The Ternopil Region, or Ternopilschyna, was established in 1939 when the province was attached to the lands of the Ukrainian SSR. Cut by the Dnistro (Dniester) River valley in the south, the Podillia Upland forms most of the territory of this agricultural region.
The region is characterized by the diversity of its natural conditions. It is abundant in natural monuments, notably the rolling Tovtry Range, the imposing Kremenets Hills, the fancifully carved-in deep valleys of the Dnistro River, numerous caves, waterfalls, whimsical rocks and so on.
Early settlements appeared in Ternopilschyna in the Middle Paleolithic era (ca 50 thousand years ago) on the Dnistro River banks. The late 11th c. witnessed some appanage principalities merged in 1199 into the Principality of Halych-Volyn. Since 1246 the Principality of Halych-Volyn had accepted the Golden Horde suzerainty. In 1349, the northern part of the region was subjugated by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania while the remainder lands fell under Poland. Since 1772, most of the region had been under the power of the Habsburgs (except the region’s northern part incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1793). With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the province was proclaimed a part of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic that lasted for less than a year and in 1920 was seized by the restored Poland. When WW II broke out, the lands of Ternopilschyna were annexed by the Soviet Union and attached to the Ukrainian SSR.
Ternopilschyna can boast of a wide range of medieval architectural legacy comprising numerous castles and fortresses. Fortification appearance is characteristic even of a diverse array of religious edifices; defensive features vanished from their exterior only in the 18th c.
Founded in 1540 by Crown Hetman Jan Tarnowski on the Seret River, Ternopil (formerly Tarnopol) is the largest city of the oblast. In 1548, the Tarnopol castle was constructed on the bank of the dammed river. In the 19th c., the fortress was rebuilt into a palace. Not far from the castle is a simple church — the late 16th-c. Church of the Exaltation of the Cross, frequently referred to as the ‘Church on the Pond’ due to its position near the water’s edge. The present-day Ternopil is a pleasant provincial city with old prewar buildings in the city centre that impart the regional head city its charms and affability.
Kremenets, located beside a picturesque and narrow wooded valley encircled with the Kremenets Hills dividing basins between the Ikva River and the Viliya River, is a city with a lot of history. The first reference in the Hypatian Chronicles is dated by year 1226 when the city ruler smashed the Hungarian army. During the 1240—41 Mongol invasion Kremenets was one of the few cities that Batu Khan failed to capture. Only in 1261, Burunday Khan, who by that time had seized the Principality of Halych-Vblyn, forced the Ruthenian princes to pull down some of their fortifications, Kremenets including. In 1539, Bona Sforza, the Italian wife of Polish King Zygmunt I, became the owner of Kremenets and the Castle Hill received a new name in her honour — the Bona Hill. Just downhill (in 1636) was built the Franciscan Monastery Chapel, rebuilt into St. Nicholas Cathedral in 1832. In 1633, an Orthodox Boho-yavlenskyy Convent with a hospital and a school was set up in Kremenets. The present-day Orthdox Bohoyavlenskyy Convent occupies the 1750 Roman Catholic Church and the Monk Cells of the former Reformers’ Monastery founded by S. Potocki.
In 1648, the Cossacks demolished the Kremenets fortress never rebuilt. In 1701, the Jesuits laid their hands on the Bohoyavlenskyy Monastery and later (in 1743) they created a group of grand edifices there, including the former Jesuit Cathedral, Monks’ Cells and Jesuit Collegium complex converted into the Volyn Lyceum later on.
Strung out along a narrow wooded valley straddling the Strypa River, the ancient town of Buchach dates from 1397. In 1515, the town was given Magdeburg Law privileges. The ruins of the 14th-c. castle, the largest ancient building of Buchach, overlook the town and the river below. The centre of the town is a small square around the 18th-c. town hall with a 35-m tower, a joint work of Bernard Meretyn (architect) and Jan Jerzy Pinzel (sculptor), owing its existence to Count Mikolaj Bazyli Potocki.
Zbarazh, a city on the steep slopes of the Hnizna River valley, was first mentioned in 1211. In the 1620—30s, the Zbarazhsky brothers, Krzysztof and Jerzy, put up a mighty fortress, with all the trends of European fortification art of that day having been taken into consideration. Walled with multi-metre ramparts with bastions and casemates and encircled with a running-water moat, the castle palace, having a 60-m deep well, was practically impregnable enabling to withstand a long term of siege. Secret underground passages connected the castles with Bernardine Monastery (1627) and the St. Anthony Chapel within its walls in the lower part of the city.
Pochayiv, a town between the Ikva and the Slonivka Rivers, has been far and wide known thanks to Pochayiv Lavra of the Assumption of the Theotokos whose buildings top a single 75-m stony hill in the town. The Lavra is the second largest Orthodox pilgrimage monastery complex in Ukraine after the Caves Monastery in Kyiv. It was supposedly initiated by monks who escaped the Caves in Kyiv after the 1240 Mongol raid led by Batu.
In 1721, control of the monastery switched to the Greek-Catholic Basylian Fathers. The Ukrainian Catholics erected the 1783 Dormition Cathedral, conceived by Mikolaj Bazyli Potocki as the largest of the Greek-Catholic churches, the 1780 Monk Dormitories, and the 1825 Bishop’s Palace.
After the 1831 restitution of the cloister to the Russian Orthodox Church, Pochayiv Lavra enriched itself with a 64-m Bell Tower (1871), the 1912 Holy Trinity Cathedral, and numerous subsidiary structures.
Located on the Seret River, Chortkiv dates from 1522. Two churches, samples of Podillia folk wooden architecture, have survived in the city: the 1738 Ascension Church and the Church of the Dormition rebuilt in the likeness of a former 1635 church previously on the site.
Nearly one of the most scenic outposts of Halychyna, the stone castle on the precipitous rock over the Zbruch River valley by the village of Kudryntsi, was put up in the 16thc. Built on the rocky bank prominence, the Kudryntsi Castle was defended by precipices on three sides. Then, the castle was reconstructed into the family nest for the local landowners.
Located on the steep slopes of the Tsyhanka River valley, Kryvche is a village known since 1650, when a tophill sandstone castle was put up on the left bank. In 1672, the Turkish Sultan Mehmed IV razed the castle, from which only two castle towers and an armoury have survived.
In the environs of the castle on the slope of the valley, there is an entrance into the Cave of Kryvche (also referred to as Kryshtaleva), an attractive tourist destination. The total length of its labyrinths within the gypsum thickness is over 22 km, and the walls of the cave galleries are covered with multicoloured gypsum crystals that have given the name to the cavern, since ‘kryshtaleva’ means ‘crystalline’ or ‘crystal’. This is one of the most studied caves of the region, its main ways being electrified and available for tourists without special outfit.