Potocki Palace


The Potocki Palace in Lviv was built in the late 1880s, on what was then the outskirts of town. Initially it was surrounded by spare grounds, but pretty quickly those were built on and by the end of the following decade the palace faces onto the bustling Copernicus street.


Its ill luck didn’t stop there – an American stunt pilot crashed into into in 1919, and it only finished being rebuilt in 1923 for a fire to break out and then, not much later, the Nazis and Soviets each in turn commandeered it.


However it’s bern sensitively restored and you wouldn’t know that it had suffered all those travails unless you read the guidebook. Looking ready for a Rothschild, it stands open to tourists for a mere 70 UAH (£2).


The Boim Family Chapel


This stunning chapel, completed in 1615 for the Boim family but never formally consecrated due to a bout of archbishoply envy,  is tucked in a little corner of Lviv, next to the Latin cathedral (aka Catholic Church), and for a whole 30 UAH – about £1 – you can spend as long as you want in it.


If it’s shut, you can still see the incredible carvings on the outside, which gave the chapel its nickname of “Bible of the Poor”. Saints, the crucifixion and angels all jostle for space in a robust set of carvings that remind me of some of the old buildings in Oxford.


Inside, the floor space isn’t that big – maybe 4 metres by 4 metres, but the height is more and every inch of the walls has been carved, painted and plastered to perfection.


There’s so many details I couldn’t capture because they were too hard to get angles of: the fact that the creed is spelt out in little boxes round the walls of the church; like the fact that the patriarchs either side of the altar have their carefully carved distinguishing features (eg Moses with the flame of God hovering on him as he descends with the Ten Commandments; Jesse – or possibly John – with his flowering rod), the way the orange and cream decoration is used to edge the niches holding the two big carved scenes.


But you can probably tell anyway that the little box pews are painted like a screen from a Turkish palace, that the disciples are cheerfully munching through pigs head and potatoes at their Passover/Last Supper, and that the dome could have come straight from a cardinal’s palace in Rome rather than a craftsman in Wroclaw.


Lviv churches


One of the most tangible symbols of Lviv’s multiculturalism is the many churches of different creeds: Latin (Catholic); Jesuit (also Catholic, but hey, why not have a different name); Armenian; Orthodox; Dominican (Catholic again, sorry).


I haven’t split the photos out by church but I think you can broadly guess by the paraphernalia and organisation inside whether they are Roman or Eastern. The eastern ones reminded me very much of the Greek and Bulgarian orthodox churches we visited in Istanbul. Also, note the cultural crossovers in the use of embroidered cloths and icons in all churches.