The Bernardine Order in Lviv

The Bernardines were a monastic order, the Observants branch of the Franciscans. Originating from medieval Italy, they were also based in what is now Ukraine and Poland.

Bernardines arrived in Lviv in 1460. The most notable of them was Jan of Duklya (1414-1484), famous for his preaching and miracle working. His influence helped the Bernardines to receive city’s loyalty, and numerous donations, such as land, permissions, etc. Eventually Bernardines have got significant influence. Later, after his death, Jan of Duklya considered to be the protector of Lviv. In 1997 he was made a saint.

The early monastery buildings

In 1463, soon after they arrived, the Bernardines built a wooden church and dormitory at the south of the town outside the city walls. These were repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt after attacks on the town. With each rebuilding, the monastery settlement and its territory were enlarged.     

In 1600, the Bernardines began to construct a new church and monastery on the site. They had now been granted the right to enclose it within its own defensive walls, but on condition that these walls were attached to those of the city.

The enlargement period

Work on the new church started in September 1600. The church was designed by Italian architect, Paulo Rymlianin, but he was replaced by the other Italian architect Ambrozy Przychylny in 1613. He was replaced in turn by the Swiss architect Andreas Bemer in 1617, who saw the work through to completion in 1630. This probably explains why the architecture, particularly the façade of the church is not homogenous. The forecourt in front of the church was first used for public religious services in 1609.

The previous monastery building had been located south of the earlier church, but the new monastery building was placed to the north for better defense. For this purpose the part of the original monastery garden was demolished.

The final configuration in plan of the wall was changed under the direct order of the king who prescribed the specific place where the monastery wall should meet with that of the city (refer to drawings 5.5 and 5.6)

When the monastery fortification wall was finished, the fruit garden was built. This garden was also used as a monastery graveyard (as discovered in 1950s).

Other structures were added to the complex during the 18th century, and these included: the bell tower (1734); the Jan of Duklya column (1737); and the baroque rotunda above the well in the courtyard (1761).

The period of redevelopment and integration

After having been ruled by Poland more or less continually since the 14th century, the city was annexed by Austria in 1772. As a meter of policy the Austrian authorities abolished the Bernardine order in 1784. The monastery buildings lost their original uses and were occupied by different institutions: an historical archive in the main monastery building, a school in its northern wing, and military barracks in the buildings adjacent to the eastern wall. The only building that retained its function was the church. At the same time, the city’s fortification walls began to be demolished and replaced with boulevards and public squares. Most of the defensive monastery walls were also taken down during this period. The previously enclosed monastery territory, began to be integrated into the city as a whole, which, during the late 18th and 19th centuries, expanded considerably beyond its former limits.

The church forecourt

After the wall at the west of the church forecourt was demolished, the space became open for the general use of the public. In 1811, Serbska Street, which was previously closed off by the city wall, was extended southward to connect with Bernardine Square (today’s Soborna Square). This part of Serbska Street occupied part of the monastery’s original fruit garden, reducing its size. The remainder of the garden was enclosed by a wall until 1954.

From the early 18th century on, the forecourt was variously planted with greenery and trees, but in the 1990s, it was completely paved over. There used to be a figure of St. Jan of Duklya at the top of the central column, but it was removed and replaced by a copy of baroque vase in the 1950s. (The current location of the statue is unknown.) The forecourt was extended toward Soborna Square during the 1990s. A souvenir kiosk and the large wooden cross in front of the main door of the church appeared at about that time.

The church itself was used as a storage space during the soviet period (1945-1991). After the political changes in Ukraine in 1991, it became the Lviv cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The monastery fruit garden

Various educational institutions have occupied the northern wing of the monastery building since 1855, and have used the monastery fruit garden, which was enclosed by walls until 1954, as their outside space. After the Second World War, a music school, later the Lviv National University School of Culture and Arts moved into the monastery building and likewise used the garden as its outside space.

During the 1970s, the area was turned into a small public park laid out within the lines of the former enclosing walls, fragments of which still existed.  

The eastern fortifications

The monastery’s eastern fortifications survived the removal of the city walls in the late 18th century. In the late 19th century, a customs house was built in front of them to cater for the traffic arriving at the town from the east, and this became the city’s main eastern gateway. The customs house was destroyed during WWII and the space it had occupied was turned into a public concourse in the 1970s, at which time the fortifications were rebuilt on the basis of what remained of them and in a matching historical style.

The courtyard

The main monastery courtyard was originally used for household purposes, such as growing herbs and vegetables, and keeping livestock.

In the early 19th century, the courtyard became a holding area for people and goods arriving at the city from the east through the Hlynyanska Gate, and the building through which they passed (behind the eastern fortifications) became a military barracks. In the early 20th century, the barracks were converted into apartments and offices, and the courtyard became available as an amenity and as a connection between the church forecourt and the Hlynyanska Gate. New paving and planting was installed in the northeast part of the courtyard in the 1970s.