Volodymyr Mezentsev, Yurii Sytyi
Excavations at Baturyn, Ukraine, in 2020 and Reconstructions of the Stove Tiles of the Hetman Capital, 17th-18th Centuries
Despite the pandemic, this past summer, archaeologists conducted annual excavations in the town of Baturyn, Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine.
This Canada-Ukraine project is sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) at the University of Toronto, and the Ucrainica Research Institute in Toronto, Canada. In 2020, CIUS supported the archaeological research of Baturyn of the Cossack era with a generous grant from the Dr. Bohdan Stefan Zaputovich and Dr. Maria Hrycaiko Zaputovich Endowment Fund. The Ukrainian Studies Fund in New York also supports the historical, archaeological, architectural and artistic investigations of early modern Baturyn with annual subsidies. The Chernihiv Oblast State Administration awarded annual grants for the excavations in this town in 2005-2020.
Generous patrons of the Baturyn study are the late poetess Volodymyra Wasylyszyn and her husband, artist Roman Wasylyszyn (Philadelphia, the USA), as well as Dr. George Iwanchyshyn in Toronto. In 2019-2020, the historical and archaeological explorations of Baturyn and the preparation of related publications were supported with donations from the National Executive and Toronto Branch of the League of Ukrainian Canadians, the National Executive and Toronto Division of the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, the Kniahynia Olha Branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, the BCU Financial Group, the BCU Foundation, the Ukrainian Credit Union in Toronto, and the Zorya Inc. in Greenwich, Connecticut, the USA.
In 2001, then the director of CIUS Prof. Zenon Kohut, the eminent historian of the Hetmanate, founded and subsequently directed the Baturyn project. Since 2014 he has been its academic adviser. Dr. Volodymyr Mezentsev, research associate of CIUS Toronto Office, is the executive director of this project from the Canadian side. Late Prof. Martin Dimnik (1941-2020), the leading Canadian historian of medieval Chernihiv Principality and ex-president of PIMS, also participated in this research and the publication of its results in North America.
Seventy-five students, instructors, and archaeologists from the Chernihiv College National University, the Hlukhiv Military Lyceum, and the Institute of Archaeology at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU) in Kyiv, as well as many volunteers, took part in the 2020 excavations. Yurii Sytyi, senior fellow at the Centre for Archaeology and Early History of Northern Left-Bank Ukraine at the Chernihiv College National University, leads the Baturyn archaeological expedition. Both Oleksandr Tereshchenko, senior fellow of this Centre, and Dr. Liudmyla Myronenko, research associate at the Institute of Archaeology (NASU), are the expedition’s officers. The historian Serhii Dmytriienko (Chernihiv) is the graphic artists for the Baturyn project. Yurii Kovalenko, M.A., the head of the Department of Scholarly Research at the Hlukhiv National Preserve, was also involved in the Baturyn excavations and examination of its findings.
Archaeological studies have established that this town arose in the 11th century as a frontier stronghold of the Chernihiv Principality of Rus’. Yu. Sytyi maintains that in 1239 it was destroyed by the Mongols, who razed the remaining settlement in 1275. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Cherhihiv land was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and in 1618-1648 belonged to the Polish Kingdom. In 1625, King of Poland Sigismund III Vasa rebuilt and fortified Baturyn on its original site. One view suggests that the town was named in honour of the Polish King Stephen V Báthory.
After the first destruction of Baturyn by invading Russian troops in 1632, Polish royal officials and magnates restored the town and transformed it into an important military, administrative, and commercial centre near the border with Muscovy. Archaeological finds of many silver and billon Polish, Lithuanian, Livonian, Swedish, and Swiss coins, as well as imported goods attest to Western connections of 17th-century Baturyn. The costly silver-and-bronze belt, discovered near the site of its former fortress in 1997, might have belonged to a local Polish governor or an officer of the garrison (fig. 1). O. Tereshchenko believes that the clasp bears the relief triumphal motif of a mounted knight or king in armour, which was widely used in Polish elite art during the 1610-30s.
During the 1648-1654 national liberation war, Polish rule over central Ukraine was overthrown and the Cossack state, or Hetmanate, was founded, albeit under the suzerainty of the Russian Tsar. Between 1669 and 1708, Baturyn was its capital and the main seat of the Cossack rulers, or hetmans (fig. 2).
The town flourished under the powerful and enlightened Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1687-1709), who had been brought up and educated in Poland and Western Europe. In alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Swedish Empire, Mazepa resisted militarily Moscow’s growing authority over central Ukraine and proclaimed the Cossack Hetmanate an independent principality. However, in 1708, Russian Tsar Peter I quelled Mazepa’s revolt and devastated and burned the insurgent Baturyn to the ground.
Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky (1750-1764) reconstructed the town as the capital of the Cossack polity on the eve of its abolition and merging by the Russian Empire in 1764. Until Rozumovsky’s death in 1803, Baturyn experienced its last urban revival, but subsequently fell into decay.
Prior to 1700, in Baturyn’s southern suburb of Honcharivka, Mazepa commissioned his principal residence, which was looted and burned by the Muscovite forces in 1708. V. Mezentsev and the archaeologists Oleksandr Bondar (Chernihiv) contend that in central or Cossack Ukraine it was the earliest known fortified palatial complex with regular layout designed according to contemporaneous Western models of the so-called “palazzo in fortezza”. The remnants of its ramparts, bastions, a stately three-story masonry baroque palace, a wooden court church, and the dwellings of guards, servants, and guests have been excavated by our expedition since 1995. The results were presented by V. Mezentsev in Canadio-Byzantina, nos. 22-31, 2011-2019; see https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/ojs/index.php/cb/issue/archive.
From 2018 to 2020, L. Myronenko continued excavating the debris of the early 18th-century 2.3 m-wide brick vaulted corridor west of the Mazepa palace site. By last summer, 7.5 metres of this underground passageway with 17 descending steps had been unearthed, but its eastern end has yet to be reached. The lowest step was uncovered about 5 m below ground level. L. Myronenko conjectures that this tunnel led to the neighbouring brick basement (8.5 by 6.5 m in size) of a destroyed and hitherto unidentified building. Further archaeological investigations of the remnants of this corridor and adjacent structures should allow us to determine their full dimensions, ground plans, and specific purposes within Mazepa’s manor.
The 24-year excavations at Baturyn have enriched its Museum of Archaeology with one of the largest collections of architectural and decorative ceramics in Ukraine. It includes over 8,500 ceramic stove tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries and their fragments. Yu. Sytyi has attributed them to 353 various ornamental types and subtypes. Nearly 30 kinds of these plaques were applied for revetting the heating stoves in the Honcharivka palace (figs. 4-6).
The 2018-2020 excavations of the underground tunnel and around it yielded many fragments of fine ceramic tiles. Yu. Sytyi and L. Myronenko are convinced that they did not originate from the stoves of its ruined superstructure, but, instead, from those in Mazepa’s burnt palace, which stood 19 m to the east. These tiles are decorated with masterful floral or, sometimes, geometric relief patterns in the Ukrainian baroque style. More expensive plaques have polychromatic glazing.
The technology of glazed ceramics was introduced to Kyivan Rus’ from Byzantium in the late 10th century. Rus’-Ukraine adapted the designs of brick stoves faced with terracotta and glazed tiles and their ornamentations from Central Europe, particularly from Poland and Lithuania, during the late medieval and early modern eras. They were commonly used for heating and embellishing the interiors of Ukrainian residential houses at that time (fig. 3). Assimilating these Byzantine traditions and Western influences, Ukrainian artisans created their own, distinctive baroque style of decorative stove tiles in the 17th and 18th centuries (figs. 3-8).
Employing computer photo collage and graphic techniques, S. Dmytriienko has prepared hypothetical reconstructions of three types of the broken multicoloured glazed ceramic cornice stove tiles found in the tunnel and nearby in 2019 (figs. 5, 6). In V. Mezentsev’s view, two tiles feature a combination of ornate flower baroque motifs and stylized elements of classical and early modern architectural adornments. The upper part of one plaque resembles an entablature frieze with alternating rosettes of two kinds separated by curved triglyphs. Another tile has a row of flower-like rosettes on the top and a line of acanthus leaves below (fig. 6).
Fig. 6 a, b. Polychrome glazed ceramic cornice stove tiles, found during the corridor excavations in 2019. Photos by Yu. Sytyi, hypothetical reconstructions, computer photo collages and graphics by S. Dmytriienko, 2020.
Various types of massive circular flower-like polychrome glazed ceramic rosettes were placed in sequences along the friezes of entablatures of the Honcharivka palace, as well as numerous 17th and 18th-century churches, belfries, and monastic buildings in Kyiv. V. Mezentsev has shown that this decorative method was transplanted from Italian Renaissance architecture to Kyiv in the 1630-40s. From there, it spread to early modern ecclesiastical masonry structures in central Ukraine.
The authors believe that Mazepa invited the best tile-makers from Kyiv to finish his palace in Honcharivka. They adorned its entablatures’ friezes with rows of ceramic rosettes in keeping with this popular Kyivan fashion and could also replicate the rosette motif in the compositions of cornice stove tiles, supplementing them with stylized triglyphs and acanthus leaves from classical tradition (fig. 6). Among the numerous 17th-18th-century stove tiles fashioned by local Baturyn craftsmen, such ornaments are unknown. Therefore, the recreated plaques from the revetments of stoves in Mazepa’s richly embellished main residence in Baturyn reflect the mastery of the leading Kyivan artisans of architectural majolica of the 1690s (figs. 4-6).
In 2017-2020, in the northwestern suburb of Baturyn, the expedition continued excavating remnants of the residence of Pylyp Orlyk, the Hetmanate’s chancellor general. After Mazepa died, Orlyk succeeded him as the hetman in exile (1710-1742) and wrote the first Ukrainian Constitution in 1710.
Yu. Sytyi asserts that Orlyk constructed and decorated his home and its heating stoves, modelling on those in Lithuania, his motherland. It was a spacious one-story house made of logs with several rooms and no cellar. Orlyk’s dwelling was burned down during the Muscovite sack of Baturyn in 1708.
Tereshchenko and L. Myronenko have unearthed the foundations of two ruined solid brick heating stoves, each of them nearly 2 by 2 m in size. Probably their lateral façades, as well as the interior walls of Orlyk’s home, were whitewashed. From 2018 to 2020, many fragments of the ceramic revetment tiles were discovered around these stove foundations. The square plaques are approximately 30 by 30 cm in size and 1.2 cm thick. According to Yu. Sytyi’s and L. Myronenko’s comparisons, they are considerably larger than the regular square stove tiles used in 17th-18th-century Baturyn and elsewhere in Ukraine. Tiles excavated at the site of Orlyk’s residence are predominantly ornamented with plant relief designs in the Ukrainian baroque style. The costlier plaques have multicoloured or monochrome glazing. The cheaper terracotta tiles devoid of any enamel, and some are lime washed.
This past summer, a sizeable part of a rectangular terracotta plaque, 18 cm wide and perhaps about 30 cm long, was found at this site. It was a detail of a horizontal band dividing the stove’s sections. This tile features a classical motif of stylized acanthus leaves.
Among the stove tiles unearthed at the site of Orlyk’s home, there are number of fragments with unique elaborate relief compositions of his and Mazepa’s coats of arms. Several of them have polychrome glazes or are lime washed, and some have terracotta surfaces. S. Dmytriienko’s computer photo collage and colour graphic reconstructions of the assemblages of fragmented and burnt glazed ceramic plaques bearing Orlyk’s and Mazepa’s arms, 1707-1708, together with their descriptions and analyses by V. Mezentsev, were published in Canadio-Byzantina, No. 30, January 2019, p. 12, fig. 3; and No. 31, January 2020, pp. 13-14, fig. 5.
In this article, these researchers present their hypothetical reconstruction of a fragment of the upper façade of one ruined stove from the Orlyk residence (fig. 7). It features a central recreated square multicoloured glazed tile with his heraldic emblem in relief against a background of square terracotta plaques with flower relief patterns. In the physical and graphic reconstructions of early modern Ukrainian heating stoves, including those in Baturyn, as a rule only a single square heraldic tile was affixed to the middle of frontal and lateral walls. Analogous compositions are known on the 17th-century tiled stoves from Orlyk’s homeland—the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Yu. Sytyi posits that it was accomplished local Baturyn tile-makers who faced the stoves at his home before 1708. Stove plaques collected there are considered to be the best known examples of ceramic and heraldic arts created in Mazepa’s capital on the eve of its fall. Their technical and artistic qualities are similar to the high standards of early 18th-century Kyivan earthenware.
From 2017 to 2020, in the southeastern edge of the hetman capital, O. Tereshchenko excavated remnants of a timber dwelling of the early 18th century. In Yu. Sytyi’s hypothesis, it could belong to a well-to-do Cossack who served as a gunner at the artillery arsenal of Mazepa’s fortified villa in neighbouring Honcharivka.
This house had a ground floor and a basement furnished with an ordinary heating stove made of clay and adobe bricks. Many broken ceramic stove tiles and two massive intact cornice plaques of local manufacture have been unearthed there (fig. 8). They are green-glazed and bear imposing Ukrainian baroque plant relief patterns. Their decoration is more modest when compared to that of the stove plaques from the residences of the hetman and his chancellor described above (cf. figs. 4-8). According to Yu. Sytyi, this dwelling, like the adjacent neighbourhood inhabited by craftsmen and tradespeople, was burned during the Russian attack on Baturyn in 1708.
Thus, recent archaeological research of Baturyn testifies to the vibrancy of its ceramic craft during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. From the 1690s onwards, skilled Kyivan tile-makers worked in Baturyn and likely advanced the local production. Early 18th-century ornamental and heraldic stove tiles fashioned for the elite residences in Mazepa’s capital are comparable to the quality architectural majolica of Kyiv and represent valuable pieces of Ukrainian baroque ceramic art.
The total destruction of Baturyn by the army of Tsar Peter I in 1708 disrupted its economic and cultural development for half a century. After this onslaught, the local manufacturing of stove tiles with relief images in the Ukrainian baroque style never recovered in Baturyn. In the second part of the 18th century, during the town’s revival under Hetman Rozumovsky, the stoves and fireplaces at his palaces and administrative buildings were embellished by flat ceramic plaques with glazed drawings in the Dutch style imported from Holland or Russia. Researchers of Baturyn plan to resume excavations there when the pandemic quarantine will be over.
The first shorter version of this article was published in the bulletin Canadio-Byzantina, No. 32, University of Ottawa, January 2021, pp. 13-18.