Chernivtsi Attractions: Theatre Square

Chernivtsi attractions map: area E

GPS: 48°17'30.9''N, 25°55'58.4''E

 

Chernivtsi Theatre Square is perceived as good music with its smooth lines and steady rhythms.

Before XX century, in spite of the magnificent name, Elizabeth Platz (the Austrian name of the square), it remained a usual market square, where the citizens went to buy some food. The transformation of this market square into an impressive and stylish European square happened due to the construction of the new city theatre in 1904 – 1905 on this place.

The square in front of our theatre is called the Theatre Square. This means that it belongs to the theatre, that the theatre is the main building on this place. In 1908 the Jewish House and in 1912 the Trade and Crafts Chamber were built here. The present House of Officers was built before the Second World War.

Shchusev had a good reason to say that this was one of the best small squares of Europe.

 

During the first 100 years of Austrian supremacy in Bukovyna, there was not a single theatre building in Chernivtsi. Only in 1877 the city residents were able to construct a temporary theatre building in Shkilna Street near the Turkish Bridge. Nowadays the present polyclinic #1 is situated there. Since the old theatre was a wooden building and needed maintenance costs, the residents of the city dreamt of a new, permanent building of the theatre.

In spring 1904 a wooden theatre conflagration in Chicago took a human toll. To prevent this in Chernivtsi the president of Bukovyna signed an order requiring the immediate closing of the theatre. There was only one choice to be made – to build a new permanent theatre.

 

A competition for the best project of the theatre building was planned to be announced.

As soon as the sponsors drew a conclusion that some inexperienced beginners would take part in this competition instead of such company as Fellner and Helmer, they cancelled this competition and addressed this company to order the project. This firm had a great experience because they had already constructed more than 40 theatres in Europe.

The Vienna architectural workshop of Fellner and Helmer created in those times the first European typological architectural science. This firm built 48 theatres. They constructed theatres in 12 European countries: Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldova, Hungary, Austria and Ukraine. This is the geography of their embodied projects. Before the theatre in Chernivtsi, the company built an opera theatre in Odessa.

The company agreed to build a theatre in our city and on May 5, 1900, architect Fellner arrived from Vienna to Chernivtsi in order to choose a place for the theatre building together with the theatre committee.

This theatre has perfect acoustics.

One can notice the change of architectural styles while going up the theatre stairs. Art Nouveau with Baroque influences comes to the first place. Then on the upper levels of the construction functionalism reveals itself.

 

The theatre is very functional. Helmer was probably the only young architect, who built his first theatre when he was only 21.

The theatre was officially opened on October 3, 1905. There is a message for the future generations on its foundation, which says: “Let this theatre be a veritable temple of true art and the cultural centre for people of all nationalities and religions, for all residents of the city. God help us!”

Our theatre has a very rich décor of its façade and side walls. Over the main entrance, there is a whole sculptural composition, which illustrates the scene from the tragedy “Oedipus, the King” by Sophocles, the ancient Greek dramatist. In the side niches, there are portraits of leading figures of the world theatre.

On the left of the theatre along the whole square, there is a magnificent four-storey building of the former Trade and Crafts Chamber, now the site of the Medical University.  The Chamber appeared in 1912 thereby narrowing the Chernivtsi Theatre Square. The Chamber was built in Vienna Secession style matching the other Art Nouveau constructions on the Theatre square. The attic of the façade with the sculptures of the ancient gods Mercury and Gala, patrons of trade and travels, in its centre, give away the former function of this building. The gods keep the cornucopias in their hands. On the façade over the windows of the first floor, there are enamelled shields with the crafts symbols on them.

 

The Chamber presented and defended the interests of tradesmen and manufacturers of the land, made suggestions for issues that covered the terms of its reference.

In three years after that, in 1908, as soon as the theatre was built, a charming beautiful edifice of the Jewish National House was built on the Theatre Square.

The Jews have been living in Chernivtsi for a long period of time. The golden period for the Jewish Community began after the revolution in 1848 when Bukovyna was given the status of a separate superior land, the status of a duchy with the appropriate symbols – flag, coat of arms etc. Bukovyna was not a part of Galicia at that time. The main fact was that the Jews had equal rights with the other citizens.

The Jewish Community built a very representative house.

During the construction of this house, the architectural ensemble of the square was still not finished. There was only the theatre as no present-day constructions were yet built. The theatre set the style for this square. All the other buildings matched the façade of this edifice.

According to architectural style, it is built in Eclectic tradition. In the end of XIX – beginning of XX centuries Eclecticism, the mixture of different styles, was used in architecture.

The greater number of buildings in Chernivtsi is in Baroque and Renaissance styles. That is why this construction is a result of Baroque and Renaissance style harmony. Here are sculptures which favour the segmentation of the façade typical for the Renaissance style. The ground and the first floors are decorated in traditions of this very architectural style.

 

There is an artistic architectural image of four telamones, which support two floors of this building, and the composition of columns, arches and the middle part represent the unrestricted interpretation of the Jewish sacral ark of the Covenant.

In 1918, Chernivtsi became a part of Romania. Further on the city buildings were constructed in Romanian style.

Near the Jewish, National House appeared a new building that did not fit into the architectural image of the square. It was the Romanian National House. The Romanian house of culture and literature turned into a garrison House of Officers when Bukovyna was a part of the Soviet Union.

 

The building was a good example of the Constructivism style. Standing on the opposite side of the square one can notice that the right part of the building is longer than the left one. Constructivism appeared right after the Art Nouveau style. Lack of asymmetry was a typical trait of the new style. It was clear that the square would become much smaller and narrower and the theatre would lose its attractiveness as soon as this building would appear.  That is why the Romanian architects made a wise decision to dig a pit in the middle of the square for the theatre to look higher. The pit was dug in 1937 before the construction of the Romanian National House.

In 2000, the Alley of Fame was founded on the Chernivtsi Theatre Square. Dozens of masters of art, great singers and musicians, who began their big stage career in Chernivtsi, are represented here. These people are well-known not only in Ukraine but in the whole Europe too.