History of Podil
Nearly 200 years ago Kiev actually consisted of three different settlements. It was the Old Town, Pechersk (Upper Town), and Podil (Lower Town). The Old town, on the hill, was inhabited mostly by officials and commoners, while Podil – by merchants and craftsmen. Pechersk together with Lavra Monastery and with the Old fortress gathered in its territory the monks and the military. But, of course, such a gradation was rather conventional.
The first attempts to unite the districts into a single whole were taken in 1808-1809. A Kiev architect developed a city project, in which it was suggested to unite the disparate districts by roads. But, incidentally, the Old Podil was changed not due to the architects, but due to the big fire in July 1811. During the three days, the fire destroyed the entire district and the smoke, according to the witnesses reached Kozelets (a town 76 km from Kiev) and Nizhyn (150 km from Kiev).
Podil was restored after the approved project of Williams Geste in 1812. The curved and narrow streets of the burnt district were replaced by the wide and straight roads, which were laid parallel to the Dnieper river. The newly laid streets crossed at right angles – along these streets we walk today.
Planning of the new streets was determined by the excessive clarity. The nature of buildings’ construction changed from Baroque to classic. Once, the Lower Town had been very densely built up and when it had been viewed from above, it looked like a forest with numerous church domes and bell towers. At every step, travelers could meet monasteries, cathedrals, churches and bell towers, which marked a peculiar face of Kiev-Podil, a unique and ancient Ukrainian city.
Nowadays, in the historic Podil area, remained only pitiful remnants of the 12th-century buildings. Somewhere remained civil and religious buildings of the 18th century. But now they can not so clearly represent a magnificent Ukrainian Baroque as it was before because the vast majority of these buildings were destroyed in the 20th century.
Podil – the invaluable storage of the past of Kiev
For a long time, there was a destructive concept of reducing the role of Podil and its architectural heritage in the city’s history. In 1930, the old Russian monuments and landmarks of Ukrainian architecture were demolished. Podil was considered as ordinary city outskirts, dirty and uncomfortable, which didn’t deserve any attention. The fact that the largest number of ancient monuments were preserved in this district was forgotten.
Despite all this, Podil still retains the civil and ecclesiastical architecture of 17-19 centuries, and even the planning of streets is a kind of a monument to urban planning. Here co-exist together ensembles of different epochs and styles – amazingly picturesque Ukrainian Baroque, Russian classicism, eclecticism, and modernism.
For several centuries, St. Andrew’s Church raises above Podil, the most accomplished construction by Bartolomeo Rastrelli. At the foot of St. Andrew’s mountain, there are white churches under green roofs and domes: bell tower of the St. Mykola the Good Church and near the Dnieper – Illinska Church and St. Mykola Naberezhnyi Church.
Quite interesting are also Podil buildings of the second half of 19th – early 20th century. Richard’s Castle has become a remarkable sign of Podil with its beautiful environment, and the whole construction of Andrew’s Descent is a monument to urban planning of the 19th century.
Nowadays, Andrew’s descent is a place of a great number of museums, galleries, art workshops, antique and gift shops. The Descent is one of the favorite places for recreation and walking, as among the citizens of Kiev as well among the guests of the capital. This is where tourists from all over the world can always buy Ukrainian souvenirs – figurines, painted pottery, embroidery.
The historical Podil is rich in associations that cause its holy sites, ensembles, all architectural landscapes of this part of Kiev, especial features of Podil architectural context. After all, Podil has clearly preserved the image of the old city. Its ancient streets in some places still retain its medieval bend.