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Exotic landmarks of Ukraine


Olena Krushynska’s latest report continues her series of articles about unusual, odd or even bizarre architectural landmarks in the villages and towns of Ukraine.


Chetfalva. Modern and Traditional

Tourists from other parts of Ukraine who come for the first time to the land of Zakarpattya are in for a lot of visual and other sorts of surprises. In the village of Chetfalvi, for example (it used to be called Chetovo), you can see the names of the streets on the houses in two languages — Ukrainian and Hungarian; there are two flags hoisted at the building of the local council — the Ukrainian and the Hungarian ones; if you feel lost and ask a passer-by to give you directions to such and such place in a language other than Hungarian, you are very likely to get a smile in response and a “sorry” in Hungarian (a pretty tough language to learn: Hungarian is a member of the Ugric branch of the Finno-Ugric languages, called Magyar by its speakers, the Finnish is a language relative). The houses in the streets look much more in the rural Hungarian rather than Ukrainian style — Chetfalvi is situated about a mile from the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.

Architectural landmarks in Chetfalvi are also “different” from anything else you could have seen in Ukraine (even a bit ‘bizarre” for my taste). The Church of the Holy Spirit which stands in the center of Chetfalvi looks to me as an odd combination of shapes which remind me of an egg, wigwam, and the Opera House in Sydney. The bell tower that stands next to it is no less extravagant. This architectural “ensemble” was built quite recently — in 1998–2001. The church is shared by the Greco-Catholic and Roman Catholic communities and the religious services in the church are held alternately. In the interior of the church you can see features typical both for the Greco-Catholic and Roman Catholic churches — the crucifix and the altarpiece. How I wish such peace and goodwill existed between the religious communities all around the world!

There is another, older, church in Chetfalvi which is situated not too far from the new one. Its architecture is much more traditional and combines elements of brick and wooden churches. Its wooden bell tower stands so close to the church that you can tell the church and the tower are two separate structures only when you come right up to them — the distance between the church and the tower is about four feet only.

The Church, according to the latest historians’ findings, dates from the fifteenth century but the tower is considerably younger — it was built in the eighteenth century. Its architectural shape is close to that of defensive towers of that time. The tower stands right in front of the church’s facade and the tower’s first floor doubles as an entrance gate to the church. The tower is thirty meters tall (almost a hundred feet) and its height makes it virtually unique among bell towers of Zakarpattya.

The tower stands on the ground without any foundation to support it. Instead of the foundation, huge rocks on which stand 16 supporting pillars carry the weight of the tower whose wooden structure is truly unique. The engineers and architects who examined the tower and the mathematicians who did calculations have come to the conclusion that the tower is built with a great architectural and engineering precision which makes it perfectly stable. Its conical shape and the ingenious support system are the result either of the superbly done mathematical and engineering calculations — or the result of an incredibly inspired architectural and engineering imagination and intuition.

When you walk into the church and look up, you can see that the church’s wooden ceiling is made up of sixty wooden squares of varying sizes; each square is decorated with ornamental and narrative paintings. One of the wooden squares carries the date — 1753. The name of the carpenter who created the wooden ceiling is known — Sandor Ferenc, but the name of the painter is lost. In all likelihood the paintings were done on boards with white, black and red backgrounds and then these boards were fixed to the ceiling. The style of paintings on the ceiling and in other places of the church suggests that they were executed in the middle of the eighteenth century.

As far as I know, there are similar decorative paintings to be seen in some churches in Hungary, but what is known for sure is that quite a few tourists from this neighboring country come to Chetfalvi to have a look at that old church and its interiors.



The ceiling carries 60 decorative panels,

with all of them of a different design.


The church doesn’t have a foundation, and the whole

structure rests on wooden supports.


Chernivtsi. Drunken Church

Pxyana Tserkva — Drunken Church is not my impression of the architecture of the Mykolayivska (St Michael’s) Church in Chernivtsi — it’s the nickname the church earned among the locals thanks to its architectural oddity.

The church stands in Ruska Street, and no visitor to Chernivtsi fails to be somewhat flummoxed by the twisted shapes of the four domes of the church which surround the central dome, which, in contrast to its companions, reveals no intention to deviate from what you might expect to see in the shape of a central dome that crowns a church. The four “twisted” domes do look as though the architect or the masons were in the advanced state of inebriation when they worked on them.

The church was built in the 1920s and 1930s for the Bukovyna Metropolitanate but the shape of the domes was not exactly a fanciful whimsy of the architect who designed it — he must have been inspired by the church in the Rumanian town of Curtea de-Ages which was built in 1512–1517 in the style known as “Brinkovianu” (after the sixteenth-century Rumanian ruler Constantin Brinkovianu).

The architectural arrangement of the interior is somewhat unusual too — the central entrance to the church is from Ruska Street, one of the main thoroughfares of the city, and thus does not face the west as one expects the central entrance to a church would; since the altar should be oriented towards the east and in this no deviation from the canon is possible, the entrance and the alter are not on the same axis and that creates some confusion when you enter the church — the altar is on your right, rather than in front of you. I find it a bit disconcerting for a church to have two confusing architectural features.




Cherkasy. Steel Tower — but not Eiffel

The 34-meter tall steel tower in the city of Cherkasy was designed and built in the early twentieth century by Vladimir Shukhov (1853–1939), a Russian engineer who is best known for his radio tower in the Shabolovka part of Moscow. The tower was originally designed to be a water tower and now it is a sort of a local architectural landmark.

Vladimir Shukhov’s contributions to engineering and technology included ground-breaking and pioneering principles for making equipment for producing and transporting natural oil, for delivering water to Moscow, for building railroad bridges; his engineering ideas were used in the construction of huge stores in Moscow (GUM and Pasazh).

In the history of bold engineering projects he is best known for introducing new principles to the construction of towers and pavilions of various purposes. For the first time these principles were used in the construction of pavilions and towers at the All-Russian Exhibition in Nizhniy Novgorod which was held in 1896. The tower of his design with its unprecedented shape and engineering features was indeed a marvel of advanced engineering and architecture of that time. The weight of the tower was light for its size; the costs of its construction were amazingly low, and the tower with its openwork steel tracery did look very attractive.

Similar principles were used by Shukhov in the construction of supports for high-voltage electric lines, in the construction of the lighthouse in the vicinity of Kherson and in other projects. The 150-meter (over 450 feet) high radio tower in Shabolovka, Moscow, which was built in 1919–1921, proved to be Shukhov’s most ambitious project. It is believed that the Russian writer Aleksey Tolstoy was inspired by the tower to writing a Sci-Fi novel Engineer GarinÕs Hyperboloid, which became a bestseller.



Photos by the author.


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