This is the Medieval, gothic cathedral built for the Latin bishops of Lviv in modern Ukraine. Although much of its walls today are covered by yellow plaster, it is essentially a gothic building with pointed arches, windows filled with trefoil and quatrefoil tracery and buttresses (all visible in its east end) and gothic ribbed vaults in the interior). In the late medieval period, Lviv was one of the major trading centers in the Kingdom of Poland. While most of the trade in medieval Poland was oriented towards the Baltic, Lviv traded with the east and south including various Russian and Mongol principalities as well as Italian trading colonies on the shores of the Black Sea in the Crimea. Historical documents record that in the late medieval period the city council of Lviv hired translators from Arabic to ensure that merchants from the Muslim world can receive justice in the city’s courts while in the 15th C. the Genoese colonies on the Crimea offered to accept Polish suzerainty in a hope to receive some help against the Ottoman Turks. While located on the land that was predominantly inhabited by Orthodox Rus, in the 14th Lviv was a very multicultural city. Apart from Orthodox Rus and Latin Poles and Germans it was inhabited by large communities of Armenians from Asia Minor, Tartars from the Golden Horde and Jews who all had separate courts and laws. The city preserves from that time a 14th C. Armenian cathedral which is the northernmost medieval Armenian cathedral in the world and was constructed with support from the Polish King. I also remember reading that around the mid 15th C. the Mongol quarter in the city was closed and the tartars were forced to resettle beyond the city walls because despite numerous warnings they continued to sell and buy children between their families though this might have been just anti-Tartar propaganda. To me at least, medieval Lviv had much in common with the cities of the eastern Mediterranean when Armenians, Orthodox, Muslims and Latins often lived within the boundaries of the same city wall.
On a more recent historical note, until it was conquered by Stalin, Lviv never formed part of the Russian or Soviet empires. When Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth collapsed in the late 18th C. Lviv and its surrounding region was incorporated to the Austro-Hungarian Empire together with such cities as Venice for example with which it formed part of the same state. The local tradition is therefore much more linked with the states of Western Europe and their standards of democracy, freedom of speech and self-determination. Its attitude towards Russian imperialism which often perceives freedom of press as a threat to it is much more skeptic and, to my mind, it played an important role in a number of recent events in Kiev. It may sound a bit pretentious but Ukraine is a very beautiful country and I really hope that it will put an end to the Post-Soviet corruption, censorship and political violence and becomes a truly democratic state with good relations with all its neighbors including Russia which, hopefully, will accept that it is an independent state which may not want to became part of its imperial sphere like South Ossetia, Transnistria or even Bielarus.