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Districts and communities of the medieval city

OLEXII FEDAK

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The multinational composition of the population is one of the features of the medieval city. Many cities used the Magdeburg right granted by the authorities to regulate relations between people of different nationalities. However, considering cultural and religious differences, communities lived in particular streets and created quarters.

Therefore, in the Middle Ages, the center of the city was divided into quarters. De jure, it was recorded in Magdeburg law, which Casimir III re-granted to the city in 1356. Each district was inhabited by separate communities, that differed in nationality, religion, and had its traditions and customs. Before-mentioned differences became a prerequisite for the division of urban space. Knowledge of the peculiarities of the medieval quarters and communities provides an understanding of the tangible and intangible heritage of the modern center of Lviv.


Following the development of trade, there was an improvement of individual national communities, which led to intense competition within the city. Despite numerous disputes, such rivalry has consolidated communities. However, sometimes misunderstandings turned into physical conflicts, which often ended fatally.


In the second half of the 14th century, there were four main communities in Lviv: Latin, Ruthenian, Jewish, and Armenian. Each community had different opportunities in the context of Magdeburg law and royal privileges. The Catholics were in a better economic and legal position and later formed the main city group of patricians. Inequality of legal opportunities has become physically entrenched – inside the districts, their space, and features. Architectural features of cultural contrasts we can easily recognize even today.

Catholic community

The Catholic community was formed mainly by Poles, Germans, Italians, and British. The largest number of houses in the city center, particularly in Rynok Square, belonged to members of this community because they enjoyed special privileges. The Catholics lived on the Halytska and Krakivska streets, where trade flourished and in the area near the safest walls of the city, which stretched along the former bed of the Poltva river (today Teatralna street). The size of the Latin Cathedral is an illustrative example of the importance and influence of the Catholic community.

 

Ruthenian quarter

Ruthenians were the titular nation of the Galicia-Volhynia principality but lost their privileged position after the annexation of Galicia to the Kingdom of Poland. In particular, the center of Lviv was moved from the Old Rynok Square to the modern Rynok Square. Thereby most Ruthenians remained in the suburbs, while others made up a small proportion in the new center.

The location of the community in the city center was unfavorable because the densely populated neighborhood was located near the most attacked Eastern Wall. Conflicts and disputes often arose due to the dominance of Catholics. On the other hand, it contributed to the unity of the Ruthenian community, whose power is reflected in the complex of the Church of the Assumption and several streets that we can see today.

Armenian quarter

Armenian merchants were quite wealthy and controlled much of eastern trade. Besides, Armenians specialized in many crafts and were skilled craftsmen. The heritage of one of the main communities of the city can be seen on Armenian street. The courtyard that deserves special attention can be reached through the passage in the bell tower. From here you can see a large part of the preserved buildings: the exterior of the apse of the church, the courtyard, the monastery, the episcopal residence, and even the bank premises.

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish community was very different from the Christian population, which was the majority in the city. The Jews were mainly engaged in trade, and even despite many oppressions, they did it skillfully and successfully. The current "Synagogue Space" was the center of community life, and once housed two synagogues and the house of wisdom Beth Hamidrash.



Community members considered themselves citizens and residents of one city, despite the ethnic and religious differences. Together they defended its walls. Today, walking through the streets of the old city center, you can see only the architectural differences of a single cultural heritage.

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