The Armenian Cathedral

  • The Armenian Cathedral (14-15th centuries) is a unique monument of Eastern culture in Europe. It is a successful architectural combination of various styles: the typical Armenian sanctuary, the Romanesque-Gothic style of Western Europe, and the traditional Ukrainian Halychyna type.

    In the 1360s the large Armenian community in Lviv commenced the construction of their grand cathedral. Silesian architect Doring designed a church after the model of a cathedral in Ani – the ancient Armenian capital, which is now on the territory of present-day Turkey. The edifice was built of cut stone and faced with ashlar slabs with walls a metre-and-a-half wide. The structure of the dome is unique – it rests on hollow ribs made of earthenware jugs. The cathedral’s interior portrays an authentic image from the East: stylized Armenian sacrificial crosses carved in stone, called khachkars, which dating back to the 14-15th centuries. In addition, the decorative ensemble includes unique frescos on window posts, fragments of the oldest monumental painting in Lviv, and Modernist mosaics and wall-paintings of the early 20th century. All these aspects create unique forms and colouration, rarely found anywhere else in the world.

     The south yard located between the street and the cathedral conveys an inimitable impression: the the 15th century arcaded gallery features European architectural traditions. Here the remains of an ancient Armenian cemetery have been preserved: gravestones, the oldest one being 600 years old, have been transferred from cemeteries of other Armenian churches and monasteries in Lviv. These cemeteries vanished several centuries ago. This cemetery, however, is far from being typical: the cathedral yard is evenly paved with gravestones, and gravestones are also built into the walls. Entering the cathedral yard from the direction of Krakivska Street one can see gravestones of the 16-17th centuries bearing well-preserved inscriptions to the right and to the left of the cathedral. The epitaph for Patriarch Stephan V of Armenia, who died in Lviv in 1551, has been preserved in one of the cathedral’s walls. The full-length figure of the Patriarch was carved in relief by a Lviv craftsman. This gravestone is the oldest one of its kind to have survived to the present day. 

    Another extraordinary facet of the cathedral complex is the 18th century chapel, which is carved of wood and stands outside in the churchyard. The chapel contains an altar featuring the Passion of Christ on Calvary. The column of St. Christopher, erected in 1726, stands in the eastern cathedral yard. This is also the location of the former Palace of Armenian Archbishops and the Armenian bank (the oldest pawnshop in Lviv). The ornamented stone portal, which has been preserved in the bell tower’s arched entranceway, leads the way to the Armenian court. The northern yard belonged to the monastery of the Armenian Benedictines in the 17th century. 

    The first liturgy performed in post-totalitarian times took place in the chapel outside the Cathedral on January 7, 2001. Pope John Paul II prayed in the Lviv Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on the 25th of June 2001. In May 2003 the entrance in Krakivska street was opened, and at the same time, the Armenian Cathedral was sanctified by the Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Church, Catholicos of all Armenians Garegin.

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