The Assumption Cathedral
Kharkiv's oldest orthodox church - the magnificent Assumption Cathedral - rivets attention with its elegance and grandeur. It is situated at the Universytetskaya Gorka (literally: University's hill) - an old district, where city's fortress used to stand - and is reckoned among the brightest sights of Kharkiv.
The first wooden Assumption of the Theotokos Church was built right after Kharkiv's foundation, in 1657. However, it was insecure and quite poor: at first, the temple didn't even have wooden icons; paper ones were used instead. Thirty years later, the Church's building became dilapidated, and a new stone five-domed cathedral rose on its place.
This temple was destined to live a short life, though. Firstly, unremovable even through major repair cracks were found in its walls. And secondly, in the middle of the 18th century, Kharkiv acquired status of important trade and industrial center, and the old Assumption Cathedral totally fell out of the official buildings' ensemble. As a result, it was decided to build a new temple near it. The construction ended in 1783.
Built at the Kharkiv's center, the charming Assumption Cathedral amazed with its original architectural forms, which absorbed the most vivid traits of two styles that were popular at those times - spruce baroque and strict classicism. The gilt linden iconostasis - according to some data, designed by famous architect Bartolommeo Rastrelli - was the main adornment of temple's interior.
In the early 19th century, high stone bell tower was built near the Assumption Cathedral to commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon's forces in the War of 1812. Twelve bells were installed there, and it was crowned with five-meter high gilt cross. The belfry is over 80 meters high and amazes with its pure forms and grace. Until recently it remained the highest stone building in Kharkiv and is still one of the highest bell towers in Ukraine.
Massive tower clock was soon installed on the belfry, and a bit later the chapel with 300-kilo silver cross - popularly called the Tsar's Cross - was adjoined to it.
In the early 20th century, the Soviet authorities almost completely destroyed the Assumption Cathedral: valuable sacral utensils were removed, domes were pulled down and bells were taken off. The beautiful iconostasis passed to the Museum of Art, where it was burned down during the World War II. Dyeing and sewing workshops were stationed here after the war.
After 1970, the Cathedral and its bell tower were gradually reconstructed and returned to their true historical look. A luxurious organ was installed inside, and up to 2010 the cathedral hosted concerts by organ and chamber music masters. Now the Assumption Cathedral is entirely in Orthodox Church's ownership.