The Stronghold is Chernihiv's oldest part and its historical heart. The town's history started over thirteen centuries ago, with its appearance on the high hill on the Desna River bank. The Stronghold remained Chernihiv's political, administrative and cultural center for many centuries. Therefore, it's no wonder that old town's main historical and architectural monuments are concentrated in this magical place.
Chernihiv's Stronghold appeared in the 7th century and was town's citadel surrounded with fortifications. At some point, prince's courtyard, boyar's houses, markets and temples - the majority of buildings were stone - were located beyond the impregnable stronghold's protective walls. Dirt wall with wooden wall and deep ditch filled with water served as citadel's outer defence. One could enter the Stronghold through one of its three gates.
The remnants of two prince's towers, boyar's manors and episcopal town church with stone wall and gate church survived here from the Kyivan Rus times. However, the main Old Russian treasures on the Stronghold's territory are two ancient temples. The Saviour Cathedral survived until today almost intact and is a valuable example of Old Russian architecture. Its foundation was laid in the 11th century, making this majestic temple one of the most ancient churches in all of Ukraine.
The neighboring Boris-and-Gleb Cathedral also amazes with its might and original forms. Built in the 12th century on the place of older stone church, it served as burial vault for Old Russian princes. Five centuries later, the Boris-and-Gleb Cathedral became the main temple of the namesake monastery. Stone refectory was adjoined to it at the same time, and a bit later, a belfry with church was built over it.
In those times, Chernihiv's Collegium - the first higher education facility on the territory of the Left-bank Ukraine - was situated in the monastic refectory's building. Today several museum expositions (including ancient Ukrainian icons collection) are kept here.
In the early 19th century, Chernihiv lost its status as border town and the fortress was abolished. However, the place, where the Stronghold was located, remained town's administrative and cultural center long afterwards. The Governor's House - today Chernihiv's History Museum - was built and the girl's gymnasium - now storage place for Art Museum's rich collection - was adjoined to it.
Fortification ramparts, which used to defend the fortress thousand years ago, were razed to the ground and instead of them a luxurious park zone appeared here. Chernihiv's residents and guests like to spend their leisure time at its boulevards and squares. However, the former name - the Stronghold or the Rampart - was kept in order to pay tribute to town's century-long history.
The 12 Cast-Iron Cannons, installed in the early 20th century, are among Rampart's sights. As legend has it, they were a present from Peter the Great for the courage shown by Chernihiv’s Cossacks during the war against the Swedes.
Chernihiv's Stronghold is a truly unique place, where centuries and epochs interweave, and magical atmosphere of antiquity reigns. It is from here that one should start a tour through ancient and beautiful Chernihiv.