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Exotic landmarks of Ukraine
Church with “Minarets”
The village of Moshny in the Land of Cherkashchyna boasts a church of rather a peculiar architectural design. There’s definitely something Islamic in it, which is highly unusual for an Orthodox church in Ukraine. Those who have visited Alupka in the Crimea may feel there is also some vague resemblance in the architectural decor of the church in Moshny to Vorontsov’s palace in Alupka. And, in fact, there is a direct link between the church and the palace. The thing is that both the palace and the estate of Moshny used to belong to one and the same person — Count Mikhail Vorontsov.
When in 1819 Count Vorontsov married Yelizaveta Branytskaya, his wife brought with her the estate of Moshny as part of her dowry. Vorontsov had a mansion built, marches drained and the area landscaped. In 1923, his serfs built a steamship, Bdzhilka, the first ever steamship to ply the waters of the Dnipro River.
In 1823, Count Vorontsov was made Governor General of Novorosiya (which included the Crimea) and Bessarabiya. In the town of Alupka on the Crimean southern coast, the count had a magnificent palace built. It is an architectural landmark that continues to attract hordes of tourists holidaying in the Crimea. The design of the palace, which was provided by the English architect Edward Bloor, eclectically combined several architectural styles, including Gothic and Islamic. The brigade that was responsible for decorating the palace with stuccowork, came from Vorontsov’s estate of Moshny, and was headed by Roman Fortunov, a native of Moshny.
Count Vorontsov proved to be a good Governor General who did a lot for the economic development of the Crimea. And he did not neglect his estate of Moshny either. He commissioned the Italian architect Torricelli to make a design for a church. The design, similarly to the palace in Alupka, combined elements of British Neo-Gothic and Islamic and Oriental motifs. In plan, though, it was a typical Orthodox church which was dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ (Preobrazhenska Church). The bell tower that was erected by the side of the church was designed in the same style as the church.
Preobrazhenska today is functioning Orthodox church, but in addition to the faithful, tourists come to see it. Mykola Yakymenko, a local historian, takes tourists around Vorontsov’s former estate and explains where was what. Vorontsov had a great, English style park laid out (also similar to a certain extent to the park around his palace in Alupka) on the picturesque hills and in dales in between them. The three-storied palace in Moshny had 80 rooms and it was surrounded by mansions of a smaller size meant for guests. The alleys that ran across the park ended at places that offered panoramic views. Gazebos and arbors dotted the park. In 1837, Vorontsov had a very tall tower (Svyatoslava vezha) erected in the park, from the top of which he claimed he could see through a powerful spyglass the golden domes of the Pechersk Lavra Monastery in Kyiv. The 60-meter tall Svyatoslava tower was of an eccentric architectural design and its glass-covered top was lit from inside at night and it shone like a lighthouse beacon. 160 steps made of oak had to be climbed to get to the top of the tower.
Count Mikhail Vorontsov’s son Semen inherited the estate of Moshny after the count’s death. Semen died childless and the estate went to his niece Kateryna. The Bolsheviks’ coming to power triggered civil war during which most of Vorontsov’s estate in Moshny was ruined. The Svyatoslava tower was destroyed by the Nazi Germans in 1943. The Preobrazhenska Church and a couple of other structures are the only remnants of the great estate. The park has merged with the nearby forest.
Count Mikhail Vorontsov.
Interior of the Preobrazhenska Church;
its architectural style is as unusual as its exterior.
Village hospital designed by famous architect from Kyiv
The village of Moshny has, in addition to the Preobrazhenska Church, another architectural landmark worth of mention. It is located in the central street of Moshny, close to the Preobrazhenska Church. It is an old wooden house adorned with wood carving. This building, which used to be a local hospital, was designed by the famous architect Vladislav Horodetsky, whose architectural creations are among the most remarkable landmarks of Kyiv.
Kateryna, the niece of Count Vorontsov’s son, who has been mentioned in the previous section of the article, was married to Mykola Balashov, a high-ranking official at the Russian imperial court. In 1884 she inherited the estate of Moshny from her uncle and she proved to be an energetic landholder. She extended the estate, buying more land. In a few years she owned a vast expanse of land which included several villages, Moshny being one of them. Kateryna developed the land in her possession and under her guidance and control, agriculture and certain local industries thrived. She opened a school for girls and decided to build a hospital. A young but very promising architect from Kyiv was commissioned to design the hospital. The architect was Vladislav Horodetsky. The hospital, designed in a typical provincial style of the late nineteenth century, was opened at a solemn ceremony on November 9 1894, on the day when Kateryna and her husband celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage.
The hospital had a doctor’s office, a consulting room, a surgery, four wards with ten beds in them, a kitchen, a bathroom and a toilet — quite an advanced facility for the countryside in those times. The hospital staff included a physician, two assistants and two midwives. In later years, the hospital had a couple of other buildings added to it. The building designed by Horodetsky is still in use — seven doctors live there. As far as I know, their main concern is not so much the preservation of an architectural landmark of the late nineteenth century but the dilapidated condition of the house they live in.
A pyramid in a village
In the village of Mezhyrich in the Land of Cherkashchyna — or rather in the field that divides the village into two parts, there stands a pyramid which can be seen from the highway that connects Kaniv and Cherkasy. Motorists who spot it often stop to take a closer look.
The pyramid is made of granite rocks of various sizes. It used to have a chain all around it. The chain is gone — only little supports have remained in place. The pyramid is not a burial place — the plaque fixed to it says that it was erected to commemorate the draining of marshes in a joint effort of villagers of several neighboring villages located in the area.
The village of Mezhyrich is situated close to the confluence of the Rivers Ros’ and Rosava, and once in a while the rivers flooded large expenses of land; the flooded land turned into marsh not suitable for cultivation. Heavy rains contributed to flooding and increased land erosion. Rain water carried soil and rocks into the rivers blocking their flow and exacerbating the problem. In 1903, villagers decided that they wanted to do something about it and they began building dykes and a drainage system. The effort proved to be successful and the peasant builders felt their effort had to be commemorated in a monument. The granite rocks for it were collected from the ravines in the vicinity which had been eroded by the floods and excessive water.
By Olena KRUSHYNSKA.
Photos by the author