Vault Windows in Lviv

An interesting architectural and infrastructural element of the old buildings in Lviv is the vault window with a metal shutter. Even these seemingly unimportant, mundane covers were finished off with an artistic and decorative touch—a unique cutout, which I assume served the purpose of providing some light and ventilation into the basement vaults.

The windows would open by key from the outside, and likely were also used as chutes to bring goods or coal directly into the basements from the streets. As these are generally found on the front facade of the buildings, many have been openings to the vaults of storefronts—and so storage of goods was very important.

Now many of these shutters have been painted over and left unused for decades. The key holes have been painted shut and the keys long gone, while the vaults themselves may have been left abandoned, undisturbed…

Each one has a different design—and there are hundreds of these around Lviv. (See also Austria’s vault lights.)

I especially love the ones with the women’s profiles—and the women’s mouths are open as if they are engaged in a lively and most enjoyable conversation.

8 thoughts on “Prewar Painted Stripes in Lviv

  1. Thank you Areta for another important and timely blog post on the challenges and issues of Jewish heritage and recovery of memory. We are hopeful that soon the headstones used as basement steps in a courtyard in Lviv (Hałycka Płoszcza 15 / Galitskaya 15) will be recovered. The Lviv Volunteer Center is working behind the scenes to make this happen, with the support of the Lviv Jewish community and others.

  2. This is the part that blows my mind: “During periods of transition, the records occasionally show the use or mix of two languages—Church Slavonic and Latin, or Latin and Ukrainian…”
    SO COOL!
    Thanks, Areta!

  3. > The largest and best-preserved fragment of Lviv’s medieval defense structures is the Hlyniany Gate (1618)

    Areta, Hlyniany Gate and wall around it have been renovated.

    There used to be some residential building in its place (behind the now-demolished fire station in the foreground)
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-N3g4hWC9YuQ/TbF5heED-OI/AAAAAAAAE2o/r66p5JhJ9iMx0UWnvU7y4dyC_M14zc8XwCCoYBhgL/s0/mit-001.jpg

    Building, close-up
    https://audiovis.nac.gov.pl/i/PIC/PIC_2-8519.jpg

    The wall looked like this
    https://audiovis.nac.gov.pl/i/PIC/PIC_1-U-3615.jpg

  4. Any idea what the Yiddish is on the hat sign on the right? I can make out most of the letters, but my Yiddish isn’t good enough to fill in the blanks. I used to pass by that wall frequently on my way to a friends house, but he has moved since then. It’s still my favorite ghost sign, though 🙂

  5. Kudos to you, Aretha. I came across your blog from a repost from one of your diaspora Ukrainian language from Pre-war Galicia words versus accepted and widely used Post-war words for a long list of foods. I too grew up in the diaspora in Cleveland. I was in Lviv in November of this soon to be last year. Although Lviv is my Dad’s ancestral city, I had family from Central Ukraine and grew up hearing both dialects. I think the blog was from 2014 or 2015. I wanted to leave a comment on your new blog and commend you for the interesting sociolinguistic and cultural discussions you have initiated. Nice to see that you are now in the field doing your research first-hand.

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