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Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv

Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv
Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv. / Ekaterina Polischuk, Flickr / CC BY-SA 4.0

WorldBlue  In short

The Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv initially was built just a few years after the founding of the city – in 1657. It was the main church in the city until 1901 when the enormous Annunciation Cathedral was constructed.

This monument has has suffered in war.

3.4 out of 10 stars 34.3%

GPS coordinates
49.9899 N 36.2304 E
Location, address
Europe, Ukraine, Kharkiv Oblast, Kharkiv, Universitetska 11
Alternate names
Dormition Cathedral in Kharkiv
Name in Ukrainian
Свято-Успенський собор, Собор Успіння Пресвятої Богородиці
Architectural styles
Baroque (main part) and Neoclassicism (bell tower)
Architect
Alexey Yevlashev and Dmitry Ukhtomsky (most likely architects of the church), Yevgeny Vasilyev and Andrey Ton (bell tower)
Branch of Christianity
Eastern Orthodox
Year of construction
1771-1783 (main part) and 1821-1841 (bell tower)

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WorldYellow In detail

History

Beginnings of Kharkiv
Painting of Kharkov ostrog in the 17th century by Leonid Shmatko
Painting of Kharkov ostrog in the 17th century by Leonid Shmatko, reconstruction that was made for the History Museum in Kharkiv. The painting includes also the first church of the town – the wooden Assumption Church./ Wikimedia Commons / public domain

The development of Kharkiv started with the construction of the Kharkiv Fortress in 1654-1655. Then the lands around Kharkiv were inhabited by Cossacks and also peasants who were attracted to these lands by the tax-free regime that was introduced by the Russian Tsar. These lands served as a protection against the incursions of Tatars into Central Russia – a frequent calamity during the 16th century and early 17th century.

Fortress was constructed on a low hill in the confluence of the Lopan and Kharkiv rivers and today this is the historical center of Kharkiv. A few years after its construction inside the walls of the fortress started the construction of the first houses and a town started to form, also the first church was built.

Previous churches

The history of the predecessors of the present-day Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv goes as follows:

  • 1657 – in writings is mentioned that in this year was built a simple wooden church. It was the first church in the new town and it was a simple building where even the icons were printed on paper. Next to it was a cemetery.
  • 1685-1687 – a new stone church was constructed some 60 m north from the wooden church. This was the first stone structure in Kharkiv. The church has a form of the cross in the plan. The older wooden church was replaced with a smaller wooden chapel. There was built also a 50 m tall bell tower that was used also as a watch tower.
  • 1733 – most of Kharkiv was eliminated by fire and also the church suffered heavily. In 1734 it was rebuilt.
  • 1770 – the church was in a bad condition due to the fire from 1733, with dangerous fractures. Citizens of Kharkiv decided to build the current church.
History of the current Assumption Cathedral
Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv in 1860
Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv in 1860. / Vasily Dosekin, Wikimedia Commons / public domain
  • 1771-1783 – the new church was constructed and consecrated in honor of Dormition at the exact site of the previous church. The planning and architecture of the new church were inspired by St Clement’s Church in Moscow which was built in the late Baroque style in 1762-1769.
  • 1819 – the previous, 50 m tall bell tower was removed. It was standing in the location where a street was planned.
  • 1821-1841 (1844) – the enormous bell tower – Alexander tower – was constructed in front of the church. It commemorated the expulsion of Napoleon’s forces and was named after the emperor Alexander I.
  • 1846 – the Orthodox bishop of Kharkiv moved from the Intercession Cathedral (another historical church in the center of the city) to the Assumption Cathedral. Thus the church got the status of a cathedral.
  • 1862 – a clock was installed in the bell tower.
  • 1924 – an antenna was installed in the bell tower for the Soviet radio station because this was the highest structure in the city. The church was closed. The Baroque iconostasis (designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli) was moved from the church to the Kharkiv Art Museum. Unfortunately, this gorgeous wooden artwork was lost in a fire during World War II.
  • 1929 – The five domes of the church were demolished, and bells were removed from the bell tower. The church was used as a warehouse and later – as industrial premises for sewing and dyeing, dividing the church into two floors.
    Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv, damage after the shelling on the 2nd March 2022
    Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv, damage after the shelling on the 2nd March 2022. /State Emergency Service of Ukraine, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
  • World War II – most of the buildings around the church were in ruins, but the church was left without major damage.
  • Late 1950ies-1986 – the church was restored and adjusted as a concert hall for organ and chamber music. The five domes of the church were rebuilt again.
  • 1975 – tornado damaged the bell tower.
  • 1986 – pipe organ was installed in the church. Concerts in the church continue up to this day.
  • 1990 – religious services were restarted in the cathedral.
  • 2006 – the church was reverted to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while retaining the concert hall as well.
  • March 2, 2022 – Russian missile, that, most likely, was aimed at the Constitution Square, hit the church. People were hiding in it at that moment, no one was injured. The stained glass windows and church decorations were smashed or damaged.

Description

Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv
Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv. / Сергій Липко, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Assumption Cathedral stands on the bank of the Lopan River near its confluence with the Kharkiv River. It was the main Orthodox cathedral in Kharkiv until the construction of the Annunciation Cathedral in 1901.

The church building consists of two main parts:

  • The oldest part is the church itself. It was designed in the Late Baroque style with some influences of the coming Neoclassicist style when the opulence was going out of style. The exterior of the building was comparatively austere (for Baroque) but the interior was sumptuous.
  • The newest part is the 89.5 m tall bell tower. The tower has a gilded cross that was made by Moscow master Lukinov. This was the tallest structure in the city until 2006 (if the TV tower and other communication towers are not counted).
References
  1. Андрей Парамонов, Улицы старого Харькова, 2019, Glagoslav Publications. ISBN: 9789660384132
Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv has suffered in war.

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