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Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 50.8430 N 24.3151 E
No:496        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Churches
Values:Art, Architecture
Rank:5
Address:Europe, Ukraine, Volyn, in the centrum of Volodymyr-Volynskyi
Alternate names:Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Мстиславів храм
Name in Ukrainian:Собор Успіння Пресвятої Богородиці (Володимир-Волинський)
Architectural style:Byzantine, Neo-Byzantine
Year of construction:1156-1160, 1753, 1896-1900
Branch of Christianity:Orthodox
Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Ukraine
Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi / Viacheslav Galievskyi, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Not too far from the Polish borders is located one of the oldest extant buildings in Ukraine - Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi. This is a resurrected monument from the times before the Mongol invasions, the westernmost cathedral of Kievan Rus.

History

Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Ukraine
Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi / Viacheslav Galievskyi, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Volodymyr-Volynskyi today may seem to be a rather unsighty town, but one millenia ago it was an important urban centre - a capital of Volhynia, historical Slavic principality.

This city was founded in the late 10th century and since 988 attained a status of capital. It is one of the oldest cities in Kievan Rus.

Decision to build this church was taken by the grand grandson of Vladimir Monomakh II - Mstyslav II Izyaslavovych, prince of Volodymyr, and laterruler of Kiev. He decided to devote this church to Assumption.

Church was built in 1156. In 1160, after the painting of murals inside the church, it was consecrated and became a cathedral to Volhyn eparchy. Church had very expensive and beautiful icons, books and other valuables. For its time this was an enormous structure.

In the church have been buried six rulers of Volodymyr (including Mstyslav who died in 1170), two bishops and many other noblemen. Rulers of Volhyn kept it in good order and made it into one of the most important churches in Kiev Rus. Bishops of this eparchy had special rights. Next to the church was opened a school.

In 1240 - 1241 the city was taken by the powerful armies of Mongols led by Batu Khan. City for most part perished and the church was abandoned. Happily Mongols did not destroy it, although many citizens died while protecting it and according to eyewitnesses the church was full with the bodies of deceased ones.

In 1491 Volhyn suffered from the Mongol raids again. After this raid the church was fortified and next to it was built a fortified residence of bishop.

After the inclusion of Volhyn in Poland in 1569 it was decided to turn Orthodox churches into Catholic (Uniate) churches. After long quarrels Poles succeeded and in 1596 the Assumption Cathedral became a Uniate church.

In 1683 the church suffered in fire and was abandoned. In 1753 it was rebuilt, now in a Baroque style.

Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi in 1892, Ukraine
Cathedral in 1892, before the reconstruction / , public domain

Soon after, in 1772 it was abandoned and used as a storage capacity. In 1796 it was formally returned to Orthodox clergy. In 1829 the roof and domes were collapsed and the building was in ruins.

Happily the Cathedral of Assumption did not perish - in 1887 in Volodymyr-Volynskyi started to act a public organization, Brothership of Saint Volodymyr whose mission was to rebuild this church.

It was decided to return to the original architecture of this medieval church. Scientific evidence about the medieval church was obtained in archaeological excavations in 1886.

Rebuilding was led by A.Prakhov and G.Kotov and lasted from 1896 to 1900. The architecture of the church seems to be not very exact copy of the original medieval church - but nevertheless it was not an easy task to recreate the architecture of the 12th century.

Description

Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Ukraine
Interior in the Assumption Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi / Petro Vlasenko, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The rebuilt church is simple, laconic but at the same time it is impressive. Judging by its planning, it was built by the builders from Kiev.

During the rebuilding in the late 19th century builders tried to remove later additions and leave the structures of the original church. Nevertheless a lot of original constructions, as well as original murals and other artwork have been lost and now it is not that easy to tell what here is original (e.g. medieval) and what - not. The weird light-blue color of the church almost certainly is modern invention.

Cathedral of Assumption is located in the historical centre of Volodymyr-Volynskyi, at the Luga river. At the river is located a sacred spring and one could ask whether the church was not built at an older cult site as it is frequent in many other places.

Next to the church stands a belltower (built in 1900) and house of bishop. Unusual and valuable is the fortified residence of Volynian bishops (1494). Not too far from the church are also ramparts of the medieval city.

Map

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