Today, hundreds of students are studying in the residence, thousands of tourists come on tour and it remains a unique architectural monument of Chernivtsi, Bukovyna and entire Ukraine. A hundred years ago, the residence was a pearl of the region’s religious life. Here the Metropolitan, who headed the Orthodox affairs of the entire eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, lived and worked. The residence was once created as a symbol of Bukovynian people’s spirituality, and now it has become a symbol of education and science in the region.
The Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans had appeared here due to the lodger. Thus, since 1845, Eugenie Hacman, a prominent religious and public figure in Chernivtsi, who had already occupied the high rank of the bishop, was forced to rent a home. There was neither desire nor possibility to live in a time-worn and rotten wooden building of the Bishops’ Residence.
Since it was unbecoming for the high-ranking priest to rent, wrote a petition for the Austrian leadership in order to build a new residence in Chernivtsi. And only in 15 years, his requests were listened to and the work on the construction of a building in the capital of the crown land had been started. Later it became the architectural pearl of the city and the region as well as the entire empire.
The residence in Chernivtsi was built for 18 years. And it was built decently – for ages. Architect Josef Hlávka, who was invited to build an iconic religious building, could not tolerate cheap and unprofessional work. Therefore he worked himself and demanded from others to do their best.
By the way, first of all, Hlávka got the approval of emperor himself for the project of the Metropolitans Residence. And he agreed to build such a complex on the edge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was one of its kind not only in the eastern lands but in the entire country. Josef Hlávka, who was 30 years old by that time, had already gained the authority in the royal court; he built the Lazaryts church and the Vienna opera house. Therefore, his ambitious project of a pompous residence on the outskirts of the empire was agreed.
Bishop Hacman had no less confidence of the Emperor than Hlávka. For back in time, he was a home teacher at the royal court. And thanks to his perseverance and arrangements, he succeeded, firstly, to invite the best architect in the empire for the construction, secondly, in general, to dare to build such a construction in a big way and thirdly, to complete the construction.
The scope of the residence’s construction was striking. Both in its size and in its costs. In total, more than 1 million 750 thousand florins were spent on construction that according to very rough estimates would cost almost 2 billion euros today. For a small provincial town somewhere far from the metropolitan Vienna, this scale was simply fantastic. However, the city, patrons, and the country’s leaders were also those who dared to build it.
They had started to build a “pearl of Bukovyna” on April 13, 1864. Josef Hlávka designed an iconic complex in the spirit of eclecticism with a predominance of Byzantine and Romanesque styles. The architect correctly understood the diversity of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and spiritual Bukovyna. Therefore, he created such a complex that would only with its appearance embody all that diversity. By the way, the project of the Residence won prizes at various architectural competitions and was celebrated at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.
The Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans consists of three buildings and a dendrological park. The central building housed the Metropolitan’s Palace. The interior decoration of the premises is as rich and unique as its front. Particular attention should be paid to the three rooms of the Metropolitan Palace: Marble, Blue, and Red.
Unfortunately, on March 29, 1944, a fire occurred at the Residence. It set if in that very central building. The fire destroyed the interior of the unique Marble Hall. It also destroyed the Blue Hall, where was rich bishop’s library. However, the Red Hall had survived. Only this room is able to convey the spirit that was all around the metropolitan’s palace centuries ago. The peculiarities of this hall are its walls that are covered with Chinese silk, carved and painted wooden ceiling, and huge Venetian mirrors, looking at which you can purify yourself spiritually. Or, if you light a candle or a match, you can see five reflected lights in the mirror. That is so many layers of silver create these unique mirrors.
Next to the Metropolitan’s Palace, there is the Seminary building with the Church of the Three Saints and the hostel building or Presbytery.
Seminary and theology students once attended these premises. The church was opened for their spiritual and educational needs. Josef Hlávka invited a famous Austrian artist Carl Jobst to paint religious images. A local painter, no less talented Epaminandos Buchevsky, was helping him with it.
The hostel building is crowned with a watchtower. It housed chambers for monks and foreign clerics, who were frequent visitors to Chernivtsi. There was also a candle factory in that building.
A spacious square inside the Residence is also quite interesting. It is covered with small pebbles, walking on it is prohibited. And there is a completely pragmatic reason for this – the square is used as drainage so that the rains don’t flood the basement of the Residence.
To build a huge complex for the Metropolitan of Bukovyna, firstly, Josef Hlávka had built a brick factory that produced a red brick on a unique technology (chicken eggs and even carrion were added). Each brick was thrown from a height of ten meters. If it cracked – it was thrown away as a defect.
Today, the Residence of Metropolitan hosts a part of the Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University. The Metropolitan Palace hosts the university’s administration, the Seminary building gave shelter to the Philological, Philosophical and Theological Faculties, and the Faculty of Geography is the hostel building.
In 2011, the Architectural Ensemble of the Metropolitan’s Residence in Chernivtsi became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Text and photo by Maksym Kozmenko