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Kharkiv Sights | Assumption Cathedral
Individual and group tours to Kharkiv

Ukraine Kharkiv Sights | Assumption Cathedral
In 1657 in Kharkiv was built the first wooden Assumption Church which is located south of the modern building of Assumption Cathedral. It was a small, cold and poor church with not enough prayer books and paper icons. With time the growing population of Kharkiv Assumption Church could no longer accommodate the increasing number of parishioners so during 1685-1687 it was replaced by the first stone cathedral in Kharkiv.

On 3rd of March 1733 in a major fire broke out and survived only walls of Assumption Cathedral. A year later it was rebuilt and the dome covered with tin and gold-plated cross - the building soon cracks so in the 70s of the XIX century it was decided to disassemble the old cathedral and build a new one.

At this time Kharkiv became the commercial and industrial center of Slobozhan-Ukrainian province. There was a need to form city center with official buildings and the central cathedral. In discussing the construction of a new Assumption Cathedral decided to take a sample of Saint Clement Church erected in 1762-1770 years in Moscow.

Construction of Assumption Cathedral lasted twelve years and was completed in June 1783. Besides the iconostasis the pride of the cathedral were two icons - Eletsk Mother of God and Saint Nicholas.

After the construction of Assumption Cathedral there was an idea to build a new bell tower. The final decision was taken in 1819. In the bell tower offered to arrange Saint Prince Alexander Nevsky Church in memory of Alexander I and the victory over Napoleon in Patriotic War of 1812. Work on the construction of the bell tower began on 8th of May 1821 and was carried out intermittently until 1833. Construction resumed in 1837.

In 1841 on the bell tower of Assumption Cathedral was installed golden cross weighing 400 kg and the height of 5 meters. All works on creation of bell tower were completed in 1844. The total height of the bell tower with a cross was 89,5 meters. It was installed 12 bells weighing from 16,1 tons to 8 kg. In 1862 it was set a striking clock booked in Paris from "Borel" company. The grand bell tower became the main dominant of the historic center of Kharkiv and still is one of the tallest buildings in the city.

After the revolution of 1917 and the bell tower of Assumption Cathedral used for various needs and they were subjected to considerable damage. In 1973 the restoration works began during which it was made strengthen of the foundations, walls, piers, arches, restored the lost reels of the central and lateral heads of the cathedral, renewed exterior and interior. In the building of Assumption Cathedral in 1986 was opened House of Organ and Chamber Music.

Legend of Tsar Bell

On 17th of October 1888 the train which Emperor Alexander III and his family returned from Crimea derailed and crashed not far from Borky station in Kharkiv province. The royal family escaped a miracle - the car of the train wreck, completely collapsed, walls fractured and the roof curled up on one side. All servants of the car was killed but the members of the royal family no one was seriously hurt.

Not far from the crash place it was decided to build the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the Russian-Byzantine style and opposite it - the Chapel of the Holy Face of Our Saviour. To collect donations for the construction was soon organized a special committee. Kharkiv diocese decided to perpetuate this miraculous rescue of the royal family of unprecedented by casting of bell of pure silver weighing 150 kg.

The project of the bell Archbishop of Kharkov and Akhtyrka Ambrose introduced to Procurator of Holy Synod requesting permission from Alexander III for implementation of this project. On the Tsar Bell was supposed to place portraits of the royal family and a commemorative inscription. The Tsar Bell was hung on a special bracket on the outside wall of the bell tower of Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv facing west to the line of Kursk-Kharkiv-Azov railway where the crash occurred. Every day at 14:00 at the same time it was supposed to call the bell for five minutes to remind people about miraculous rescue of the royal family.

Permission was granted and began collecting donations - silver objects on the unusual casting bells as well as money. Two thousand rubles from the planned gathering place at the expense of Assumption Cathedral and there was payment for work of a ringer to Tsar Bell so ringing did not stop for a single day.

Thousands of Kharkiv residents were in a hurry to make a contribution to the creation of an unusual bell by family silver, jewelry and silver dime. Donations exceeded all expectations - for one month only to collect an amount that allowed to announce that the weight of the Tsar Bell will be 300 kg.

Preparations for the construction and installation of Tsar Bell was delayed - instead of the planned 1889 the bell was cast on 5th of June 1890 in Kharkiv Bell Factory of Ryzhov. The appearance of Tsar Bell and the way it is set was different from the original draft. In the first tier of the bell tower of Assumption Cathedral was built steel sink which was supposed to hang Tsar Bell. Instead of portraits of the royal family it was put their initials, on the front side of the bell were depicted monogram of imperial majesties and under it - five medallions with inscriptions of Slavonic names of the Grand Dukes and Duchesses: Nicholas, Xenia , George, Olga and Michael. The height of Tsar Belll was about 89 cm and the pure silver in it in addition to the necessary alloy of copper and tin was almost 300 kg!

On 14th of October 1890 in a solemn ceremony silver Tsar Bell was raised and strengthened in the first tier of the bell tower of Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv. Since then Tsar Bell became famous sight and attraction of Kharkiv.

In the chaos of the revolution unique Tsar Bell disappeared without a trace. For years historians and ethnographers were lost in guesses about who took it - Germans, White Army or Bolsheviks. And only recently become known to cause the disappearance of Tsar Bell.

It turned out that Tsar Bell was taken by the same one who hung it up - Kharkiv clergy. At the congress of Kharkiv diocese one of bishops issued a statement: "The autocracy has fallen and with it must fall silent the voice of Tsar Bell". The congress agreed: "Tsar Bell should be removed and send to the melting and obtained money for its silver - donate to support children of Kharkiv province whose fathers died in the war". So Tsar Bell as a symbol of love of Kharkiv residents to their tsar was sent to the oven.

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Pavel Korsun | Ukraine tours travel guide


Pavel Korsun
Tour Guide
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