Where to See Wooden Churches in Lviv?

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Right from the museum gate, if you look straight ahead to where the paved path curves to the right, to the left of this path you can see one of the museum’s oldest exhibits – the wooden thatched house from the village of Oriavchyk in the Carpathian Mountains built in 1792. The house comes from the area in the mountains to the south-west of Lviv, inhabited by the Ukrainian ethnicity called Boyko. Wood was the most common construction material in the Carpathians, being widely available and providing good heat insulation. The covered gallery in front of the house gives access to the living area and the store room and serves as protection from the rain during different types of manual work. The high walls of the house, made from thick spruce logs connecting at the corners in simple locks, lean inside at a slight angle. Look at the carving at the top of the entrance door. Such designs resembling bull’s horns are typical Boyko patterns. For the purpose of heat conservation, the living space is between the hallway and the storeroom. The two small nine-pane windows slide to open. Having nine panes in a small window is a way to better preserve expensive in those days glass. A large stove with built-in benches at its sides takes up much space inside the living area but the house lacks a chimney. Most of the 18th century dwellings in the Carpathian Mountains had stoves designed to let out smoke inside the house. Smoke filled out the upper space of the room, slightly above the head level, and went outside through a special opening in the ceiling. It took some skills to start a fire keeping the amount of smoke to the minimum. Chimneyless houses had very plain interiors – icons and decorations could not survive the smoke and were displayed only for special occasions. Further in the corner is a bed with a cradle over it. The top of a chest is used as a table. To the left of the door is a dish rack. Look at the four beams below the ceiling. They are for drying and food preservation. Some researchers say that such beams date back thousands of years to the times when cave people used them to keep food safe from domesticated dogs.

The Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life in Lviv started from the wooden Church of St.Nicholaus built in 1763 in the Carpathian village of Kryvky and brought to Lviv in the summer of 1930.To reach this masterpiece of wooden architecture keep walking for about two minutes down the main alley from the museum entrance gates. Brought here in 1930 from a small village in the mountains, for a long time the church was the only example of wooden architecture in Lviv. The structure is divided into three areas: babynets (translates as women’s area) next to the main entrance, the nave where the Mass is held, and the eastern part with the altar. Each part has a dome over it. The middle dome is the tallest, as in all Boyko churches. Look at how the domes are connected with the walls of the church using an eight-sided drum topped with a cut pyramid. This detail is repeated four times, each time narrowing towards the dome that crowns the structure. The size of the church’s entrance door corresponds to an average height of a person, and the entrance to the nave is as high as a person walking with raised arms. The only sources of light in the church are the small windows in the nave creating a sharp contrast with the darker entrance area. The gallery over the nave is for the choir that can be enjoyed during the Sunday Mass. The beautiful iconostasis dates back to the late 17th century.

Walk to the left of the church towards the administrative building and turn left next to an interesting collection of beehives, one of which is styled to look like a small replica of a church. Keep walking past the summer theater to the area of the museum dedicated to the Hutsuls, another Ukrainian ethnicity from the southern part of the Carpathians. Here, to the left of the footpath, up on a small hill, you can see one of the most interesting exhibits – a homestead in the shape of a small fortress called grazhda. Hutsuls were primarily highland animal farmers and needed wide pastures around their dwellings, the fact that explains why their houses are scattered far from one another. As in a small fortress, high wooden fences around their homesteads served for protection against the weather, wild animals and enemies in their isolated life. Their seemingly ascetic dwellings as seen from the outside were comfortable at a closer look. Inside the yard, the fence has a covered area for storing tools and farming equipment. All around the side and the back of the house runs an enclosed area where sheep were put for the winter keeping the house warm and animals safe from wolves. The interior of the house consists of two rooms separated by a wide and tall entrance hall full of different kinds of wooden vessels used in dairy process. The stove inside the room sits on a special wooden foundation that supports the clay floor of the stove. The chimneys from both rooms let out into the entrance hall for the smoke to go up and outside through special outlets high in the wall. Many typical Hutsul items can be seen inside the rooms: carved wooden and ceramic dishes, items made from metal and leather, embroidery, tastefully decorated clothes and the famous Hutsul woolen blankets called lizhnyky.