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PostHeaderIcon Legends of Lviv

No matter what the fairy-tales say, nothing is so simple. It is well-known that there is no smoke without fire. It is the same with legends – any real event travelling from mouth to mouth accumulates a lot of fictions. And you must agree that 750 years is quite a lot. It is enough for history, folklore, real facts and myths to have interlaced so tightly that we can hardly untangle them.

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Almost all the peoples of Europe have some legends about the duel of a hero with a Serpent-Dragon. Lviv has two versions of “Saga about Beowulf” of its own, and they are both related to the underground world of the city. The first legend of Lviv folklore tells about a huge Serpent that lived in a cave on Svyatoyurska mountain (today there is the church of Saint George). This creature plagued locals and ate beautiful girls only.

According to different sources, it was either Saint George Dragon-slayer or a saint old man who stunned the Evil Dragon with prayers and helped the city to get rid of this disaster. No matter how it was in the old days, presently the guests of our city can really see the grotto on this mountain in which the alleged Serpent used to live. There is a number of multilevel caves under the temple complex. Some of them may be of natural origin and developed by people for their needs.

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In Lviv there are a lot of lions. Have you ever thought about the reasons why there are so many of them and what exactly they symbolize? Senior people say that these are former Lviv citizens who did something for the city. Once a year, at night, all these lions gather together to define which of the citizens in the last year has done enough to win him the regard of becoming one of them. The oldest lion – from the oldest city seal – heads this meeting.

The sun rises, the night passes and metal, glass and wooden lions go back to their houses. In order to know where this secret meeting takes place you need to become one of the famous lions.

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Another compulsory point for a tourist in Lviv is the remarkable Opera Theatre which is considered to be one of most beautiful ones in Europe. As the center of the city was already densely built-up, its architect, Zygmunt Gorgolewski, dared to start a very bold project – to concrete the riverbed of Poltva that flowed through Lviv, change the course under the ground and build a wonderful theatre right in that place.

Whether it was because of the river that decided to take revenge, or the master who miscounted something, the theatre sank by half a meter on the day of its solemn opening. Having already received an order from the Austrian emperor for building the theatre, which was a unique event in the history of Austria-Hungary, Gorgolewski died a few days later. Doctors agreed on the version of a heart attack but they say that the architect who used to be remarkably healthy simply committed suicide, for the reason of prospective shame before the emperor's court... But to no purpose. The Opera Theatre is still there, compelling sincere admiration with Lviv citizens and guests of the city.

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There also exists a legend which has a documentary evidence. After the church of Jesuits was built a noble gentleman presented the Order a considerable sum of money and decided to join the brothers. Delusion of grandeur and pride for his contribution made him humiliate the Jesuits and exalt himself. The nobleman didn’t want to hear anything about equality of all. Brothers decided to close the nobleman in one of the underground monastic cells so that he become humble. But it was in vain. One day a man who’d heard about the disobedient person came to the Order and wished to talk to the sinner. From behind the closed door one could hear sharp tone of conversation and sometimes even cries.

When everything subsided the brothers expected the stranger to announce good news but nobody went out of the monastic cell. Nobody answered to the knocking either. The only way out was breaking the door, which they did, and there turned out to be no one inside. Inspection of the room proved that there were no holes through which it was possible to escape. Only in the corner they found a parchment on which an agreement was signed in blood, which said that their brother’s soul was sold in exchange for power and money to the sum of annual income of the kingdom.

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On the territory of modern Lviv a lot of temples and monastic complexes have remained. In the Middle Ages there were many more of them. It should be noted that today laymen give up secular joys and pleasures of their own free will. In old times cloistering was compulsive in most cases: Lviv patricians sent unfaithful wives and dissolute daughters there, saving them from social disgrace; local womanizers and duel lovers also atoned their sins there. However, even behind high monastic walls there ruled worldly passions.

One of widespread Lviv legends asserts that between the monastery of Bernardines and nunnery of Poor Clares there was an underground passage dug through by monks in order to realize their carnal desires. Moreover, they say this underground gallery was initiated by Poor Clares nuns. Today tourists can see both these monasteries, they are located a bit higher than the Gunpowder Tower in Pidvalna street in Lviv. However, nobody knows for sure whether this amorous dungeon really existed.

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Near the High Castle there is the Bald Mountain which is the place where witches, sorcerers and other evil spirits gather. Unfortunate are those who don’t sleep in the night of devilish sabbath! Witches seize the poor man and ride on him all the night using him as a means of transport, just for fun. So, these ladies relieve the monotony of the hard broom, and the poor fellow gets at least some hits and broken ribs. Also, sorceresses used to fly in the night streets of the sleeping city and loved stealing keys left in the locks. And in the house where a key was stolen evil days began – quarrels, illnesses and other misfortunes fell thick and fast. Anyway, taking into account the fact that there were always lots of robbers in the city, it was unwise to leave the key in the lock.

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750 years ago prince Danylo Galytskyi built the first fortress, a wooden one, on the High Castle. That was the beginning of the history of Lviv. The prince presented the new city to his son Lev on the day of his marriage to the Hungarian princess Constance. Later the hill was raised by adding ground, and a stone castle was built. Nowadays nothing is left from it except for ruins covered with moss. Glorious times of Galician kings passed, Lviv was conquered by Poles. But there appeared a legend about king Lev and his suite still dozing in a mountain cave, waiting for the right moment to free the city from invaders.

According to the legends, some lucky men managed to find a secret entrance and see the knights in golden armours sleeping at a long oak table in a grotto lit with torches, a grey-bearded king sitting on a shiny throne and sleepy horses quietly snorting... One blacksmith is said to have suddenly and miraculously grown rich, and he claimed that one moonless night he happened to change horseshoes to the knights’ horses, for which a grey-haired old man rewarded him with a sack of gold. Let’s consider that the blacksmith had vivid imagination and definitely had never heard about king Arthur, nor about the word “plagiarism”. Anyway, the knights of king Lev were either extreme idlers, or fast asleep.

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