Ternopil is one of the largest cities of western Ukraine, in its heart and having the status of an important trade center. It is a quiet, incredibly green city with a unique atmosphere, bright history and a plethora of interesting natural, historical and architectural sites.
The name Ternopil, according to one tale, originates from the phrase "ternovoye polye" (literally, “blackthorn field”), because of blackthorn trees that used to grow here. Another legend claims that the city's name comes from its founder, Grand Crown Hetman Jan Tarnowski. It was he who, after receiving a letter from the Polish ruler Sigismund I the Old calling for a city to be established, built a fortified castle here in the 16th century.
In the Middle Ages, Ternopil stood at the intersection of important trade routes, becoming an important center of commerce. The city was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire since the late 18th century, but after the end of the World War I, it returned to Poland. In 1939, Ternopil became a part of the Soviet Union, and, since 1991, of independent Ukraine.
The city’s main point of interest is the Old Castle, whose history started almost 500 years ago. It is the oldest surviving construction in Ternopil. Though the castle was a defensive bulwark, it could not escape the ravages of war: the fort was ruined several times, but was rebuilt again and again. In the 19th century, the castle was turned into a Russian classicist palace, and its remaining defenses were annihilated. Today, a stone wall with highly decorated gates surrounds the palace.
Amongst the architectural gems that give Ternopil its inimitable look, the Dominican Church deserves special mention. Built in the 18th century in the late Baroque style, its elegant towers rise in the historic city center. Near the church stands the Dominican monks’ living quarters. In Soviet times, the church was turned into a picture gallery; it is now active once again.
But even more ancient sacral buildings have survived in Ternopil. One of the old city’s most decorative landmarks is the Church of Exaltation of the Cross, built in the early 16th century on the territory of an ancient Kyivan Rus temple. At that time, it was often used to defend the city. It is not only the oldest building in Ternopil, but also the most unusual one, as the church has no domes. Recently, the church was restored and named the "Church on the Pond.” The ancient Church of Nativity, founded in 1602, is no less interesting.
But Ternopil’s calling card is its 300-hectare manmade lake, in the heart of the city. The lake is as old as the city itself: it was created at the same time as the castle. Parks and gardens surround the lake, and it is a popular strolling place for citizens and guests alike.
Many distinct historic, architectural and cultural landmarks can also be found on Ternopil’s outskirts: almost every town and every village has the ruins of some medieval castle, ancient church or monastery. The Kremenets Castle and the Pochayiv Lavra are the most popular destinations.
Ternopil is a very cozy and calm city. That is why so many travelers come here to not only to admire its sights, but to also feel the unusually warm and hospitable atmosphere of this amazing city.
Old Castle Ternopil Ukraine
Today, the Old Castle, from where Ternopil history started many centuries ago, is recognized as architectural monument of national importance and is rightly considered one of the city's key points of interest. The importance of the castle, which is the oldest surviving construction in Ternopil, is justified by the fact that it is the main heraldic figure on the city's coat of arms.
Construction of strong fortifications on the steep bank in the Seret River valley began in 1540, when the crown hetman Jan Tarnowski received a charter to establish the city from the Polish King Sigismund I. Built over 8 years, the castle served not only as the residence for the owner of the newly built city, but also as the fortress where Ternopil locals could hide in case of enemy attacks. Fortifications' main task was to protect the southeastern borders of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from the regular back then Turkish-Tatar invasions.
Ternopil castle's outer defense consisted of the high dirt wall fortified with oak palisade, on one side, and of the deep ditch filled with the waters from the artificial pond, on the other side. The northern approaches of the fortress were covered with Rudka River's marshy banks. The fortifications had rectangular shape with powerful defensive towers in each corner. The only way to reach the castle was to use the folding bridge across the ditch leading to the fortified gates.
Castle's main building was the palace where Ternopil owners lived. Due to arduous construction conditions it was made multi-level: it had three ground floors and two - underground ones, visible from the pond's steep bank. Other castle buildings - bakery, kitchen, stables and the large arsenal - were located near the palace.
Despite its powerful defensive system, Ternopil castle repeatedly suffered from Tatar and Turk invasions during the 16th - 17th centuries. The fort underwent the greatest ravages in 1675, when it was burned to ashes by the Tatar Horde. City new owners tried to reconstruct it for almost a century, but the castle fell in decay again and again.
After becoming Ternopil master in the late 18th century, the Count Franciszek Koritovsky gave the Old Castle new birth. He decided to rebuild the fortress that lost its defensive importance into a palace. He ordered to demolish almost all extant fortifications: walls, towers, gates, and to fill up the ditch. The palace was surrounded with a stone wall and the main gates, built at the site of the demolished gate tower, were adorned with Egyptian-style pillars, decorated with Koritovsky family blazonry. The so-called New Castle was built near the palace, but it was completely destroyed during the Second World War.
The only thing that remained from the original castle was the ground floor; ancient interiors were unfortunately destroyed. During the 19th - 20th centuries, the Palace housed the barracks, then the casino, and then its premises were used for a variety of receptions and balls. In 1956, the building was renovated. Today it's a sports school.