Renaissance Architectural Masterpieces of Lviv
A medieval chronicler once called Lviv ‘a city at the crossroads of a hundred languages’, which to a large extent was true. Almost from its foundation, many languages could be heard within the walls of Lviv, as traders and travelers came to the city from many parts of Europe and Asia.
For centuries Lviv was a significant stopping point on the main trade routes between the east and the west – and the city’s prime location helped pay for its strikingly beautiful architecture. You had to be rich and famous to trade here, every merchant passing through was forced to stay and sell their goods for at least two weeks and sometimes even longer and they had to be able to afford Italy's finest architects to put their wealth on display.
Incidentally, it was the Italians who laid out the first ever park in Lviv —the oldest park in Ukraine, created in the second half of the XVI century – the Jesuit Park, now called Ivan Franko Park. Four hundred years ago, municipal fields stretched across this area, some time later, this land fell into private hands. At the end of the XVI century, a wealthy Lviv citizen called Jan Scholz–Wolfowich, spent 1,600 gold pieces to lay out plans for the park. Sometime later, he gave his daughter’s hand in marriage to Antonio Massari, the Italian Consul of the Venetian Republic in Lviv, and the ownership of the park was transferred to his son-in-law. Massari re-arranged the park according to the popular Italian style. In 1855, the park was returned to the city, and thus became one of the oldest municipal parks in Eastern Europe.
Italians should also be given credit for setting up the postal service as well as for the building of the first post office, which appeared on March 4, 1629. Polish King Sigismund III, honoured Lviv citizen of Italian origin, Roberto Bandinelli with the title “The Royal Postmaster” and the right to deliver mail. Every Saturday, Leopolitans could send and receive letters from all over Europe and couriers transported messages by relay, ensuring the privacy of their messages. However postal services were very expensive in those days, as paper was very thick and heavy, so much so that a correspondence weighing only 6 grams and destined for Gdansk, was equal to the daily salary of a qualified craftsman. Today a post office museum functions inside the Palazzo Bandinelli building.
The first Italian architects on the site
When part of Lviv was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1527 a number of Italian architects were invited to help rebuild the city and they left their Italian imprint on Lviv. The stabile economic situation of the city made it possible to implement massive reconstruction according to contemporary fashion and following the influence of Renaissance traditions. These architectural traditions were brought to Lviv by people from northern Italy and southern Switzerland, particularly from the regions of Como and Lugano. The first known master mentioned in town record books was in 1563, and was Petrus Murator Italus de Luugnon. His most important building project in Lviv was the Dormition Church that had to be built anew after the old edifice was destroyed by the fire of 1527. The church was finished and consecrated in 1559, however the building was destroyed by another fire in 1571. Among other works attributed to Petrus Italus were the porches of several private homes.
The 1560s brought further records mentioning new Italian masters in Lviv, Gabryel Quadro Italus magister murator (1561), brothers Angiolo and Gallacius designated as Itali de Bruzin (the latter died in 1560), Franciscus Roland de Brusimpiano, Peregrinus Bononicus and Christophus Bozzano from Ferrara.
Not all these names have any immediate connection to the existing Renaissance monuments, but they do give an idea about the origin of these Renaissance masters, who came from Lombardy, Ferrara, Bologna, and stayed in town for a while.
In 1572 a guild of builders and stonemasons was formed and its statute was confirmed by the town council. Among members of the guild were also Italian masters Petrus Casmur Italus, Rochus Safranyecz Italus, Franciscus Crotophila and Petrus Crassowski Italus Murator Szwanczar, a master who arrived from Ticino and received local citizenship in 1567.
The latter was a very successful architect of private buildings: his ‘Black House’ at 4 Rynok Square is a spectacular example of local Renaissance architecture. In 1577 the master signed an agreement with the owner, Sophia Hannel and was commissioned to decorate the façade and the attic with columns and carved stones. Today it is the most richly and beautifully decorated Renaissance monument – with a façade completely covered with limestone ‘diamond’ rustication. The stone darkened in the nineteenth century and the mansion received its name ‘The Black House’. In 1595, this house was bought by another Italian who had settled in Lviv - Thomaso Alberti.
Glorious heritage of Paulo Romano and Peter Barbon
The winged lion of St. Mark holding a book with the date ‘1600’ with the coat of arms of Venice on it, can be seen on the building at 14 Rynok Square, which used to belong to the Veneration Consul Antonio Massari, is another piece of the palpable and visible Italian presence in Lviv. The house of Antonio Massari was the work of another Italian architect, Paulus Romanus Murator Italus or Paulo Romano, who received local citizenship in 1585. He and his older colleague Peter Barbon (Petrus Barbon Italus murator or Petrus di Barbona) were the most prominent artists of Italian origin working in Lviv. On some projects Peter Barbon worked together with Paulo Romano. It was Peter Barbon who built the new bell-tower for the Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary commissioned by Konstantyn Korniakt, a rich Greek merchant who had settled in the town (for this reason it was often called Korniakt’s tower). Korniakt also commissioned Peter Barbon to build his own home at 6 Rynok Square (today it’s part of the Lviv Historical museum). The edifice is located on two standard plots and therefore it is twice the size of a regular house on Rynok Square, making Korniakt’s palace one of the largest and most magnificent buildings in the town.
Nowadays, the building showcases features from the XVI-XIX centuries. The first reconstruction occurred in 1640, when the building was bought by King Jan III Sobieski: an attic with figures of knights and a portal with columns were added, while the balcony was added in the nineteenth century. The inner yard, surrounded with a three-storey Renaissance gallery was restored during the 1930s and named ‘The Italian Courtyard’. In order to achieve an effect of lightness and grace, the columns of each storey were of different orders: the Tuscan order on the ground floor, Doric on the first and Ionic on the second. This widely applied principle of Renaissance architects can often be observed in the Roman Coliseum. Today the ‘Italian Courtyard’ is reported as being one of the most popular haunts for both locals and visitors.
Among the greatest works of Paulo Romano are the Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary (the Dormition Church) and the Church of St. Andrew of the Bernardine Friary. One more monument created by Paulo Romano is the Chapel of the Campiani family, local burghers of Italian origin. The chapel was founded in the late XVI century by the head of the family, who arrived in Lviv holding a doctorate from an Italian university.
Paolo Romano was invited to work outside Lviv as well, for example in Jesupol, where he built the Church of the Dominican Friary in 1598.
After the death of Peter Barbon (d.1588) and Paolo Romano (d.1618) the brilliant epoch of Lviv Renaissance architecture was practically over and there were no equally talented Italian architects, despite the fact that many other masters continued their work in Lviv.
Italian Renaissance triumph in Lviv
With numerous private buildings constructed during the second half of the XVI–early XVII century, when virtually all of Rynok Square, was rebuilt in the Renaissance style, Lviv adopted the new style on a mass scale. A house in the town provided merchants with a wonderful opportunity for self-representation and a demonstration of their social and financial status, while Italian masters had the possibility to present one’s identity in a new style. The magnificence of portals that were often built into quite modest buildings seems to be a wide-used means to compensate for a lack of space and monumentality, and to satisfy the aspirations for self-representation. Even Renaissance churches and belfries expressed the same spirit of competition as each of the four main religious groups of Lviv craved to decorate their religious monuments with Renaissance elements, or to restyle and rebuild them in the prestigious style. Although Italian architects working in Lviv were numerous, unfortunately even the most gifted and successful such as Paolo Romano or Peter Barbon, did not establish a local tradition or a school. For almost a century Italian architects settled in Lviv, but none of their sons or pupils produced anything truly significant.
In the beginning of the XVII century, Lviv guild masters were replaced by architects of German and Dutch origin, who were invited by Polish magnates to build Baroque edifices in the town. The ‘golden age’ of Renaissance culture in Lviv faded in the 1620s, when the magnates replaced burghers as artistic patrons in Lviv and architects serving the magnates and not masters of the town guilds played primary roles in architecture. The beginning of the 17th century marked the domination of Baroque shapes in Lviv architecture. However the glorious years of the Italian period in Lviv are not forgotten and in some parts of town, Italian tourists feel themselves quite at home, surrounded by familiar buildings and a lovely atmosphere.