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21 wonders of Ukraine
Recent public opinions revealed that a majority of the people of Ukraine consider the following to be historical, cultural and architectural landmarks worthy of being put on Ukraine’s Heritage List.
Holy Sophia of Kyiv
The Cathedral of Holy Sophia (Sophia — God’s Wisdom) was built in the first half of the eleventh century when Kyiv and its lands were ruled by Grand Duke Yaroslav the Wise, the son of Volodymyr the Great who had brought Christianity to Kyivan Rus-Ukraine. The magnificence of the new church outshone any other church in Kyivan Rus and in many other Christian countries of Europe. Its only rival in architectural magnificence was Holy Sophia in Constantinople. The mosaics and frescoes make the interior of the church a visual feast.
Lavra Monastery in Kyiv
The monastery was founded in the eleventh century by monks Antoniy and Feodosiy who established their cells in the caves (in Ukrainian: pechery — hence the name Pechersk). The monastery soon grew to be a major monastic community with churches, refectories, buildings of monk cells occupying a large territory. Lavra is a title which was awarded only to very large and important monasteries. The Pechersk Lavra Monastery in Kyiv was a bulwark of Christianity and an important cultural center.
Svyato-Uspenska Pochayivska Lavra —
Holy Assumption Monastery in Pochayiv
The monastery was founded in 1240 or 1241 by monks who fled from the city of Kyiv which had been taken and destroyed by the invading Mongols. The monks settled down in the caves but by the end of the thirteenth century the first church of the monastery was built on the surface.
Tradition has it that Virgin Mary revealed herself to the monks in the shape of fiery pillar above Pochayiv Hill, on which the monastery is situated, and left an imprint of her foot on the ground; this imprint has ever since been a major relic of the monastery. The monastery also boasts a source of water which has curative properties, an icon of Virgin Mary that works miracles.
Every year thousands upon thousands of pilgrims from all over Ukraine and foreign countries come to the monastery, which is second in importance in Ukraine only to the Pechersk Lavra Monastery in Kyiv; the monastery and its architectural complex which blends perfectly well into the scenic surroundings, is also a major tourist attraction.
The monastery has in its territory 16 churches and other buildings (archbishop’s residence, cells of monks). In the seventeenth century the monastery was fortified with defensive walls and other defensive structures which made it possible to withstand many sieges.
National Historical and Architectural Reserve Kam’yanets
According to the medieval chronicles, the fortress in Kam’yanets-Podilsky was built in the second half of the 14th century by the Lithuanian prince Koryatovych.
Kam’yanets-Podilsky is a town that has preserved the spirit of the Middle Ages. Its impressive fortress is a landmark in the history of construction of fortified places and strongholds. The town’s scenic beauty is enhanced by the River Smotrych.
Svyato-Uspenska Svyatohirska Lavra — Lavra Monastery Dedicated to the Assumption of Mother of God, Donetsk Oblast
The monastery, which is a part of the state historical and architectural preserve in the town of Svyatohirsk, was established in the seventeenth century; the first written mention of it dates from the year 1624. It is situated on the slope of a hill; the hills in the vicinity are known as Svyati hory (Sacred Mountains). The monastery expanded and in the late seventeenth, then in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, churches and other monastery buildings were built. The eighteenth-century Mykolayivska Church, designed in the architectural style known as “Ukrainian Baroque”, is an architectural landmark of a great beauty that perfectly fits its picturesque surroundings.
The monastery has a system of caves and underground corridors in which the original monks supposedly lived.
In 1922, the Bolshevik authorities closed the monastery down; in 1980, it was given a status of a historical and cultural preserve. In 1992, the monastery was returned to the Christian Orthodox religious community.
In 2004, the monastery was awarded the title of Lavra by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; such a title is given only to a monastery of a particularly big size and importance.
Zamok Palanok — Palanok Castle, Mukachevo, Zakarpattya
Palanok Castle was built in the 14th century, or may be earlier, and went through a series of reconstructions which lasted until the 18th century. It stands on a hill in the western suburb of Mukachevo (the hill is believed to be what’s left of an ancient volcano).
Some historians are of the opinion that at the spot where the castle stands now there used to stand another, wooden castle which had been built as early as 1089.
The stone castle was built in 1396– 1414 by the Prince of Podillya Fedir Koryatovych.
In 1633–1711, the castle belonged to the Princes Racozi who reconstructed it to make it the most impressive stronghold in Eastern Europe.
At the end of the eighteenth century, the castle, after a part of western Ukraine had come under domination of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, was used by the Austrian-Hungarian authorities as a prison. In the twentieth century it was given a status of a museum.
Kamyana Mohyla — Stone Barrow, Zaporizhzhya Oblast
Kamyana Mohyla is a state historical and cultural preserve which is situated in the vicinity of the village of Terpinnya, not far from the city of Melitopol.
In the caves and grottos of the Kamyana Mohyla Preserve over three thousand petroglyphs have so far been discovered; they date from up to twenty two thousands years ago. Remnants of what is believed to have been altars for sacrifices and possibly even of a temple have also been unearthed. The petroglyphs and other artifacts discovered by archeologists indicate that the people of those distant times practiced totemism, fetishism, animism and other forms of ancient religions.
Antoniyevi pechery — St Anthony’s Caves, Kyiv
St Anthony is believed to be one of the founders of Pechersk Lavra Monastery in Kyiv. In the eleventh century, he settled down in a cave which later was united by a system of subterranean corridors with other caves in the same vicinity. Monks lived in caves and held religious services in underground chapels.
Later, construction of churches and monastery buildings began on the surface, and by the end of the eleventh century the Pechersk (“Of the Caves”) Monastery became the most important religious community in Kyivan-Rus-Ukraine.
At present, the caves are opened for visiting; their total length is 350 meters.
Livadia Palace, Yalta
The marble palace in Livadia, a suburb of the resort town of Yalta in the Crimea, was built in 1910– 1911 for the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family. The palace stands in a park, one of the biggest on the Crimean southern coast.
After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, the palace was nationalized (Nicholas and his family were slaughtered by the Bolsheviks in 1918) and in the 1920s the palace was turned into “a sanatorium” soviet style — a cross between a rest home and hospital.
In the spring of 1945, the palace was the venue of the Yalta Conference, at which the leaders of the three allied states — the USA, Soviet Union and Great Britain, decided the political future of post-war Europe.
At present, the palace is a museum but important conferences and official meetings continue to be held there.
Verkhniy zamok — Upper Castle, Lutsk
The Verkhniy zamok is one of the biggest and oldest in Ukraine; it was built in 1340-1385 by Dmytro-Lyubart, the last Grand Duke of Halytsko-Volynske Principality.
The castle is in a good state of preservation and after a recent restoration has become a major tourist attraction.
Lutsk and its castles were an important political and church center in the late Middle Ages and in later times.
The Verkhniy zamok includes several ancient towers, defensive walls, ruins of a twelfth-century church, a palace that dates from the 14th– 16th centuries, and other buildings of later dates.
Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, Odesa
The theater was designed by the Austrian architects F. Felner and H. Helmer; it was opened in October 1887. It is considered to be one of the most impressive opera houses in Europe; particularly impressive are the lavishly decorated interiors.
After several years of reconstruction work, the theater was reopened in 2007.
The first opera house was built in Odesa in the early nineteenth century, but in 1873 it was burned down, and was replaced with the one that still stands. Now it is a major architectural landmark in today’s Odesa.
Zapovidnyk Pereyaslav — Pereyaslav Preserve, Kyiv Oblast
The National Historical and Ethnographic Preserve Pereyaslav that occupies 3,050 hectares, is one of the biggest of its kind in Ukraine; it includes 26 thematic museums, in whose collections there are over 160,000 exhibits; the preserve boasts 371 historical and architectural landmarks.
Among the landmarks we find 11 churches, 16 windmills several centuries old, pieces of ancient sculpture. A number of artifacts in the Pereyaslav Preserve date from the millennia-old Trypillian culture and from the Scythian times. The museum collections of Pereyaslav have medieval icons, rare books and manuscripts, Cossack weapons and traditional dresses.
The ancient town of Pereyaslav is a part of the Pereyaslav Preserve; the town is rich in architectural landmarks of the 11th and 12th centuries.
Castle in the Town of Ostroh, Rivne Oblast
The first written mention of the town of Ostroh dates from 1100; an ancient castle was ruined during the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century and was replaced by another one in the fourteenth century.
The castle was built by the Grand Duke Danyil; in later times, the castle that stands on Sudova Hill, was reconstructed and rebuilt several times. The latest additions date from the early twentieth century.
Olesky zamok — Olesko Castle, the Land of Lvivshchyna
The first written mention about the castle dates from 1327. The castle, depending on the political situation, often changed hands.
The earthquake of 1828, did a considerable damage to the castle; in 1951, it was gutted by fire caused by the bolt of lightning.
In more recent times, the castle was restored and a part of the collection of the Art Gallery of Lviv is exhibited in the castle.
Museum Pysanka — Painted Easter Eggs, Kolomyya
The Pysanka Museum was built in 2000; the 14-meter (35 feet) tall central part of the museum is designed in the shape of a pysanka and the walls are made of stained glass.
It is the only Easter Egg museum in the world. Its collection contains 6,000 pysanky — painted Easter eggs, which reflect various styles of painting pysanky in many parts of Ukraine. In addition to Ukrainian pysanky, the museum also displays painted Easter eggs from Belarus, Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the USA, Canada, France, India and other countries. Some of the exhibits date from the late nineteenth-early twentieth centuries.
Budynok derzhavnoyi promyslovosti — House of State Industries, Kharkiv
This building dominates Ploshcha Svobody — Independence Square which happens to be one of the biggest squares in Europe.
The building was erected in the 1920s when the city of Kharkiv was the capital of Ukraine; great numbers of builders and laborers were involved in the construction, at which very few cranes or other machines were used, with most of work being done by hand. Both the scale of the construction and the design made the Budynok, which is divided into three sections connected by covered bridge-like structures, an architectural wonder of those times.
The Kharkiv city authorities want the Budynok to be put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
National Park Sofiyivka
The beautifully landscaped Park Sofiyivka in the city of Uman was laid out in 1796 by the Polish noble Stanislaw Potocki and named after his wife, Sofiya, of Greek descent, to whom he eventually gave the park as a present. Sofiya was known for her exceptional beauty, and the park turned out to be no less beautiful. Sofiya herself was said to take part in designing some sections of the park — it was she who introduced ancient Greek and Roman mythological motifs. At present, the park occupies a territory of almost 155 hectares (one hectare equals 2.5 acres).
Chersonesus in the Crimea
The city of Chersonesus is located three miles west of modern Sevastopol, Ukraine. The city, of which now we can see only imposing ruins, was founded by Greeks in the 6th century BC. Prosperous from the 4th century BC, it maintained a free constitution of the Greek type and fought for its continued independence against the Scythians of southern Ukraine, against the native Tauri of the southern Crimea, and against the kings of Bosporus in the west. It traded with Athens and other ancient Greek cities. In the Christian era, it was an important center of Christianity and thus influenced the Kyivan Grand Duke Volodymyr’s decision to adopt Christianity. Uninhabited since the 14th century, the site of the city contains the remains of the ancient buildings and temples and of churches of Byzantine times.
National Reserve Khortytsya
Khortytsya is an island, the biggest one on the Dnipro River — its length is 12.5 kilometers and width is 2.5 kilometers. It qualifies for “a wonder” both as a natural and historic landmark. Human settlements on the island date from at least 30,000 years BC. There are 63 archeological and historical landmarks on the island protected by the state.
Khortytsya is a major tourist attraction, its main attractive feature being its close connection with the Zaporizka Sich Cossacks of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. At present, a mock-up of a Cossack center, Zaporizka Sich, is under construction.
Historical and Architectural Reserve Khotynska Fortetsya (Khotyn Fortress)
In the Middle Ages, Khotyn was a trade hub, advantageously situated at the crossroads of trade routes from east to west and from north to south. It is believed to have been founded in the eleventh century.
In October 1621, during the War of Independence in Ukraine, the Cossack troops of Petro Sahaydachny inflicted a crushing defeat on the Turkish army, thus preventing the Ottoman Empire from invading western Europe as it was intent on doing. It changed the course of history.
Taras Shevchenko National Preserve in Kaniv
Taras Shevchenko, a great poet and a pivotal figure in the history of Ukrainian culture, died in St Petersburg, Russia, but his remains were transferred to Ukraine and interred at Chernecha Hora in Kaniv on May 22 1861. From the hill of Chernecha Hora opens a magnificent view of the Dnipro River. In his poetic testament, Shevchenko requested to be buried at such a place in his beloved Ukraine.
Shevchenko’s poetry and prose works have been an inspiration for generations of Ukrainian freedom fighters and champions of Ukraine’s independence.
In 1939, a bronze monument was erected at Shevchenko’s grave and a museum devoted to Shevchenko was built. In 1977, a granite sculptural composition was added to the burial complex, and in 1991 the museum was expanded to include Tarasova svitlytsya — Shevchenko’s memorial room.
The museum has over 20,000 items in its collections, which include Shevchenko’s art works, rare books, art works created by Ukrainian and foreign artists and devoted to Shevchenko; documents, photos, and recordings. The library of the Taras Shevchenko Preserve contains over 23,000 copies of books.
The Taras Shechenko National Preserve in Kaniv was the first historical and cultural reserve of its kind established in Ukraine.