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A Chapel of Pechera
There is a village in the Land of Vinnychyna that used to be a town and even boasted a strong castle. The town — and now the village — was called Pechera, and the owner of the castle was a seventeenth century Moldavian potentate whose name was Duca. He was remembered as a cruel and unjust ruler.
The village sits on the bank of the River Pivdenny Buh. In the cliffs of the tall right bank there were — and are — caves some of which could have been dug in the prehistoric times. It is from these caves — pechery — that the settlement got its name of Pechera.
After the Moldavian owner of the castle disappeared from the scene, the castle was left neglected and it did not take long for it to be turned into ruins, all the more so that the stone from it was quarried for the construction of the foundation and of the fence of the Church of the Holy Mother of God that was built in the middle of the eightieth century. The bell tower was erected with the stone obtained from the ruins of the castle as well. The church is still standing, providing a nice architectural touch to the picturesque landscape of the place.
There is also an old park in Pechery, which is believed to have been laid out by the much-hated Moldavian ruler Duca, and then greatly improved on in the eighteenth century by the new owners who turned it into a place designed in the then popular English style complete with grottos, artificial ruins, brooks and moss-covered huge boulders. There are steps that lead from the park down to the bank of the river.
The park hides in its center a small chapel that looks surprisingly monumental and yet very romantic among age-old trees.
When you come closer, you discover that it is designed in a style that closely resembles the style which was popular in France in the eighteenth century. The decorative carvings around the windows and elsewhere enhance the general impression of stateliness and elegance. The gate with its metal “lacework” increases the element of wonder.
If you happen to know the architecture of Kyiv of the end of the nineteenth-early twentieth century well, looking at that chapel you may feel stirrings of something familiar. And if you look still closer, you may recognize the designing hand of Wladislaw Gorodecki (Horodetsky), the most famous architect of Kyiv of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. If you keep looking for other prompting signs, you will discover the inscription on one of the architectural features that says: “Designed by Wladislaw Gorodecki.”
So, the architect who designed in Kyiv the House with Chimeras, and other fancy buildings provided the design for that chapel! The date is 1904 — at that time the estate of Pechera was owned by Kostyantyn and Janina Potocki. It was not the first building that Gorodecki designed for the Potockis — the pavilion commissioned by Kostyantyn Potocki to be erected at the All-Russia Exhibition that was held in Kyiv, was among Gorodecki’s fanciful creations, and caused much admiration — and concentration too — when the exhibition opened.
The chapel in the Pechera Park is in line with the rest of Gorodecki’s creations — you can spot it in the careful attention to the smallest of details, in the materials (which had to be imported from abroad) used, and in the excellent workmanship.
The roof of the chapel is covered with high-quality tiles, the glass of the windowpanes is multicolored; the floor is covered with high-quality flagstones imported from Germany; the heavy doors are made of seasoned oak wood; the hinges are custom-designed and even the flat tops of the nails bear some ornamental patterns. The walls of the chapels are made of roughly hewn granite blocks held together by concrete. It looks that the stonework and architectural decor were created by the masters from the studio of Elia Sala, an Italian sculptor and stonemason (and Gorodecki’s friend into the bargain) who was commissioned to do much decorative work for the houses designed by Gorodecki.
The chapel is complete with gargoyles — so beloved by Gorodecki.
A Gate at the Third Floor of a Tower
The small village of Yazlovets is located in the vicinity of Buchach, in western Ukraine. As long ago as in the sixteenth century, it was a prosperous town that sat on the trade route Via Regia that connected the city of Lviv with Moldavia. The Polish, Ukrainian, Armenian and Jewish communities of the town had their own quarters with cobbled streets, churches and synagogues, shops and warehouses. Alas, after the Turkish occupation in the seventeenth century, and thanks to the two world wars of the twentieth century and vandalizing neglect of the soviets, the town catastrophically shrank in size and completely lost its former prosperity turning into a human settlement in the middle of nowhere, with only ruins of palaces, castles and churches to remind us of its much better times.
The ruins are in various stages of dilapidation but still you can see a mighty four-tiered donjon which was a part of the castle fortifications in the sixteenth century. The windows and loopholes look down sadly on the rare visitors.
Not so long ago, tourists were free to wander into the castle’s inner yard but now this access is denied.
Scanning the main tower of the castle from a distance, you can still see something that looks pretty much like a fancy gate with Renaissance-style portal and other decorative elements — but at the level of the third tier. What a gate could be doing so far above the ground? And there are some other strange features in the ruinous castle as well.
The only plausible explanation that I could discover suggests that once there was some sort of a bridge that went high above the ground, and that thing that looks like a gate was indeed the central entrance to the castle.
A Fancy Bridge
That small village of Yazlovets can indeed spring some architectural surprises on you. At the time of the long-gone prosperity, the town took a good care of dams, dykes and bridges in its vicinity. The river banks were reinforced to lessen the danger of uncontrolled flooding. None of the old bridges has survived but there is one which is of much later date and which is still worth seeing.
If you walk down Silska Street past the Armenian Church in the general direction of the castle, you’ll get to a rather unusual bridge. It must have been built some time between the wars (WWI and WWII). At first glance, the bridge seems to look like locked fingers of two hands but a more careful look will dispel the illusion.
The engineer who designed the bridge faced a tough challenge to fit the bridge into a twisted space. And he managed to do it by making a design that solved the problem without having to employ complicated engineering solutions. The way he ingeniously put the bridge elements together produces that strange initial impression of interlocked fingers.