City Arsenal (Weaponry Museum)
Pidvalna St. 5
Due to its strategic location at the intersection of key trade routes of East and West the medieval Lviv was constantly under the scrutiny of invaders, and therefore needed a reliable defense system. The arsenal was one of its elements, along with the castle and encircling fortification line. Its monumental medieval building whose entrance was adorned with an inscription: "The happy town is the one which in peace time can foresee future danger," is now one of the most valuable monuments of Renaissance defensive architecture in Ukraine.
Lviv City Arsenal was built on the site of an armoury, which was dismantled because of its precarious construction, in the middle of the 16th century. But just twenty years later, the building was damaged by the fire and was almost completely rebuilt. Lviv Arsenal was a massive two-storied stone building with tiny windows-loopholes and octagonal tower. It was adjoined to one of the fortress’ walls surrounding the town and had a deep ditch that served as additional protection for the armory.
Weapon was produced, kept and repaired in the arsenal. The best masters forged swords and sabers in the swordsman workshop and produced pistols and rifles in the armourer workshop. It also had a foundry where guns were made, some of them were used to defend the city, and some were sent away for sale.
But there were times when the arsenal was not used according to its intended purpose. Thus, in the 18th century, it was used as a prison, where Polish authorities kept captive Ukrainian Cossacks, who were members of the liberation movement. One of the premises of the former armory was used as a torture chamber; another was executioner’s housing.
A hundred years later, the Arsenal lost its historical look after several reconstructions and was restored only in the mid-twentieth century. Having got rid of the long-term buildups, initial brickwork and original construction of the roof and windows became evident again.
Currently one of the most interesting Lviv museums – the Weaponry Museum – occupies arsenal’s two upper storeys, which were restored and rebuilt, but still keep the spirit of the Middle Ages. It features country’s richest collection of antique firearms and cold steel, protective arms and military equipment. Items dated to the 11th – 20th centuries are among museum’s five thousand exhibits: Arab swords and European two-handed swords, rapiers and scimitars, maces and halberds. In addition, there are unique collections of guns and cannon balls, military orders and knightly armours, as well as elements of the military uniform from different times and places.
Museum’s exposition houses samples of ancient weapons from more than thirty countries and is conveniently organized in a chronological order. Not only connoisseurs of ancient weapons, but also ordinary tourists, who are eager to feel the wonderful atmosphere of the Middle Ages, are interested in this collection.