Most of the 15th century Armenian Cathedral was destroyed in 1930, but it's totally worth peeking through the exquisite massive wrought iron gates at the ruins. The reconstructed bell tower attached is now an Orthodox Church. We sort of came across this place without knowing what it was, and seeing it alone in the dead of winter was eerily beautiful.
I spent the most incredible day walking around Kamyanets-Podilsky. There are so many more interesting corners to see beyond the main tourist area along the road that leads across the bridge to the castle. Every turn we took in Old Town had spectacular churches, 16th century defensive structures and interesting neighbourhoods. It might sound crazy, but wandering around aimlessly in the cold snow is possibly my warmest memory of Ukraine.
The Furriers' Tower was built in the 16th century as a defensive fortification for artisans living in the surrounding neighbourhood. It's part of a system of several defensive towers and gates that surround the town and line the banks of the Smotrych River. Attached to the stone tower is the Vitryani, or windy, gate so-named after Peter the Great's hat blew off his head there in 1711. Take it in as part of a great walk around Old Town.
The ratusha, or town hall, is an eye-catching peach building overlooking Polish Market Square. Dating from the 14th century, it was initially built in the Gothic style then changed and added to over the centuries. There's a museum on the inside that we found to be fairly dull. The facade of the building is really pretty, and just out front you can see the covered Armenian Well from 1638. Definitely one of the best parts of a walk through Old Town.
The prettiest building in Old Town, this cathedral was built by the Polish Catholic Church in 1580. After the Turks conquered the city in the 17th century it was converted to a mosque and the tall minaret was built. When the Turks lost the city, it was made a condition that the minaret not be demolished, and so a golden statue of the Virgin Mary was placed on the very top. Stroll through the grounds of this beautiful church and through the cemetery in the back courtyard as part of a beautiful walk through the Old Town,
Okay, so it might be the reason you've heard of Kamyanets-Podilsky at all, and if that's the case, whatever "Best Castle Towns", "Top Ukraine Experiences", or "Seven Wonders of Ukraine" list you might have read is right; the castle is really amazing. Part of it's amazingness is that the castle has a colourful battle history with towers and fortifications that have been remarkably well-preserved, some of which date as far back as the 14th century. The other part is that it's got this picturesque wow factor, with the Smotrych River snaking around it, the rolling hills backdrop, and the clusters of houses down below. The beautiful and grand approach, best enjoyed by walking over the medieval Turkish Bridge from Old Town and up through the castle gates, completes the experience.
We visited in the winter time and literally had the place to ourselves to explore. We wandered around for an hour or two enjoying the towers and vistas. There's a small museum you need to know Ukrainian to enjoy. Ultimately, the mere 48 hours I spent getting to and enjoying Kamyanets-Podilsky and it's amazing castle were some of the most vivid of my travel memories.
This originally baroque cathedral from 1580 got a minaret when the Turks turned it into a mosque from 1672 and when the Poles got the city again in 1699 they put a guilded Madonna on the top of it. A mixture of Christian and Muslim elements reminding in some sense a little of Spain...
The house of the Roman Catholic bishop is opposite the cathedral.
The old town hall is said to be the oldest Polish town hall still existing and houses a small museum. The actual town hall is of course situated in the new city.
Opposite the town hall is the old Armenian Fountain.
Kamenetsk-Podilski consists of two strictly separated parts. the one is the very Soviet modern city with rectangular wide roads and there is very little which might be interesting to see but it is the part where you usually arrive - mostly by bus from Chernivtsy and Khmelnitsky or by train and where the both relevant hotels are situated plus some restaurants with good standard Ukrainian food.
The other part is the old fortified town on the sandstone rock which is impressively surrounded by a canyon formed by an almost perfect loop of the Smotrych river.
The Town Hall (Ratusha), dating to 16cent., was a place of the Polish City Council. It consists of two parts – the two-storey building, the actual Ratusha and the Bell Tower. Before 1616, these were two separate buildings located 3 m apart from each other, but after the 1616 fire, they have been joined into one.
Looking at the Town Hall Bell Tower one gets impression that it’s been treated as a construction toy by local architects. It looks like every major architect just felt an urge to add something new to the existing building. As a result, the tower combines gothic windows on the first level, with renaissance “body” and baroque features added by Jan de Vitte in 18 cent. The interesting feature – two clocks – the old one on the 4th level and the new (19 century) on the top level.
The Town hall holds several exhibits – medieval torture exhibit in the cellar (yes, they did torture people here); the coin museum and the Magdeburg Right museum. The entrance fee is 2 UAH for each exhibit.
A stunning monument, a gem, which could make proud any respectful European museum is exhibited in the cathedral. A young woman is laying on the couch, and a cupid is guarding her sleep. The attention to a detail is incredible: every petal on the flower garland, every fold on the cover, every lock of the woman’s hair are carved so masterly that they create a feeling of a breath. And only the upside-down torch in cupid’s hands and the unfinished book, opened on page 21, symbolize her early departure.
Laura Pszezdecki, a daughter of a wealthy Polish nobleman from Chornyi Ostriv (The Black Island), died at 21 after she fell from a horse and broke her spine. The carrara marble gravestone made by Viktor Brodsky, a well-know Russian sculptor. A four-ton monument was put in the church, at the entrance to the family crypt in 1876, two years after her death. In Soviet times, and the crypt has been destroyed, the monument thrown out and the family church has been converted into the club. The monument would not have survived if it hadn’t been transported to the cathedral (then a museum of atheism) in Kamyanets.
When artistic value of the monument was truly recognized, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow as well as Lenigrad’s museum of Arts (which collections include many artifacts from Ukraine including from Kamyanets) demanded a monument to be transferred to their respective museums. Due to shipment difficulties (a way too heavy, plus minor cracks in the marble) as well as beginning of the WWII, the transfer has been postponed, and soon Laura has been forgotten. Thanks to that Kamyanets preserved one of its true pearls and tourists still can enjoy this masterpiece in Kamyanets rather than a Russian Museum.
The St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, a 600-year-old vitness of the city history, is a great example of architectural and relegious tolerance. it successfully combines european Renaissance, Baroque with Muslim architecture, wchich makes it one of the kind in Ukraine.
The St. Peter and Paul Cathedral successfully combines European Renaissance, Baroque with Muslim architecture, which makes it one of the kind in Ukraine. A 600-year-old witness of the city history, is a great example of architectural and religious tolerance
The Lithuanian Princes, the Koryatovychs, were the founders of the first wooden Roman Catholic Church built in 1370. The building of the stone church is connected with the name of Bishop, Yakiv Buchats'kyi (1502-1517), who was a devotee and a wealthy man; he has given some money for fortifying of the Kamyanets' Castle.
After Turks conquered the town in 1672, they converted Peter and Paul's Cathedral into a mosque by adding a minaret in front of its western front. And needless to say, that when Podillya was returned to Rzech Pospolita, the mosque has been converted to the church. To the credit of the Catholic Church, it didn't destroy the minaret, just "converted" it into a high column and put the statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of it.
The cathedral underwent a major reconstruction in the middle of the XVIII century, when Yan de Vitte did major repairs in the Roman Catholic Church in the Baroque Style on request of Bishop Dembovs'kyi (1740-1757). The new Main Altar and the figures of four Evangelists have been added, while the main front was decorated with the pilasters, capitals and sculptures. The memorable plaque with bishop’s coat was put on the front wall of the church to commemorate his efforts.
a tower-shaped pavilion located next to the city hall attracts attention. It was built in mid-XVIII by Jan de Vitte, a well-known architect, to cover what is know today as the Armenian Well.
The water supply has been a long-standing problem in Kamyanets. To get to the potable water, one had to take a detour road and travel to the Hunnic springs, located 3 miles outside of the city. Those who didn’t want to travel that far could buy a barrel of water for 25-35 kopeiks (in silver), or use dirty water from the Smotrych River, which often led to mass pandemics of typhus, cholera and dysentery.
According to the legend, in the early 17 cent., Nercess, an Armenian merchant, donated a large sum to resolve the problem and to built a water supply system. Well, the money felt through a crack or ended up in someone’s pocket, and the problem remained until in 1638, the Polish King Wladislaw Waza ordered the city to build a well. The central location (the Polish Market) was chosen, and the work began. Well, the ground turned to be a solid rock. It took the city 22 years to build a 40-metter deep and 6 meter wide well. To common disappointment, the water turned to be bitter-salty and believed to be used only for a limited time.
An attempt to revive the well was taken in 1889. the well was cleaned, and water was even sent to chemical testing to prove again - not potable. As for the pavilion built over the well, it has been used as a city storage. Now the city is looking into converting it into the museum/souvenir shop.
“The last, adjacent to the last, in honor of the last of the last.” This riddle, filled with right words, will tell you in a nutshell everything about the location and the history of the Triumph Arch. This is the LAST building on Tatarska St., adjacent to the LAST building of the Polish Market, in honor of the LAST visit of the LAST King of Polish –Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Latin inscription on the arch says: "The King Stanislaw II August has passed here on November 11, 1781."
The baroque arch is decorated with 4 angels (only two preserved), and the statue to John of Nepomuk, the patron of bridges, good fame and confession, in the center.
After Turks conquered the town in 1672, they converted Peter and Paul's Cathedral into a mosque by adding a 36.5-meter minaret in front of its western front.
A 145-step stone spiral staircase leads to the minaret’s balcony, one of the most spectacular view points on the fortress and Smotrych Canyon. (According to the lady in the church the minaret serves as a view point during the summer time with a permission of the church’s catholic priest).
The copper statue of Blessed Virgin Mary was erected on the top of the minaret in 1756 to commemorate the banishment of the Turks. The statue was manufactured in Gdans'k and placed on May 10, 1756 with bell rings and cannon shooting in the castle. The Blessed Virgin, in an 12-star aureole around her head, stands on the Terrestrial Globe and Half Moon and is blessing the town and land. In memory of this event the inscription was carved in the bottom part of the Minaret: "The Pure Blessed Virgin, the Patroness of the City".
The minaret is the only monument of the Turkish heritage that has preserved in the town.