Sacred heritage of Odesa, "the pearl of the Black Sea"
On the shores of the Black Sea lies the city of Odesa. Founded on the land of a former Tatar settlement, the city prospered in the 19th century thanks to its strategic location by the sea. Following the Soviet occupation of Ukraine, many of its historic buildings were destroyed and later reconstructed in the 1990s, when the country gained its independence. The historic centre of Odesa has been a delightful display of eastern and western architectural influences ever since, including its sacred buildings.
This imposing neoclassical building is a beautiful example of the Western architectural influence in Odesa, as well as one of Europe's largest Orthodox cathedrals. The Transfiguration Cathedral was founded in 1794 and although the original building was completely destroyed during the Soviet occupation of Ukraine in the 20th century, an exact replica of the cathedral was erected in the 1990s, after the country won independence.
The Al-Salam Mosque was built in 2001 for the Muslim community in Odesa, at the same time as the Arabian Cultural Centre of which it is a part. A Tatar mosque once stood on the site of the present mosque but was destroyed during the oppression of the Muslim community under Soviet rule. In the years following the fall of the USSR, Muslim culture began to flourish slowly again, resulting in this elegant Moorish-style mosque, with its distinctive green dome that has become an important landmark of the city.
Also known as the Choral Synagogue, Brody Synagogue was built between 1860 and 1863 by Odesa’s prospering Jewish community. At that time it was one of the largest synagogues in the Russian Empire and well known not only among the Jewish community but also among the 19th-century society in Odesa and beyond. In the 20th century, the synagogue was expropriated from the Jewish community and put to various non-religious uses, like many other places of worship. Today it is considered one of Odesa’s most important Jewish monuments.
The Choral Great Synagogue was built in 1850 by Italian architect Francesco Morandi. It displays a Rundbogenstil, a combination of Byzantine, Romanesque and Renaissance styles that originated in German-speaking countries in the 19th century. Today it houses the reception office of the Chief Rabbi of Odesa and the Odesa Jewish University.
The Orthodox Monastery of St Panteleimon was built in 1895 combining Byzantine and Moscow Baroque styles. A bell tower topped with an oriental-style dome greets visitors to the church. Above the nave, there is a glittering central dome and four smaller domes, also with a marked oriental influence, typical of neo-Byzantine architecture. Its interior features colourful murals, a rich iconostasis and the relics of St Panteleimon, the healer.
St Michael is a female monastery of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In 1839, the religious community settled here, opening new buildings around the existing St Michael’s church, which included a hospital, a school for orphan girls and a refectory for the poor. Under the Soviet regime, the monastery was shut down and many of its buildings were bulldozed. Despite the dilapidated state of the buildings in the early 1990s, the monastery complex was restored to its former appearance. Today, it is again inhabited by a community of nuns and houses a Museum dedicated to Christianity.
St Paul’s Cathedral is the religious centre of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine in Odesa. It was built at the end of the 19th century to replace an older church that had become too small for the community of Lutheran settlers that arrived during the previous decades. The bell tower of this neo-Romanesque church was once the tallest in the city of Odesa. Throughout the 20th century, it was put to many different uses, including a television studio and a gymnasium.