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Taras Voznyak

The Phenomenon of the City

“Oak leaves, the merchants’ scales, the Gypsies,
The daily clatter and eternal stars each night…” (Trans. O. Shchur)
Bohdan-Ihor Antonych

Any conversation about the phenomenon of the city should obviously begin with how it is born, its origins and the act of its founding. For the act to take place, it is essential first to determine and delineate, and later separate, the location where the city will be founded. This means that all the city founders faced the problem of choice. The selected location had to differ in some manner from all the other places; it had to stand out somehow against its surroundings. Contemporary rational thinking would immediately prompt one to look for some material advantages: a conveniently located harbor, a protected area, or the proximity of a trade route. The thinking of a pre-historic human being – a person living in the era of non-linear, cyclical time that constantly repeated the birth-and-death cycle of the chief god – was different. In the mythological world, inhabited by gods that were still alive (Nietzsche) the choice of a suitable place for a city was made according to a completely different set of values. At the same time, the great and the powerful of the past that is already within complete reach of our historical memory chose differently, albeit their reasons for choosing a place were also metaphysical. Nonetheless, sometimes cities would really appear in convenient locations that offered many economic, military, or other material advantages.

Thus, the cities can be divided into those that were founded back in the mythological era, those that appeared already in the historic times, and those that were not founded at all but rather grew out of other kinds of settlements.

The cities founded in the mythological chronotope, which we have abandoned long ago and which is now inaccessible to us, appeared at junctures or points of conflict of the three cosmogonic spheres into which the world of those times was divided – the heavenly one, the earthly one, and the infernal one. In order for them to come together, something had to pierce these spheres; as a rule, it was the spear of a mythological hero, the savior of the world. Then the physical landscape became the site for cities built out of stone or wood, and for the human beings of those times these cities did not stand on a material foundation. Rather, their foundation was mythological. Thus, we are dealing here first and foremost with topographia sacra

This was exactly the factor that determined the foundation of the city in a particular place. However, as Nietzsche stated, the gods of those times really died. The time cycle broke and turned into a line: from the beginning till the end of time. Myths lost their power and became legends: they simply ceased to be reality. No one founded cities metaphysically anymore, since the mythological heroes became the thing of the past.

The second type of cities includes those that were founded in the historic times that we are able to understand and in the real physical landscape. The founders of these cities relied on their own will, but religious faith was still strong and they still sought heavenly blessing and protection for their undertakings. As a rule, they would find the patrons for the cities they founded among the Christian saints.

The third type of cities includes those that slowly and inconspicuously grew out of other settlements – no act of founding marked their beginning. These cities also normally appeared in the times of human history. Most of them are not very old, although the settlements that they grew out of could have existed since the pre-historic times. Such cities could grow out of a village nearby a road, next to a watchtower or a castle.

The cities of the mythological chronotope were created in the same manner as the world itself. The founding of such a city was really an act of creating a new world, which, just like the creation of the universe, is a cosmological act in its nature. The founding of such a city is grounded in god’s will or blessing. Such a city cannot be founded without or outside of god’s will. Just as the world is not only the creation of gods, but also their home, the cities founded through god’s will became home to the god or gods. Prior to the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem was such a home to God. God lived in the Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Local gods lived in virtually every such city in the ancient Near East – in Babylon and in Uruk.  Furthermore, small deities lived in every house of that epoch. In this sense, establishing a house, founding a city, and creating the world are the links in the same chain of cosmogonic creation, which eventually, with the establishment of monotheism, became united in our belief of one and only God and one world.

Such a city of the mythological epoch, founded just like the universe by god’s will, inevitably reflected the structure of the local universe, which was subject to the authority of the local deity that founded it and lived in it. The laws and the will of this deity operated in such a city.

The myths and the rituals of the city’s main temple imparted to the delineated space of the city various meanings and a plethora of semantic links; they connected it with a sacred space.

Moreover, the myth and the ritual precede the appearance of such a city. In order for a mythological hero to found a city, having completed some ritual act, the myth has to be already in existence and be perceived as a living reality by the people of that time period. “A ritual gives significance to the object by placing it within a network of meanings that are important for a particular community. In the end, it guarantees the inclusion of this object into the sphere of the acquired.” (Bajburin, 62)

The myth and the ritual determined the structuring of the city space and the function of every element in its structure. Thus, behind the city’s material substance, there stood its mythological-ritual substance, which was chiefly responsible for the city’s semiotization, for imbuing its elements with a unique meaning and for generating communication between them. Finally, on the basis of this semiotic communication, the mythological-ritual substance of the city consolidated the city’s culture. The city was not only founded and growing, but it also received its unique cultural blueprint that could be really viewed as a unified cultural text of that particular city.

How could one determine where to found a city? Which place was really blessed by gods? The deity had to give some sign on that site. As a rule, the chief deity would perform some heroic feat there. It could be a battle in which a heavenly deity would fight and gain victory over an infernal creature to save the world or the humankind. Viacheslav Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov reconstructed this “primal myth,” which precedes such a founding of a city. This myth could take the form of a battle between St. George and the Gragon, or the struggle of Lithuanian Perkunas against the Dragon at the site where Vilnius was founded. In any case, a certain “pre-event” had to take place at the site of the future founding of a city. In the minds of the people of that era, these “primal myths” established a connection between the real city (as a changeable semiotic text) and the sphere of the sacred. The myths were evidence of the fact that the place where a city was to be founded was a blessed one.

Then, as if under the aegis of the primary connection with the sphere of the sacred, through a mythological “pre-event” that occasioned the creation of a new world, the semiotic fabric of the city would develop into a cultural text.

Such “pre-events” did not occur just anywhere, in any profane place. As a rule, they took place in special locations that were close to the sacred sphere, where the human world was open to the heavenly sphere. The reason for this was not only in the presence of the deity in the primal event. As a rule, they really occurred in places that were special in their physical relief. These could be mountains where it was closer to Heaven (one example could be Jerusalem, which one cannot walk into or drive into; in Hebrew, one can only say that people “ascend” into it). These could also be places where Heaven opened up to the world of humans (Vilnius is a good example, as it is believed that the god of thunder Perkunas united Heaven and Earth in this place by lightning). It is possible to give examples that are closer to us in time, although typologically these cities were founded according to the most ancient scenario and with the appearance of God at the site. For instance, one could think of those cities that were founded on the mountain-tops where God or Mother of God appeared (Pochajiv, Pidkamin’, Kokhavyna). Considering such proximity to the heavenly sphere, one can claim that the cities founded in this way were built upwards, towards “Heaven” in the spiritual sense, or vertically if one talks about the architectural realization of this idea. A village has a totally different orientation – it is directed not upwards but towards the human world, to the horizon; it spreads out in all four directions. In the architectural sense, a village radiates horizontally, sometimes even descending into the ground (ravines, lowlands etc). A city, on the other hand, does not descend but rather mounts to the highest sacred and geographical point of the landscape. It comes into being in that point of the sacred place where “Heaven” and “Earth” unite. Most frequently, the house of god – a temple or some other holy place – marks the center of such a city.

At the same time, there exist many cities that were not founded in the mythological chronotope but rather in the times that are completely accessible to human memory, albeit quite ancient, and in places that do not have such a profound mythological background. These are the cities founded in historical time, and in real, physical landscape; thus, we are dealing here with topographia ordinaris. Usually these cities are founded by rulers who rely on their special status or some form of power to complete the act of city founding. However, since they usually realize how extraordinary such an act is and how close it is typologically to “the creation of the world,” they frequently try to find a place marked by a blessing from the sacred sphere. Thus, they either invent such a blessing or truly believe in the ancient myths that are now reduced to legends and superstitions. In this way, as was stated above, they try to place the burden of responsibility for this creative act and for the city’s safe existence onto some sacred patron. However, the chief deity cannot reside in a city founded in such a “profane” way. Such a city cannot become a home to the living God or a local deity. The home of the ruler – his castle, fortress, or palace – becomes the center of such a city. Following the ancient tradition (but also for reasons of defense), the fortress mounts a hilltop and towers over the city (the High Castle in L’viv, the castles in Kremenets’, Buchach, Oles’ko, Terebovlia, Kamjanets’-Podils’ky and many others).

Gradually, the times become marked with greater vanity. The majority of new cities of the modern era are upstarts in this worldly “parade of places and cities.” They grow out of the ground or the landscape; they appear near a road, a castle, or a palace. The places where these cities arise had no significance either in the mythological chronotope, or in the ancient historical epoch; they had no primal “pre-event” or act of founding by some ruler. Most frequently, they were not founded at all, but rather grew inconspicuously out of villages, near the taverns, storehouses, or ports. Their center was a road, a river, or a harbor. Such cities are not directed upwards either in the physical or the sacred sense. It is only later that they acquire “branches” of real sacred places (local cult sites) and the representatives of secular power (local government branches, courts etc.) With time, many of them acquire self-government (according to the Magdeburg law or contemporary democratic rights). The phenomenon of a city hall is one secular form of the upward orientation – it is a symbol of urban self-government that relies not on the sacred blessing or the ruler’s special status, but rather on collective will and more or less developed democratic structure. In this sense, a city hall is a distant relative of a temple or a castle. It is also a center of authority, albeit this is not the authority of the chief deity or the ruler chosen by God. It is the power that grows out of the collective will of the city’s residents. Even the silhouette of the city hall resembles a spire of a castle or a temple.

As a rule, these cities are fairly recent phenomena. They started to grow when the boundary between two medieval worlds – the world of the village and the world of the city – became blurry (Rietbergen, 168). In the medieval times, these worlds could be at war with each other or they could co-exist and even cooperate. Once a week, the village would encounter the city on a “battlefield,” and this “battlefield” was the market. Here one may talk about the market as a mechanism of exchange between the city and the village, as well as about the market squares that not unlike the circuses of the Ancient Rome became the competition arenas for “the world of the city” and “the world of the village.” The only strongholds inaccessible to the village were the city halls. One had to be an inhabitant of the city in order to have access to them or at least to be able to vote.

In some areas of Halychyna, such a relationship between the city and the village preserved itself into the early 20th century. Here is how this confrontation looked in the region of Pokuttia: “That city stands amidst the villages as an ossified village, as reeking carrion, and as the refuse of the entire county. On market days, it becomes alive, animated by the villages and merry. There stands a comedy booth in the middle of the market; some ghastly looking musicians are playing there, various scary beasts on the canvases of the booth grin at you, and some maiden, white as wax, bangs on the noisy cymbals. Right in front of the booth, there stands and watches the performance a crowd of villagers dressed in a variety of outfits. This entire group fixes its gaze on the wooden clown that appears out of the booth’s roof and, gesticulating wildly, invites everyone to come inside. Racket and laughter mix with the laughter through tears. The clown is joined by a wooden girl who hugs him. The market is overflowing with laughter, to the point of making the Jewish tavern-keepers deaf and causing the gentlemen in the offices to jump up in their chairs. All the village laughter came to the market. The old men are pulling away their sons and wives to go back, but the latter won’t leave without having seen the end of the act. Only when it begins to grow dark the masses of people disperse and leave behind the empty, rotten market that becomes the playground for little Jews.” (trans. O.Shchur; Stefanyk, 254). Such is the view of “the city world” and the market from the perspective of “the village world.” However, there is also a view of the city’s enduring attribute – the market – that was preserved in the far east of the Royal Monarchy and illuminates the perspective of “the city world” and one of its representatives – the inspector of scales and weights in the Zolotohorod (that is, Zolochiv and Brody) county, eichmeister Anselm Eibenschutz: “It was Friday – the day of the week the inspector did not like: not because he was superstitious, but because it was a market day for all of the county and the area more generally. This meant a lot of work not just in the shops but also outside. The customers would simply run away once they saw the gendarmes and the municipal officials. Great panic stuck the market in Solodke this time as well. When the yellow cart appeared on the edge of the market square, someone, some boy who was supposed to keep watch, cried out: “Coming! They are coming!” Women threw the fish they were about to buy back into the vat. The chickens that have just been slaughtered and were still covered in blood noisily fell down on the counters of the stands. The live poultry got frightened. The chickens, the geese, the ducks, and the turkeys dashed in all directions on the wide and muddy road lined with stands, clucking and cackling anxiously, and rapidly beating their heavy wings. While the customers, who after all had no reason to flee from the officials, did this simply out of foolishness, hatred, or distrust, or perhaps out of some kind of indeterminate fear, the vendors, who could not abandon their stands without raising some justified suspicions, were thinking hard about what they should do. First, they threw their weights onto the middle of the road, straight into the silvery grey mud. This looked almost like a battle, as if the people on the two sides of the road were bombarding each other with hefty little weights.” (Roth, 45-6)

These two views are hardly attractive. At best, they capture the authors’ mildly ironic attitude.

Due to its communicative function, the market became one of the most important elements of all cities. Through the market, the village established contact not only with the nearby city but also with the world at large. Generally, until the 18th century “the world of the village” was a closed one: its inhabitants were mostly illiterate, and they had seen very little beyond the confines of their village. This was a culture of the oral word that was passed on from generation to generation. The city instead communicated on a much greater scale, and this was done in two ways – through reading and the written word, as well as owing to the travels of merchants and university professors. That is why already then cities were the vehicles of communication not just with the nearby villages, but with the entire world, to the extent to which it was known at the time. Cities made the movement of goods, money, people, the written word, and ideas possible. City dwellers developed the whole network of universities, libraries, post offices, and banking and trade institutions in Europe – one only needs to think of all the Ukrainian, Armenian, German, Italian, Greek, and Hebrew scholars, bankers, con-artists, educators, and merchants of the old trade towns in Halychyna, such as Yazlivets’, Kamjanets’ in Podillia, and L’viv (for instance, the families of Korniakt, Boim, or Alembek). Universities, banks, and trade houses ensured the circulation of goods, people, and ideas through all of Europe. For villagers, traveling was too costly and associated with many dangers. Leaving one’s own village was considered almost a tragedy. Leisure appeared for the first time in the world of the city – there was simply no free time in the village. City dwellers were the first to enjoy the views around them; landscapes became the object of their aesthetic admiration rather than the source of economic gain, as they were for the villagers (Stromeier, 671). Free people who were not tied to their land lived in the cities. Perhaps only in the 18th century, when the European cities began to shed their corsets of the city walls that strictly divided the two worlds, the dangers awaiting a person outside the city walls (thugs, vagabonds, soldiers, marauders, and Tatars) greatly diminished. There appeared a possibility for the cities without a divine blessing or protection of a chosen ruler to emerge and survive. Several centuries prior to this time, such a defenseless city would usually be pillaged or burnt.

In Halychyna, the inhabitants of many such cities were predominantly people of Hebrew origin, who were not tied closely to the land because they were not allowed to work on it. Eventually, this created in the territory of Rzech Pospolita a unique world of shtetl – small Hebrew towns with their completely inimitable cultural text. The morphology of such towns is somewhat different. They were also oriented towards the heavenly realm, but in a different and usually disguised way. Since the Hebrew world could not outwardly demonstrate its orientation towards the sacred, it expanded “inside.” This happened not just in the spiritual sense but also in the architectural one – it was not allowed to build the synagogues taller than a certain height, and that is why they expanded into the ground. Something similar happened to the Orthodox churches in the Balkans during the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Some of the parvenu cities that were devoid of heavenly intercession or protection by a chosen ruler nevertheless had a great “career” and became contemporary megalopolises, albeit most of these belong to the New World (such as New York). On the other hand, the cities founded in sacred places or by great rulers could fall into decay. This happened to such old and powerful centers as Halych, Kholm, or Terebovlia, or such sacred places as the center of the Hassidic movement Belz (after the tzadiks of the Belz tradition moved away, the center was relocated to Jerusalem). This also happened to Yazlivets’: after the changes in the trade route configuration and the relocation of the Armenian archbishopry to L’viv, the city was doomed.

Almost all the histories of the ancient cities begin with a story about the city as a delineated space; as a rule, this is a legend about some deity or a heroic ruler choosing the place for the city. In this sense, the founding and the patronage of the city define it in terms similar to the description of a state. One can see that there is a complete analogy between the plowing of a furrow around the territory where a city is to be built and the ritual plowing around the territory of the old kingdoms. Ancient rulers, who were the mediators between the chief deities and the people, participated every year in the ritual of traveling along the borders of their state (a symbolic substitute for plowing around it).

The traditional plowing around the space was meant to separate it from its surroundings, but in addition, it allowed one to sow in this space a different kind of relationships – that is, to create some other, better society, based on divine blessing or protection of the law. At the same time, the plowing delineated the territory to be protected from the rest of the “uncivilized” world. It was not easy to enter this “legitimated” world and to become its citizen: the fact that you were born there did not yet grant you that status. In the Middle Ages, it was necessary to receive this special status, enter the city society, and be recognized as its full member.

From the point of view of architectonics, we see various configurations of the city. However, a closer examination reveals certain similarities. Did the founders of the ancient cities care about the configuration of the delineated space where a city was to be built? They most definitely did. When a city was founded, the space for it had to have an ideal shape and quality, so that it could become the space for “an ideal society.” This is why all chosen plots of land had to be situated at the same distance from the center (the temple or the residence of a ruler) – both in the physical and the spiritual terms. The ideal sacred and geometric shape that could ensure such a configuration of the city was the circle. This is why the circular shape was the shape of the ancient Trypillian proto-cities (despite the usefulness of this shape for defense purposes). The fact that the circular planning of these cities was due to the worldview of the Trypillians rather than just defense needs becomes manifest if one notices that in their oldest settlements the Trypillians would leave spaces between their buildings. In the settlement near the village Bernashivka, which belongs to the Trypillian culture A-1 (4,700 – 4,300 BCE), six buildings stand in a circle with 15-18 meters between them and the seventh building is located in the center (Zbenovych, 20). This is the oldest circular settlement, albeit not a city yet. Eventually, the settlements of the Trypillians expanded into what one may call “proto-cities” with the population in the tens of thousands (Kruts, 176-181). At the time – and this was before the expansion of Babylon and the Egyptian cities – these were the largest proto-cities in the world. The cities of such a size would not be built in one circle as in the early Trypillian period, but they would rather consist of many circles, sometimes more than ten (as in the villages of Nebylivka and Chychyrkozivtsi in the Cherkassy region) (Mytsyk, 147). There were usually three, six, or nine concentric circles, and the number of circles was believed to have magical significance. Radial streets were aligned with the four sides of the world and the solstice azimuths. Thus, the space of the city was coordinated with the cosmogonic movement cycles of the sun, the moon, and the stars. It was also stratified according to the functional use of the inner, middle, and outer sections of the circular city. The inner section was reserved for the sacred: this is where the temple was built uniting the city with the heavenly realm. The middle sections were meant for people, and the outer one was reserved for the animals, which were more associated with the circular boundary of the proto-city (Mytsyk, 24).      

Certainly, one cannot deny the function of protection that the circular shape of the Trypillian settlements fulfilled. It is interesting that the same functional zoning can be observed at a later time, during the Mycenaean epoch in Ancient Greece. The settlement of Malthi-Dorion at Mycenae is also located on a flat mountain top and is divided into three parts. The central terrace with the palace of the ruler and the sacrificial fire inside is located at the highest point and surrounded with a wall. The residential area for most of the city dwellers is located right outside the wall that encircles the palace. Finally, there are three large lowermost terraces that were used for cattle (Andreev, 62). The settlement of the German colonists near Drohobych known as Koenigsaue (now the village of Rivne) is a much later, grotesque, albeit interesting, version of such circular settlements on the “foreign” territory. On its plan, it is in the shape of a pentagram (Diagram 1). Although this settlement is known as a village (Dorf), typologically it was really a separate world, distinct from its surroundings, and thus had the features of a city. Perhaps the term “colony” describes it best after all. Inside the pentagram, there was a well-regulated German world – the world outside it was a foreign one to the inhabitants of Koenigsaue. And this was in the 18th and the 19th centuries!

The square is also an ideal shape for the city since it is completely symmetrical and can be divided into four symmetrical sections. In the practice of city-building, it appears as a rectangle inscribed in a circle. Therefore, the square should not be considered in opposition to the sacred circle of the proto-cities; it is rather the extension of the latter. Taking into account the fact that houses back in the eneolithic epoch were oriented towards the sun (Mytsyk, 147), one can conclude that the square of the house inscribed in a circle is analogous to the square of the ancient proto-cities, which could also be inscribed in a circle. In the case of Rome, for example, there are conflicting reports. In his biography of Romulus, Plutarch writes about a circle around which a furrow was plowed and which had a center that became the site of Rome. Other accounts, such as a report by Dionysius from Halicarnassus, mention the square shape of the “pre-furrow” (Zylko, 7) and Roma quadrata. The Ukrainian scholars who study the Trypillian culture and the well-known Hungarian specialist in Mediterranian mythology Karol Kerenyi discuss the circle and the square in the mandala – the sacred and architectural module of that time period. “In Ancient Italy and the Buddhist East, the circles and the squares that have a common center are the only fundamental shape that can serve as the foundation for a building and that can bear its weight. All the microworlds – the cities and the temples – are superstructures above this foundation since it is the basis for both the macrocosm of the universe and the microcosm of a human being.” (Kerenyi, 95)

At the same time, the square allows one to enclose in the city four different but equal elements, or blocks. Such is the structure of the city of cities – Jerusalem – and of L’viv: essentially, these are rectangles divided into four squares. Each one of them has its own sacred sub-center – its own temple. In the case of Jerusalem, these are the Hebrew, the Armenian, the Arab Muslim, and the Arab Christian quarters (Diagram 2). L’viv, in its turn, was divided into a Latin, Hebrew, Ruthenian, and Armenian quarters with the corresponding temples: the Latin Cathedral, the synagogue Golden Rose, the Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, and the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary (Diadram 3). Later these centers changed, but the city’s quarters became established around them.

Thus, the city, unlike the space of the village that was oriented towards unification, right away pressuposed diversity, the preservation and even the cultivation of this diversity. And the fact that different quarters of the city were located at the same distance from its center placed various religious and ethnic communities of the city on an equal footing.

While the villagers were significantly interconnected through familial relations, the population of the city was always heterogeneous. The city created communities structured by law whereas the village established communities that were related by blood.

At the same time, the delineated space in which a city was to be built always had its center. 

In the mythological era, this center had to be a sacred one (as a rule, this was the place of the sacred act, “the pre-event,” which occurred prior to the founding of the city.) In Jerusalem, this was the Temple (later the Temple of God), and in Mecca, this was the Kaaba. In Pochayiv, Pidkamin’, and Kokhavyna, the center was the location of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God. To commemorate such an event, the location is marked by the spears and the domes of the sacred buildings: the Pochayiv Lavra, the Monastery in Pidkamin’, or the Cathedral in Kokhavyna.

The center could also be a spiritual one – a location where rituals and liturgies are performed in commemoration of the sacred event. As a rule, these are the locations of the main temples and hence, of the chief spiritual hierarchs. Not only Rome but also L’viv is such a city, with its main Cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – the St. George Cathedral, the residence of the Gregorian archbishops, and the main Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church. Yazlivets’ was such a city as well: it used to be the residence of the Armenian Gregorian archbishops. Finally, Belz is among such cities, as the residence of a most influential Hassidic dynasty of tsadik Shalom Rokeah (1779-1855) who built there his spiritual school betmidrash – a spiritual center for the thousands of Hassids in Halychyna.

The center can be the seat of secular authority that was nonetheless blessed by gods. The capitals of various kingdoms – the cities of Cherven, Belz, Peremyshl’, Zvenyhorod, Halych, Volodymyr, Luts’k, Terebovlia, and L’viv – were the centers of this kind. At the time of the Halych-Volyn’ Principality, the cities were divided into groups – princely, church-governed, and private cities – according to their type of ruler.

In the royal Halych-Volyn’ tradition, which ended prematurely, Kholm, Dorohychyn, and L’viv were such centers of royal power. Halych and L’viv emerge again later as the residences of foreign kings. During the struggle of the Hungarian crown against the Habsburg dynasty, Mukacheve became such a center in the Transcarpathian region, The crown of St. Stephan was secretly kept at the castle of Mukacheve, which immediately made it into an important center for those loyal to the Hungarian crown.

The city may become the center of power for a smaller ruler as well. The boyars of the Halych-Volyn’ Rus’ and the magnates of Rzech Pospolita not only transformed their residences into cities but also made them private, as was the case of Zhovkva. Of course, in such cases, it is the castle, the fortress, or the palace that becomes the material evidence of such a center and dominates over the city.

Besides personified authority, there were other kinds of power, such as that of the courts. The town Sudova Vyshnia gained its reputation as the site of the seims where disputes among the nobility were settled.

In more democratic times, and according to the Magdeburg law, the Senate or the Council of the city becomes its main center of authority. Its material embodiment is, of course, the City Hall – at a certain point, it rose up in each city and came to dominate it. In the traditions of Halychyna, there can be no city without a city hall.

Besides this center-oriented stratification of the city, there is also the vertical stratification of the city space. As I have mentioned before, the cities were first and foremost directed upwards, then they were oriented towards the castle, and only then they would spread out along the trade routes and begin to resemble a star with multiple points. Thus, the plan consists of the evolution from the sacred circle to the square enclosed in it and aligned with the movement of the sun, and then a transition to the square divided into quarters, which after the crumbling of its protective walls becomes a star with many points.

During the Renaissance, there emerged an interesting phenomenon in city-building – the construction of la citta ideale (a perfect city) – that is, ideal spaces for daily life and defense. Such cities were built according to a plan by a professional architect at a practically empty site. The plan was supposed to reflect the vision of an ideally constructed city. It had to correspond to the 16th-18th cc. rationalist and humanist views that aspired to bring order, harmony, and beauty to the entire world. As a rule, only the wealthiest magnates of their time cherished and tried to realize such ambitious plans. The “ideal cities” were built not only in Italy but also in Halychyna (for instance, the towns of Zhovkva and Zamostia).

As the time passed, the elaboration of the rational approach to city-building has led to excessive focus on geometric alignment and finally “the tyranny of the straight angle” (Zbigniew Herbert).

It was only in the late 19th century that a transition to free, chaotic, and planned city-building in accordance with very different principles occurred.

The vertical stratification of its space was always important for the city. There were always spaces that were considered more distinguished, more mundane, or more lowly – the top, the middle, and the bottom correspondingly. I have already cited the example of the Mycenaean settlement Malthi-Dorion where this division is as stark as it could be (Andreev, 62). In the ancient Greek settlements of the Acropolis type (for instance, the settlement of the Homer epoch Emporio at Hiossus – the 8th c. BCE), their centers or their hill tops were always the sites of the fortified acropolis where there was practically nothing but a temple, and the living quarters and various auxiliary buildings were situated at the foot of the hill (Andreev, 60). The territory of an acropolis was sacred and tabooed as a Greek temen. This is why in the Athens, the Acropolis was not just a physical mountain and a fortress, but also a sacred “top.”

In L’viv, such stratification is represented in the division into the High Castle Hill (and later, the City Hall), “the city within the walls,” and “the city outside the walls.” Vladimir Toporov who distinguishes such a tripartite stratification in Vilnius, interprets such differentiation of the space through a connection of each of the three spheres to its own “mythological” animal – the bull, the wolf, and the snake.  It is clear that the highest deity Perkunas is the bull (Baal, Zeus, Jupiter, Perun etc.), and the chtonic embodiment of all evil forces – the Dragon – is the snake (Dragon Smok in Krakow, Dragon Halytsia in Halych etc.). It is not by chance that the High Castle is located on top of a hill whereas the outskirts of the city are situated on the bog of the river Poltva. While the city inside and, even more so, its section on the hill top is ordered by the law of the chief deity or ruler, the city outside the protective walls succumbs to chaos or to the authority of the Dragon. For someone to leave the confines of the city walls signifies not just the loss of protection by the sacred forces or the ruling patron of the city and a diminishing of one’s status, but also an entrance into a deregulated world that does not know the rule of the law. This was the reasoning behind one of the worst punishments in the Middle Ages – ousting someone from the city. In addition, one only needs to think of the many myths about the Dragons that lived near the cities and annually demanded from them a bloody tribute of young men and women. Terror always awaited people outside the regulated “city within the walls.”

One form of “the city outside the walls” is the infernal city: the city of the catacombs, the sewer, the urban jungle, or the city underground. It interacts with the regular city life but its status is much lower. The mythological Dragon eventually transforms into the Leviathan for Bohdan-Ihor Antonych, and finally into a local vagabond and a hooligan.

There live under the city, as in folktales,

Whales, dolphins, tritons

In the waters, thick and black as tar,

In frightening cellars, by the hundreds,

Phantasmal ferns, and griffins, comets, bells,

Submerged in water. (Trans. O.Shchur)

In Antonych’s vision, the city’s “bottom” has turned into the sewer.

On the other hand, in the work of Bruno Schulz, the top sanctuary transforms into a dusty town attic and the priest – the heretic researcher of the Book of Law – is represented by his father whereas the chief deities degenerate into strange birds that live in the attic of his house in Drohobych: “And we heard how the spirit entered into him, and how he was rising from his bed, becoming longer and full of prophetic wrath, choking on clamorous words, which he spewed out as a mitrailleuse. We heard the ruckus of their struggle and how Father shrieked; it was the shriek of the titan with a broken hip who nevertheless continues to grumble. (…) Sometimes he would climb all the way to the cornice and sit there without moving as a symmetrical counterpart to the big stuffed hawk that was hanging on the wall on the other side of the window. He could sit in that immovable, crouching pose for hours, with his eyes clouded and a sly smile, only to start beating his arms like wings and to caw as a rooster when someone suddenly entered the room. We stopped paying attention to these quirks…” (Trans. O. Shchur; Schulz “Madness,” 31-33). At the same time, the crypt-like Crocodile Street (Ulica Krokodyli) in Drohobych from his story of the same name represented “the city outside the walls” and the infernal “bottom” simultaneously: “In the bottom drawer of his deep desk, my father kept an old and beautiful map of our town. (…) On that plan, executed in the style of baroque panoramas, the region of Ulica Krokodyli shone in empty white, as the polar regions are usually indicated on geographical charts, countries inscrutable and of uncertain existence. (…) Apparently, the cartographer had been hesitant to acknowledge that district’s affiliation with the collective body of the town, and his reluctance showed in that separate and slighting treatment. To understand that reserve, we must now turn our attention to the ambiguous and dubious character of that district, so very much at odds with the fundamental tone of the whole town. (…) Natives of the town kept themselves at a distance from that region, living apart from the dregs, the rabble, the characterless wretches—out of the thick of it, away from the downright moral squalor, and that shabby turn of man that is born in such ephemeral environments. But on fallen days, at times of base temptation, some or other of the inhabitants of the town did happen, half by chance, to stray into that dubious district. The best of them were not occasionally insensible to the temptation of willful degradation, the leveling of barriers and hierarchy, wallowing in that shallow mud of society, its easy intimacy and grimy confusion. That district was an El Dorado for such moral deserters, fugitives who had forsaken the banner of propriety.” (Trans. J.C. Davis[1] ; Schulz, 74-77)

 In the meantime, the middle section of the city took the classic form of a market with a city hall that witnessed all the winds of history; even today, this is the main feature of the cities in Halychyna. Once again, Bruno Schulz has things to say about this:

“It [the gale] stripped the squares; it left white emptiness behind it in the streets; it dusted the entire surface of the market square. Barely here and there, bent and tossed by it, was a solitary figure clinging to a corner of a house. The whole market square appeared to bulge and gleam, an empty bald spot beneath its powerful flights. (…) Beneath those skies, the roofs stood black and angled, full of impatience and expectation. Those which the gale had possessed stood up in inspiration, grew taller than the neighbouring houses, and prophesied beneath the dishevelled sky. Then, it sagged and died out, no longer able to hold in its powerful breath, which flew on and filled all of space with turmoil and dread.” (Trans. J.C. Davis[2] ; Schulz “The Gale,” 92)

If one views the city as a semantic text (Toporov), it becomes clear that every level and quarter of the city has its unique semantics and its function. For the L’viv of its royal era, the High Castle had a magical and a judicial function, the middle city fulfilled a magical and a religious function, and the area adjacent to the city walls performed an economic function. Such a tripartite division of the city space was of course not very sharp, but even in that era, it reflected the ancient stratification of societies into the clergy, the soldiers, and the common folk.

No less important than the acts of choosing the city’s location and delineating its territory, and the process of its horizontal and vertical stratification, is the act of its naming. The city needs a name just like a newborn child whose name allows it to come fully into being in this world. The choice of a child’s name is not made without considering the child’s past, present, and future; similarly, the name of the city frequently makes reference to the “pre-event,” “the primary myth,” the circumstances of its founding, the aim with which it was built, and the future one envisions for it.

The name of Halych has the oldest semantics. Undoubtedly, there is a reference here to the myth of its founding: the story of Dragon Halytsia has been preserved till nowadays along with some references to the mythological or perhaps already half-historical hero who defeated the Dragon. Eventually, the flying dragon might have transformed into a jackdaw, which is the contemporary coat of arms of Halych. Even today in the Ukrainian bestiary, the jackdaw (“halka” in Ukrainian) is considered an evil bird, a harbinger of adversity and misfortune. It is possible that the current significance of this symbol is due to its genealogy.

The semantics of L’viv’s name is quite interesting. Here we have first and foremost a reference to the founder of the city King Danylo, whose name sends us to the prophet Daniel and his miraculous rescue from the pit full of lions thanks to his faith (Daniel 6). Thus, the lions are almost the background for Daniel and they accompany his iconography. At the same time, Christian literature, The Physiologist in particular, understands the image of a lion as the embodiment of Jesus Christ (Physiolog, 128-136). During the times that were still full of paganism and religious debates, the establishment of this semantic sign was very important, especially if one takes into account the contacts of King Danylo with the Holy See. The next semantic layer is the significance of a lion as the emblem of both Rus’ and the new city. In this sense, the name of King Danylo’s son – Lev – lies almost at the intersection of various semantic links. As the coat of arms of Rus’, the lion replaces the other symbol of the land – the Dragon Halytsia. However, the mythological Dragon (and therefore the “primary myth”) is present in the city semantics of L’viv as well – Saint George who defeated the Dragon is the patron of both the city and the Greek Catholic Cathedral. At the same time, it is hardly possible to miss the fact that the lion became an important symbol in the heraldry of this area – it appears on the emblems of Pechenizhyn, Novi Strilyshcha, Zabolotiv, Berehiv, Voinyliv, Hrymailiv, Bolekhiv, Otynia, Sukhostik, Hlyniany, Tovste, and many other towns, which points to the wide recognition this symbol has gained. At least during the battle at Grunwald in 1410, the blue flag of the regiment from L’viv already featured a golden lion that was leaning against a rock.

In the cases of Halych and L’viv, one may see a combination of two signs – a verbal one and a visual one. They overlap semantically – the name Halych and the emblem of the Dragon Halytsia (and later possibly the jackdaw – “halka” in Ukrainian), and the name of L’viv and the lion on the coat of arms of the city and the entire area. Taking these semantic layers into account, one may conclude that while founding and naming the new city as well as his son and future successor with the name “Lev,” Danylo created an alternative to the old capital of Halych subjugated by him (the Dragon Halytsia), and to the old religion that had not yet completely disappeared at the time (Lion the Christ vs. the Dragon Halytsia) and under which Halych was in its full glory. In such a way, Danylo was establishing his authority (the heraldic lion), his dynasty (his son Lev Danylovych) as well as his patron saint (Daniel who defeated the lions).

In a later period, the founders used different principles while naming the cities. Frequently, it was an attempt on their part to commemorate their names or the name of a loved one (Stanislaviv, Khrystynopol’). At the same time, this was not just the gift of a name but also of one’s coat of arms: Stanislaviv, Khrystynopol’, Brody, Sokolivka, Yabluniv, Horodenka, Tysmenytsia, Pechenizhyn, Sukhostav, Budzaniv, Zolotnyky, and other towns used to have as their emblems the coat of arms of the Potocky family – the Pyliava; Ternopil’, Zavaliv, and Tovste used to have as their emblem the coat of arms of the Tarnavsky family – the Leliva; for Rozhniativ and Obertyn, it was the Skarbok emeblem – the Abdank; and Velyki Mosty and Toporiv used the emblem of the Tenchynsky family – the Topor, etc.

Sometimes the name would receive its explanation retrospectively, as was probably the case with Marjampole and Jesupole in the vicinity of Stanislaviv, when a reference to a miraculous rescue of a city dweller or a city founder from the waters of the Dnister became a popular explanation of these towns’ names (the drowning man cried out in despair “Jezus Marja”). Then the towns’ emblems that distinguished them from all the other towns began to feature the patrons Jesus and Mary. In this way, cities acquire another atribute – a patron. Mary is one of the most popular patrons: she appears on the emblems of Marjampole, Bukachivtsi, Zolochiv, Lopatyn, Pochayiv, and Kutkor. The Archangel Michael appears on the emblems slightly less frequently – in Zavaliv, Yaniv (with an onmipresent dragon), and Skole. Finally, the emblems of Zbarazh, Bilyi Kamin’, and Kamyanets’ in Podillia proudly display St. George fighting against the omnipresent ancient Dragon.

In this way, the city was not only created as a unique living world but it was also personified – it received a name, a patron, and an emblem. Moreover, cities would acquire gender as well. There exist city names of the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter gender. Not every city deserved the name like mama Roma but each and every one of them had its unique character, spirit or soul, and something almost imperceptible that is usually called genius loci.

[1] Schulz, Bruno.  “Ulica Krokodyli. The Cinnamon Shops. Trans. J.C. Davis.

[2] Schulz, Bruno. “The Gale. The Cinnamon Shops. Trans. J.C. Davis.