Chernivtsi Central Square
The Central Square of Chernivtsi was founded on the initiative of Austrian Emperor Joseph II, who had been to Chernivtsi before and gave an order to local authorities to build a proper square for market and fair organization. In 1787, it was decided to found a square in the southern suburb of Chernivtsi at that time, which functioned as a central square.
When the next Emperor Franz I visited Chernivtsi in 1817, The Central Square, by that time, was paved and covered with flagstones, so when it rained there was no such mud as before. The pavement was laid and the square looked nice and civilized. During the Austrian period the name Ringplatz, which meant “marketplace”, was confirmed.
The Black Eagle
The oldest stone building on the Central Square is house number 7, the former Schwarz Adler Hotel (The Black Eagle). At that time, when it was a one-storied building, the pianist and composer, a man of genius, Ferenz List stayed there. Besides memories of two perfect concerts of his, he left an illegitimate son in the city. In the Black Eagle, the most prestigious hotel in Chernivtsi, stayed all famous people, parliament members. There was a hall, where concerts and parties took place.
In 1787 in the opposite corner of the square appeared the first city “coffee room” in the Three Crowns Hotel (now a branch of the National Bank). It was also an inn hotel. On the ground floor, there was a café, the first in Chernivtsi, which one could visit since 1787 and drink a cup of coffee there. There was also a couching inn and later on the Rusiya Hotel on the place of today’s Museum of Fine Arts. A well-known fact is that there were the fist billiards in Chernivtsi. The Rusiya Hotel existed for a long time, until the end of the 19th century, when the construction of the most beautiful building of the Central Square began. It was the building of the Museum of Fine Arts, a former directorate of the Saving Bank “Bukovyner Sparkass”.
The neighboring house, today’s Romanian Society, was Vais Hotel famous for its winter garden. The interesting fact about it is that Enrico Karuzo lived there during his tour in Chernivtsi. Mykhailo Hrushevsky, who was invited to visit Chernivtsi in November 1894 stayed in Vais Hotel too. Opposite the Black Eagle in 1940 appeared the luxurious five-storey building of the Golden Lion Hotel in 2 Universytetska Street. The lion still reigns as a king of animals on the house tower. Today here are some shops, houses and departments of the Chernivtsi National University. Only the lion’s bas-relief, which has stood in its heraldic posture on the top of the tower on the front corner of the house reminds of the former hotel.
Among the oldest buildings on the central square of Chernivtsi, there is Paris Hotel, today’s “Young People’s Wares”. The Chernivtsi Stock Exchange also took place there until a nice house in Poshtova Street was built. Alas, it became a victim of the bomb explosion at the end of the war. At that time, four little houses which stood on the place of the monument to Shevchenko were also lost. In the house, where the shop “Kobzar” is situated, the Belle Vue Hotel, which means “nice view”, was founded. One can really enjoy the nice view of the Prut River from the second or even the first floor. There also used to be a restaurant in this late hotel.
In the very center of the city, near the City Hall, 10 Central Square there is a house, which impresses not only the admirers of art and culture but anyone who sees this building. It represents the magnificent construction of the Chernivtsi Museum of Fine Arts. It was named the Olympus of the Chernivtsi City. This Vienna Secession building erected in 1900 – 1901 was soon admitted one of the most impressive and amazing in its beauty edifices of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Chernivtsi Olympus was constructed under the guidance of architect Hubert Gessner as a building of the directorate of the Chernivtsi Saving Bank. But since 1940, it was the communist party location. The citizens liked to decorate the arches of their houses with the images of antique heroes and the building of the Saving Bank was not an exception.
Nowadays the Museum of Fine Arts takes place in the Chernivtsi Olympus. It opened in 1988 for the first time, but then it changed its location and in three years the building of the directorate of the Saving Bank was assigned to it. Today the collection of the museum includes 8500 masterpieces from the XVII – XX centuries. The greatest part of them consists of the works of visual art. It is the heritage of talented artists of different nationalities and various cultural periods, who lived before 1940 in Bukovyna. We cannot omit the wonderful leather, metal, ceramic and wooden works and the extensive collections of decorative fabrics.
Town Hall of Chernivtsi
The central building of the square by right is ratusha (the Town Hall). The very word “ratusha” came from German, where it sounds “Rathaus”. “Rat” means council and “haus” is house. That is why it is the Council House. The contracted form of this word sounds “ratusha” in Ukrainian. In 1998, the clock on the ratusha tower counted off a century and a half. The City Hall is the most noticeable building of the Central Square.In the end of the 18th century, the city council had no place of its own that is why since 1786 local authorities had to rent different houses. Finally in 1825 an order to build a city hall was issued. It was constructed according to the project engineered by the Court Building Council in Vienna.
Ratusha was built right before the European Revolution broke out. That is probably the reason for these strong, solid walls, which were erected to show that Austria would stand firm without yielding. The walls not only held the weight of the 50-meter high tower but also influenced the citizens’ subconsciousness, produced the feeling of stability, reliability and power.
The classical tradition lays emphasis on the might of this edifice; the elements of Renaissance style stress humanism and tolerance, which were characteristic features of Bukovyna at that time. The front part of this construction is built in the classical tradition. It is an extremely magnificent building with a massive rustic arched stone opening supported by the so-called six Doric attached columns. In ancient times, the top of the Doric attached columns symbolized the ancient Greek guard warrior. From then on such important state buildings were constructed in the Doric style.
On 12 November 2004 in the city on the Prut River a new tradition was born: at 12 o’clock sharp a trumpeter in the national costume has played “Marichka” on all four sides of the world under the clock tower of the City Hall. A huge crowd of citizens and guests could listen to the magnificent melody of a composer from Chernivtsi – Stepan Sabadash. Magistrates used to tell people local and world news in the three languages exactly from this balcony. The interesting fact is that it was impossible for anyone to become a police officer in the end of 19th – beginning of the 20th century in Chernivtsi if he didn`t know at least three languages.
In spite of its history, the ensemble of the Central Square was recently completed. In 1999, the monument to Taras Shevchenko was unveiled. By the way, Chernivtsi City Council came to the decision to build a monument to the Ukrainian national prophet as far back as 1914 on the account of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Kobzar.
Built according to the project of the Czech architect Joseph Hlavka, the Chernivtsi National University is truly a masterpiece of architecture and one of the main attractions in Chernivtsi. It's building continued for 18 years. Outstanding masters of different countries worked on in this building. This favoured a unique combination of different styles and trends in architecture. Why did such a magnificent construction, an architectural treasure which could enrich not only a provincial town of the eastern suburb of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but any European capital, appear in Chernivtsi ?
First of all, the building of this ensemble has connections with the intense activity of the first Ukrainian bishop of Bukovyna, Yevhen Hakman. He was born in a poor peasant family and owing to his uncle, who was a monk and taught the Word of God at schools in Chernivtsi, Yevhen was educated. Yevhen, being one of the best students, went to Vienna to continue his education at the Vienna University. The special feature of this university was that the students of the Department of Theology were of different confessions: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians.
Every year the Austrian tsar Franz I granted an audience to the best students. After his visit to the gymnasium in Chernivtsi, the governor remembered Yevhen Hakman as he preferred to get acquainted with students. That is why during the audience in the palace the tsar asked if he knew the Romanian language. The student answered in the affirmative and the Emperor invited the theologian student to teach his son to speak Romanian. Yevhen taught the successor of the throne for the whole year.
New Orthodox Churches
Tsar Franz II died in 1835 and Yevhen Hakman became a bishop according to the decision of his former student and a new tsar. Yevhen Hakman took advantage of this and turned to the Emperor with the request to begin the building of new Orthodox Churches and the bishop’s residence as it was impossible to live and work in the old one. Hakman was persistent and he managed to succeed in 1860. The new tsar Franz-Joseph I signed the order according to which the new residence was to be built in Chernivtsi. The building committee was founded and the bishop Evhen Hakman in person was the head of it.
The committee turned to the best architect of those times, Joseph Hlavka. He was young but extremely talented and energetic. He was a Czech, but he graduated from the best educational establishments, the Department of Architecture of the Prague Polytechnic among them. Together with other outstanding architects he continued his education at the Architecture Department of the Academy of Arts which provided the highest level of education in architecture.
Being a perfect student Hlavka was awarded a proper scholarship, which gave him the legal opportunity to visit many countries of Europe. Joseph Hlavka was in Italy, Germany, France, England and other countries where he studied old and new architecture. Many places of interest in Chernivtsi were built under his guidance. At that time the transition from the style of Classicism to the so-called Historical style took place. The characteristic feature of the new style was the usage of ancient architectural elements. The Chernivtsi National University was built in New-Renaissance style.
Joseph Hlavka had to work thoroughly on the project of the residence. It was finished by the end of 1862 and examined by the building council in Vienna. After that, the project was submitted for the tsisar’s signature, who signed it in 1863. This masterpiece was built by the national savings of the Religious fund of Bukovyna. Hlavka presented the project of the Residence of Bukovyna metropolitan bishops at the architectural exhibition in Paris. He won the second prize for it at the world exhibition!
When building this Residence attention was paid to the brick quality. Each brick was carefully examined and tapped. If there was a single crack the brick was instantly rejected as defective. That is why it was impossible to doubt the quality of the construction. Building of the architectural ensemble took 18 years, from 1864 till 1882. The Residence consists of three separate buildings. The central building is actually the Residence of metropolitan bishops. There is a private church or a home chapel of the bishop on the right.
The bishop’s room and the library also took place on the first floor, to the left of the chapel. Next to the chapel there is a Marble Hall, which used to be a Synod Hall, where the bishop invited all his guests and where the liturgy was recited on Holy Days. The next hall is called the Red Hall and it functioned as a place for the meeting of the Holy Synod. Nowadays there are many original elements there: Vienna mirrors (1878), well-preserved parquet floors, ceiling. The neighboring building on the right used to be a monastery before 1918. There was a school of psalm-readers (1918-1940) and a small museum of church art. Apart from this, there was the first printing establishment of the Bukovyna metropolitan bishops and a little candle factory.
The building on the left and the church were built for the needs of the Department of Theology. The students studied on the ground floor and lived on the first floor. Future priests studied here up to the beginning of the Second World War. Today the Chernivtsi National University has the only Department of Theology in Ukraine which graduates future priests for Orthodox Churches. The University was opened in Chernivtsi on September 30, 1875. It was named after the Emperor Franz Joseph, who signed the order to open a university in Chernivtsi.
According to some sources this construction was built by joint funds of Catholics, Protestants and even the Jews Hasids, whose center was in the neighboring Sadhora. Many places of interest in Chernivtsi appeared due to the united investments of different national groups living in our city. The wide passage from the central gates of the university to its entrance is covered with pebbles. There is a drainage system under it. In hot summer days, when it is dry, water evaporates into the air. In this way the degree of humidity is stable on the whole territory of the complex. That is why the bricks do not go to pieces.
It is a well-known fact that after the building of the residence in Chernivtsi, the city was called a “small Jerusalem on the Prut River”. The city owes this name to the grand and magnificent shrines of the Central and Eastern Europe, which took place in Chernivtsi. First is the residence and second is the great shrine which belongs to the Reformist Jewish Church and is embodied in the Temple. Unfortunately this shrine has lost its original attractiveness. This magnificent building in the city center was built by architect Zakharevych in 1877. The matter is that now it is a building of the Chernivtsi Cinema. The Temple was burnt during the war and in the fifties architect Vodianskyi rebuilt it. It became the first wide-screen cinema in Ukraine. Now it is difficult to recognize that magnificent luxurious construction in it.
The building of the Temple was one of the main constructions in Chernivtsi. One could easily notice that it was on the equal level with the Ukrainian Uniat Church. The Temple was a pilgrimage shrine for all the Jews from the Eastern Europe.