NUMBER 1 — RYNOK SQUARE
Rynok Square has been the centre of political, public, cultural, and commercial life of the city for 500 years; it is the heart of Lviv the setting of the historic beginning of the Europeanization of Ukraine. Surrounding it are about fifty unique architectural monuments dating back to the 16-20th centuries Rynok Square in Lviv has retained its name since the 14th century. It originates from the German “der Ring” (ring, circle), which had been the principle of construction of central squares in German medieval cities.
It was here, in valley of the Poltva River where, in the middle of the 14th century, German colonists commissioned by King Kazimierz III laid the foundations for a classical European town with a market (rynok) square. The Polish king desired to build a town according to the most innovative technologies of the time, and for this purpose he invited craftsmen and constructors from Germany. In the following centuries the architectural perfection of Rynok Square was completed by Italian and Austrian architects.
Rynok Square in its current appearance represents later developments of architectural ideas of many artists and of many centuries; all of these have one commonality – a permanent concordance and harmony. Here all the buildings convey the feeling of peace, confidence, optimism, and humanism of the European Renaissance. All the stone buildings of the square are different and unique, but at the same time as if affixed to each other by a single idea. Each house presents a separate and complete image. The size of the buildings is phenomenally proportionate with human height, and we feel ourselves in a cosy interior. The buildings are neither too high, nor too short; none stands out of the total ensemble with its size, height, or style. The Lviv Renaissance houses convey genuine music. Asymmetrically located windows – two alongside and the third, as if aloof – serve very practical purposes: two windows look into the main reception hall, and the third looks into a utility room. However, this asymmetry has its own rhythm – as though two half-notes sound first, and then the whole note does. This ‘sound’ of Rynok Square is unique.
Lviv medieval patricians would usually commission Italian architects from North Lombardy and southern Switzerland to design their houses. However, the Italian Renaissance could not preserve its stylistic purity and integrity in Lviv; it was complemented and enriched with local traditions, including features of Ukrainian architecture. This way, over a period of five centuries, a unique ensemble of dwelling houses was created in Rynok Square, the only one of its kind in Ukraine. Almost all of the buildings in the square have always been used according to their original purpose – as residences of Lvivites.