Lviv, Symbol of Catholic Martyrdom

A Crossroads City That Survived Stalin

Share this Entry

LVIV, Ukraine, JUNE 24, 2001 ( After celebrating a public Mass on Monday morning in Kiev, John Paul II will travel to Lviv, a center of the Greek-Catholic faith which survived Stalin´s persecution.

In Lviv he will beatify 28 martyrs of Communism and Nazism.

Deprived of their places of worship, and obliged to celebrate Mass in private homes, at times interrupted by the KGB, the Greek-Catholics lived in the catacombs for almost a half-century, until Mikhail Gorbachev met with John Paul II in 1989.

The splendors of Slavic Christian culture preserved in this city led UNESCO to declare it patrimony of humanity. Conquered by numerous empires, Lviv is the crossroads of many cultures, including Polish, Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian and Soviet. It has been called Lwiw, Lemberg and Lviv.

Since Ukraine´s independence in 1991, Lviv is trying to rise from the dark years of Communism and recover its former splendor. The city is, perhaps, the proudest symbol of Ukrainian nationalism. Russian is virtually unspoken in these parts.

“Abandoned by the Soviet regime, some of the historical monuments collapsed,” said the city´s mayor, Vasyl Kuibida. “However, today, despite the economic crisis, we are doing everything possible to rehabilitate the city and attract tourists.”

By the 13th century, Armenian, Italian and Hebrew were languages heard on the streets of this city, built on the crossroads of commercial routes that join the Baltic and Black seas, Europe and Asia.

Surrounding Market Square, in the old part of the city, is the palace of a rich 15th-century merchant, which borders a 16th-century Orthodox chapel, built by a Hungarian. Not far from here is the Armenian Catholic Church, place of worship of one of the city´s oldest communities.

The historical center was built in 1247. It sits on a spot whose first settlement dates to the sixth century. Its 120 hectares (about 300 acres) includes several dozen cathedrals, churches and synagogues, as well as close to 2,000 monuments of artistic interest.

Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation