The Black House

The Market Square in central Lviv buzzes with activity day and night and is popular with both locals and tourists visiting this lovely city in Ukraine. The rectangular-shaped square boasts the majestic town hall which was built in 1835, complete with a 65-meter tower, and around the square there are forty-four tenement houses representing a wide variety of architectural styles ranging from Renaissance to Modernism. One of the most extraordinary, and famous, of these tenement houses is known simply as the Black House.

The Black House was built in the latter part of the 16th century for Tomas Alberti, an Italian tax-collector. It is widely considered to be one of the most superb examples of Renaissance architecture in Lviv. This is quite an accomplishment when taking into account the fact that Lviv is a veritable treasure trove of architectural marvels. Renaissance architecture, which was the dominant architectural style for buildings of note from the early 15th century through to the early 17th century, was first developed in Florence, but soon spread to other Italian cities and, as it gained in popularity, it spread to other countries, including France, Germany, England, Russia and Ukraine.

The entire front façade of the Black House was created from sandstone, which over years of exposure to the elements has turned a deep, rich charcoal-black. As house number four on the eastern side of the Market Square of Lviv, the Black House is flanked on one side by a Rococo-style house built for the Wilczek family in the 16th century and remodeled in 1772, while on the other side stands the House of Lukasiewicz, also built in the 16th century. The Black House stands out in stark contrast between its neighbors, the one of which is pink and white and the other light grey.

The Black House has four floors, and above the entrance and two ground floor windows are decorative fixtures, while along the edge of the roof-top are a series of decorative balustrades. Just opposite the Black House is a wide paved area of the square, with a lovely water fountain and trees, lending an air of tranquility to the surroundings – even though it forms part of the busy Market Square. Since 1926, the Black House has been cared for, and forms part of, the Historic City Museum of Lviv.

The Market Square is one of the places that most tourists visit when exploring Lviv, and the Black House stands proudly on the eastern side of the square, as it has done for centuries.