The settlement on the banks of the Poltava river below Zamovka hill began in the mid 5th century AD, at the crossing point of important trade routes linking the Baltic, central Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia. It gradually developed by the 13th century into an organized and well fortified town known as L’viv. It was the main town of the lands of the Eastern Slavs on the Bug, Sian, and Dnister rivers, which entered history as a political entity in the 10th century, when it became a vassal state of the kingdom of Kiev (Kyiv). Kniaz (King) Roman Mstyoslavovych, who inherited the lands in 1199, united the territories of Halychyna and Volyn’ in a single state, which continued after the collapse of the Kievan kingdom. L’viv was rebuilt and extended by Kniaz Lev Danylovych (1264-1301).
L’viv had become the capital of the joint kingdom in 1272 and remained so until that, too, disappeared in 1340, when it was annexed to Poland by Casimir III the Great. However, the town maintained its paramountcy in western Ukraine, and its strategic and commercial importance brought it many privileges that ensured a monopoly over trade with the east. It was made the seat of a Catholic archbishopric in 1412.
The city attracted a multi-ethnic population, and the different groups lived in separate communities. The Ukrainian, Armenian, and Jewish communities were self-governing, unlike the Catholic (German, Polish, Italian, and Hungarian) groups. There was intense rivalry between them, which resulted in the creation of many architectural and artistic masterpieces.
The prosperity of L’viv was not materially harmed by frequent epidemics, fire, or wars. However, it was badly hit by the Ottoman siege in 1672 and had not recovered when it was captured and sacked by Charles XII of Sweden in 1704. Notwithstanding, some important religious buildings, especially monasteries, were built during the 18th century. With the First Partition of Poland in 1772 L’viv became the capital of the new Austrian province.
Under Austrian rule (which continued until 1918), the fortifications were dismantled and many religious foundations were closed down, their buildings being used for secular purposes; there was also considerable reconstruction of medieval buildings. The revolutionary year of 1848 saw serious damage in the centre of the city as a result of military action. In 1918 L’viv became part of the new Republic of Poland, but it returned to Ukraine after World War II.
Since 1990 it is a Unesco site.
Thanks to Ksenya for the postcard.