Vul. Lesi Ukrainky, 14 – residential building
This four-story residential stone house, which was built in the late seventeenth century, is an element of the former Armenian quarter housing. The house is a part of the old Armenian vicar’s residence; an Armenian “pious” bank named Mons Pius was situated there till 1940. Now this is an architectural and urban planning monument of national significance under protection number 1289. A restaurant with a museum exposition dedicated to the Armenians of Lviv and restaurant business has been opened in the ground floor premises of the house.
The housing of this section of the Armenian quarter was for the first time shown in a plan drawn by Martin Gruneweg in the late sixteenth century or in the early seventeenth century. In the place of the contemporary main structure of the house number 14 he designated the following objects: “the old widow’s wooden house” situated in the north part of the plot and “Mr Hanken’s house” in the south part. From the west the latter was adjoined by a stone building with “Mr Bogdan’s extention” above. It was in this place that the Mons Pius bank was built later. The old house walls and cellars must have been used for the bank’s building.
It is said in some popular internet sources that the first Armenian printing house of Hovhanes Karmataniants (Iwan Muratowicz) and a school for boys were situated somewhere in these houses in the early seventeenth century. Historical sources tell us that after Iwan Muratowicz managed to defend his house on Virmenska street from his creditors’ claims he started to arrange an Armenian printing house in 1615. However, there is no information concerning its whereabouts.
After the Armenians of Lviv accepted the Union with the Roman Catholic Church in 1630, Wartan Hunanian, a clergyman who became the Armenian Catholic coadjutor bishop in 1675, induced the Magistrate to allot some plots situated to the north of the cathedral to the Church. So the territory, which now coincides with the houses number 10, 12 and 14 on Lesi Ukrainky street, passed into possession of the Armenian clergy. Stone buildings were constructed on these plots in the late seventeenth century. In the 1767 tax registry, the housing number 131, which coincides with the houses number 12 and 14, is designated as the Armenian vicar’s residence.
In 1666 a mortgage bank was created under the St. Gregory the Illuminator and Patriarch of Armenia Brotherhood (founded in 1640), archbishop Mikołaj Torosowicz taking a direct part in the event. Another bank was organized under the Holy Virgin Immaculate Conception Society of Lviv Armenian Youth in 1675. In the eighteenth century “pious” banks were created under two other Armenian brotherhoods (or confraternities), that of the Holy Virgin Wonder-making Icon of Yazlovets (1710) and that of the Holy Trinity Icon (1728). The exact whereabouts of these banks are not known. There are reasons to assume that in the second half of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth century the “offices” of these banks were situated in some houses on the plots which now coincide with the houses number 12 and 14.
In the 1780s the management of the four Armenian church banks wanted to merge them. The new Austrian administration gave its consent. It is pointed out in a 1781 official report that “a new building, where the money and mortgages will be preserved, stands in the yard near the church.” So the western wing of the house number 14 (it is designated as the southern wing of the house number 12 in some plans) acquired its modern look in the early 1780s.
The Mons Pius “pious” bank under the Armenian cathedral was officially opened on 28 December 1788. The bank statute was approved on 17 January 1792.
In a 1844 Lviv plan this house is designated as a pawn shop. However, the southern wing (back house) of the building number 14 is marked in this plan as a separate one, though an old white stone portal in the opening between the large operational hall of the bank and the ground floor premises of the building number 14 shows that the interiors of the both buildings have been interlinked since the very beginning (at least, since 1781).
In the second half of the nineteenth century the bank was listed at the address of Skarbkivska (now Lesi Ukrainky) street 12 with a note telling that “the building belongs to the Armenian convent, a mortgage bank is located in it” (1866). The building had a common yard with the house number 12; the wall in the yard was reconstructed in 1884. Among the buildings owned by the Armenian Catholic Church, this plot is designated as attached to the building number 12 also in a 1932 plan of the Armenian quarter. The building number 14, on the other hand, is shown there as situated outside the limits of this plot.
In 1940 the Armenian “pious” bank named Mons Pius ceased its existence. In the postwar period the artistic restoration workshops of the Lviv branch of the Scientific Restoration Center were arranged in the former bank building. In the late 2000s the ground floor premises of the both buildings (the back one on Lesi Ukrainky street 14 and the former Mons Pius bank building) were bought by Vardkes Arzumanian, a businessman. In 2010 the ground floor premises were adapted under artist and designer Volodymyr Kostyrko’s project to function as a restaurant with a museum exposition dedicated to the Armenians of Lviv and restaurant business. An area for a summer café was arranged in the yard.
Among the restored exhibits, attention is drawn to a stained glass window made for the Armenian cathedral in 1927 under a Jan-Henryk Rosen’s project and restored by V. Symonian in 2010. One of the scenes represents receiving a mortgage on some jewellery and getting a money loan in the Mons Pius bank.
The building on Lesi Ukrainky 14 (modern address) is a part of the former Armenian quarter in Lviv. It is situated to the north east of the cathedral and is one of the three buildings (numbers 10, 12 and 14) facing Lesi Ukrainky street and Virmensky lane. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries all this buildings belonged to the Armenian community.
This elongated from the north to the south building has four stories and basements; it is made of brick, white stone masonry is also used here and there. A tiny well yard is located in the middle.
The building is a row one in residential housing. It has preserved its Renaissance structure and consists of two houses, the main one and the back one. The former has the main façade facing Lesi Ukrainky street; the northern part of the High wall stood very close to this façade. The latter’s façade faces the yard which borders Virmensky lane. It can be called the “back” one rather conditionally as lanes from Virmenska street, which is the main artery of the Armenian quarter, lead straight to it. Now the Mons Pius restaurant halls are located in the ground floor premises of the “back” house.
A broad arch white stone entrance portal leads to the house premises from Lesi Ukrainky street. A semicircular lunette vault has been preserved in the passage. Double-chamber premises covered with a barrel vault are situated nearby. An entrance to a staircase leading to the upper floors leads from the yard facing Virmensky lane located behind the house number 12. The staircase was constructed in the late nineteenth century. The façade facing Lesi Ukrainky street is plastered; it has no architectural décor. The first two stories windows are lined with stone while the upper stories windows are brick-lined, the fact indicating that the upper tiers were added later. In the center of the second floor there is a blind niche crowned with an arch. The façade is crowned with a shaped cornice.
A narrow paved passage leads from the lane between the houses number 7 and 9 to an arch with an inscription reading “Mons Pius”. The arch opens an entrance to a yard which is situated in front of the house and was arranged in the place of a former graveyard. The yard is encircled with a wall split by semicircular arches with pylons. Now it serves as a summer café area. The second entrance to the yard is through an arch from Virmensky lane. The southern façade of the building is rather modest; it is divided horizontally by bars, has four axes and wide window framings. A decorated with white stone plates entrance to the basements is situated to the right. An entrance to the café halls, which are linked between themselves by Renaissance portals and bridged with semicircular lunette vaults, can be seen to the left. The largest hall, which can be entered through a white stone portal, is located in the western part of the café. This hall, which once served as the main one in the bank, occupies the ground floor of the third, western volume of the complex.
The western volume, which was constructed in the place of a previous house in the eighteenth century, contains in its stonework some elements of the old housing. Among them, a gravestone in the lower part of the building’s southern butt and the ground floor windows framings. The building is rectangular and multiple-storied. The western volume has two stories and basement premises. The eastern volume, which faces a little yard common with the house number 12, has three stories and a crowning in the shape of a tower. It was there that the main entrance to the bank (or, in the second half of the twentieth century, to the artistic restoration workshops) was situated. To the left from the tower, one can see an entrance to the ground floor premises of the former mortgage fund. The upper tier of the former bank building is connected with the building of the old Armenian Benedictine nuns’ convent. This superstructure with a passage arch below was constructed in 1779 as the date over the southern side of the arch opening indicates. The main space of the ground floor is occupied by a spacious hall with a bridging made of wooden beams.
Among the rarities that are preserved in the interior, there is the Mons Pius stained glass window made in Warsaw at a firm owned by F. Białkowski in 1927 under a Jan-Henryk Rosen’s project. This is one of the stained glass windows which decorated the Armenian cathedral windows before 1945. It was restored by V. Symonian in 2010. In the yard, there is a metal gravestone of one of the last directors of the bank, Jan Mardyrosiewicz, a canon. In the interior of the building some furniture made in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is used as well as some household art items used as exhibits. On the last hall walls one can see portraits of well-known figures of Armenian origin, and also those of other Lviv citizens who were customers of the Mons Pius bank, such as Julian Zachariewicz, Karol Mikuli, L. Pininski, S. Szymonowicz, A. Pstrokronska, P. Grygorowicz, Ignacy Łukasiewicz, Dawid Abrahamowicz, Teodor Torosewicz, Jan Mardyrosiewicz et al. The author of the portraits and of the interior general design is Volodymyr Kostyrko. Busts of some prominent Armenian figures of Lviv are placed near the arch pylons in the yard.
Gruneweg, Martin (pol. Marcin) (1562 - after 1615) – a merchant, traveller, later Dominican monk, author of descriptions of Lviv, Warsaw, Kiev, Moscow and a lot of other European towns.
Hunanian, Wartan (1644-1715) – an Armenian Catholic priest who was born in West Armenia and lived in Lviv from 1665; in 1675 he became the bishop of the Armenian diocese of Lviv and induced the Magistrate to extend the territory belonging to the Armenian Catholic Church. The Armenian Catholic archbishop of Lviv from 1681.
Karmataniants, Hovhanes (Iwan Muratowicz, Iwan (Jan) Keremowicz, Iwan (Jan) Karmatents) (c. 1590-1624)– the Armenian printing pioneer in Lviv.
Kostyrko, Volodymyr (b. 1967) – an artist, designer, art historian, author of the interior design in a few Lviv cafés.
Mardyrosiewicz, Jan (1858-1926) – the Mons Pius bank director, canon, entrepreneur, inventor.
Torosowicz, Mikołaj (1605-1681) – the Armenian Apostolic Church archbishop who accepted the union with Rome in 1630; the first church mortgage bank was organized under his patronage in 1666.
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Edited by Olha Zarechnyuk and Yulia Pavlyshyn