a span or a hip roof. The roof was treated according to the character of the planning structure. Sometimes it united the structure into a single volume, in other cases it divided the building according to its planning organisation. Structures of the second and third groups differ not only in the number of domes but also in the shapes of frames and tops of every frame. Traditional churches that have come down to our time indicate that initially their frames were tetragonal with tent roofing. With time, the tetra- and octagonal frames were covered with octagonal terminations. The vertical development of church structures promoted the appearance of stepped tops.
At the end of the eighteenth century, within the frames of those planning types certain local features of church architecture took shape, depending on the peculiarities of historical development, natural conditions and local building traditions.
Three-frame structures without domes are typical of traditional Bukovyna architecture. The roofing of each frame was not seen from outside because they were covered by a common roof and resembled houses by their outlines, hence this type was called the house-type church. St. Nicholas’s Church in Chernivtsi is a specimen of this type.
Three-frame single-domed churches are characteristic of Podillia architecture (the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross in Kamyanets-Podilsky).
Consummate in their design are single-domed churches of Hutsulschyna. They are mainly five-frame structures with octagonal terminations on squares, without steps. Sharply protruding eaves supported by brackets run along the perimeter of the structure. In general, Hutsul churches are marked by elegant proportions and compositional integrity. The Church of the Nativity of Our Lady in Vorokhta and the Ascension Church in Yasinia are fine examples of this type.
Single-domed five-frame churches were widespread in Left-Bank Polissia. Their peculiarity was a considerable height of the central frame and its termination.
A three-domed three-frame church is the most popular type in Ukraine. The Boiky churches are especially elegant in their shape. The developed terminations of the frames with numerous steps harmoniously blend with the mountainous views of the area (churches in Oriavchyk, Tukholka, Matkiv).
Whereas Boiky churches are characterised by a large number of horizontal divisions, church architecture of Naddniprianschyna has a vertical composition of terminations. Three- and five-frame churches of this area have polygonal frames. Every frame stands out clearly in the church form, and the upper part of the structure has deep hollows between the frames. The outlines of external shapes and those of the interior volume in Boiky and Naddniprianschyna churches are the same.
In planning and construction solution, Lemky and Boiky churches are very much alike. The difference is in the dynamic composition of terminations of Lemky churches in the direction from the chancel to the narthex, dominated by a rather tall tower, like in the Intercession Church from the village of Kanora (now in the Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in Kyiv, Pyrohove).
Church construction in Halychyna is characterised by overhanging eaves and galleries and the plastic treatment of terminations of the frames. Predominant are three-domed structures. St. Parasceve’s Church in the village of Krekhiv is a classical example of churches of the Halychyna school.
In Volyn, three-frame three- and single-domed churches are popular, their peculiarity being somewhat squattish terminations (St. George’s Church in Dubno).
In the late eighteenth century folk masters from Slobozhanschyna and Poltava region achieved high standards in ecclesiastical construction. Five-frame single-, three- and five-domed Slobozhanschyna churches are close to Naddniprianschyna structures with their rather tall terminations.
Bell towers are linked with churches compositionally and stylistically. A two-tier bell tower is typical of traditional architecture in all Ukrainian regions. The first tier of the frame structure, a covered cage, was used as a storeroom for implements.
The second, open, tier of skeleton construction, was intended for bells. Another type of bell tower, where the first and the second tiers were skeletal, was popular as well. In some cases the lower tier was planked and used as premises, in others it remained open. As a rule, bell towers were built near churches at the sa,me time, so their architectural peculiarities, the character of terminations, and stylistic features corresponded to those of the churches. Bell towers of churches of St. George in Drohobych and St. Michael in the village of Yasenytsia, Lviv region, are unique monuments of architectural art and engineering.
Decorative carving was one of the oldest means of architectural and artistic expression used by folk architects in traditional church building. Ornamental hollow carving is widespread in Hutsulschyna,
Boiky area and Transcarpathia. Its characteristic feature is a geometric or plant ornament made by shallow carving on the surface of a wooden element.
In Left-Bank Polissia, Naddniprianschyna, Slobozhanschyna and Poltava region, ornamental relief carving prevailed in traditional church construction. In contrast to hollow ornamentation, low relief is more expressive and presents an ornamental composition in deep cutting of various depths.
Such carving decorated door surrounds, braces and cornices of churches.
In carved compositions geometric and plant motifs were united with neo-classical elements.
Along with the employment of the above-mentioned types of carving, architectural and constructive details of churches were decorated with high relief and contour carving, in particular posts and struts of galleries, brackets and the projecting parts of beams.
Like in masonry church architecture of that time, iconostases are also distinguished for elaborate carving of high artistic level, particularly in the churches of the Holy Spirit in Rohatyn, St. Parasceve in the village of Krekhiv, of the Holy Trinity and the Nativity of Our Lady in Zhovkva.
Mural subject paintings surviving in wooden churches of the sixteenth – seventeenth centuries are of great artistic value. Among them, special mention should be made of well- known wall paintings in the churches of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and St. George in Drohobych, and the Church of the Holy Spirit in the village of Potelych. The walls of Ukrainian tradition al churches made of hewn logs had large smooth planes which made it possible to cover them with paintings. In most cases, paints were applied directly on the plane of the frame. Only sometimes, the foundation was smoothed down with a thin layer of priming or wall timbers were pasted with canvas bands. Freely arranged and differing in dimensions, the subject compositions covered all of the interior planes of the frame, without breaking the architectonics of the structure. The subject paintings that have survived cannot but impress you with their rich colouring and decorativeness.
Higher professional standards mark church architecture of the neo classical period that covers the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The formation of a new architectural-stylistic trend in Ukraine caused by essential changes in economic and sociopolitical life corresponded, in general, to the tendencies in the development of architecture in the Russian Empire.
Churches of the neo-classical period are characterised by modest solution and restrained decoration. Their structure is defined by geometrically regular outlines of architectural forms and the classical order system.
At this time, churches of the central-plan type became widespread. It was a square structure with a dome termination slightly raised on a drum and porticos attached at the sides.
In some cases, such a structure could have five domes, like the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour in Novhorod-Siversky (architect J. Quarenghi). A type of church came into being which was formed by uniting a single-domed volume and a bell tower built at the continuation of the structure axis in the west direction. The Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour in Dnipropetrovsk (architect A. Zakharov) belongs to this type. There were also churches circular in plan, with a single dome and portico attached to the west side, e.g., St. Nicholas’s Church in the village of Dykanka. However, small provincial churches were usually cruciform in plan, with a single dome and porticos. A bell tower was often built over the west entrance.
Stylistic diversity is characteristic of churches of the latter half of the nineteenth – early twentieth centuries. A number of social and historical conditions that formed in the Russian Empire under the impact of the quick development of capitalism promoted the assertion of new aesthetic principles in architecture.
Architects of the latter half of the nineteenth century widely used historical styles. Stylisation of the previously devised plastic idiom in other social circumstances defines the eclectic character of architecture of that period. Retrospective stylisations were based on motifs of Renaissance, Baroque, Byzantine and Old Rus architecture (St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kyiv, St. Anastasia’s Church in Hlukhiv).
At the turn of the twentieth century the development of Ukrainian architecture was marked by new stylistic tendencies, the Art Nouveau became widespread. Rationalistic in its essence as it was, architecture of that style looked novel against the background of eclectic trends. There were no typological changes in church construction at that time. Churches built at that time (St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kyiv, the Trinity Church in Sumy, the Intercession Church in the village of Parkhomivka) indicate that spatial-planning solutions of the previous epochs remained the basis of their construction.
Revolutionary upheavals in the early twentieth century and the later devastating attack of the totalitarian regime against national cultural heritage interrupted the evolution of traditions in church architecture of Ukraine.
Nowadays, in the time of spiritual rejuvenation, the construction of new churches and restoration of demolished ones is going on an unprecedented scale. Unfortunately, the architectural and artistic solution of newly built structures sometimes does not correspond to historical traditions of church architecture in Ukraine and on some occasions is incongruous with stylistic tendencies in contemporary architecture. The illustrated publication that covers the thousand-year history of Ukrainian churches is intended to acquaint the reader with the diversity of types and images of church structures, with the great heritage of the Ukrainian people that should be preserved for generations to come. New churches should be built whose forms and images would symbolise the present time in all its diversity.