«lf you need an important purchase for your household – you go to Berdychiv; if a young man needs a horse and a cart, and a young girl, a dowry – they go to Berdychiv; if a drunkard needs wine, an inveterate card-player, a game, and some greenhorn, a fight – they also go to Berdychiv,” wrote 0. Elovytsky.
In opinion of researchers the name of the city originated from the old Slavonic word “berda” which means mountain or precipice, or from the word “berdysh” which means a battle-ax. These lands were owned by Bolokhiv princes, the Prince Danylo of Galicia, the Tatars. In 1320 the Grand prince Gedymin presented this locality to the Tyshkevyches family. It is considered that Berdychiv was founded in 1546. The period of economic bloom of the city lasted until the first half the 17 th century, when it was interrupted by Cossack wars. On January 23, 1793, after the Second Partition of Poland, Berdychiv became part of the Volhynian province. Since then the city, which was located on the crossroads of trade-routes, became one of the largest commercial centers of Ukraine. In the late 17 th century annual fairs were initiated in the city. The biggest of them – Onufri-ivsky- lasted six weeks and by the level of its turnover was equated with Leipzig fair. The city was considered one of the biggest centers of smuggling in Eastern Europe. Kyivan Governor-general D.Bibikov wrote: “Berdychiv was a concentration of smuggling business in an extensive volume brought into accord with correct forms and right state, which could be hardly come across anywhere and at any time…” In 1867 during construction work a whole system of underground passages was unexpectedly discovered under the city. The governor of the city, taking into account a possibility of their use by smugglers, set up a special committee which had to catch the malefactors. Thus there were found 100 underground passages and cellars! The second half of the 19 th century was the period of fast development of industry in Berdychiv. The building in 1870 of the railway that connected Berdychiv with Koziatyn, and later with Shepetivka and Zhytomyr, contributed to this process very much.
Berdychiv remained a typical Jewish town for a long time. In 1765 Jews made up 80% of its population. The strongest positions were held by the Hasideans. At the beginning of the 20 th century 10 synagogues, 67 meeting-houses, and 51 hered-schools were operating in the city. In 1917-1919 the Jewish political party”Bund” had a full control of the city. Only 20% of the city’s population outlived Nazi occupation. Next to the Carmelites’ Monastery, in place of the ghetto, there was set up a memorable sign. Now there are two operating synagogues in the city: the Central one (1891, 8Ya. Sverdlov St); and Habar-Lubovitch synagogue (2000,3 V. Chor-novil St.). In the territory of T.Shevchenko park there are the remains of the Jewish cemetery and the burial vault of Levi Yitzchak Ben Meir (Lenin St., before the railway crossing from the side of Kyiv).
The monastery-fortress of barefooted Carmelites (25 Soborna St.) is the main tourist zest of Berdychiv. It was founded in 1627 in place of the castle of the 16 th century built by the nobleman V.Tyshkevych whose grandchild, Yanush by name, was taken prisoner during a campaign against the Crimean Tatars. According to a legend, the captive had a dream in which he saw unknown monks pleading with the Virgin for his liberation. On happily returning home, he met the monks he saw in his dream; they turned out barefooted Carmelites.
In 1630 Kyivan voevode Yanush Tyshkevych passed the family castle with the fortress to the monks. Thus he kept his vow for the liberation from the Tatar captivity. In 1642 they started building of the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin, St. John the Baptist, Archistrategos Michael, and St. John the Evangelist, which got the unofficial name of the “lower.”On July 22,1642, the newly-built temple was consecrated. Tyshkevych presented a family relic to the monks – the miracle-working image of the Holy Virgin. For its wonder-working properties the icon was crowned by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. For the first time it was done by Pope Benedict XIV in 1721, for the second time, by Pope Pius IX in 1854. In times when Cossack state was in the making the detachments commanded by Kryvonos took the monastery by storm, destroyed the buildings and drove out the monks. In 1663, having waited through bad times in Lviv, the monks returned. Howeve,Tyshkevych’s heirs appealed against the monks’ right to the castle and chapter-lands. On March 19,1684, the gentry even organized an attack on the monastery. Long judicial procrastination lasted till 1717, but the heirs lost all the same. Taught by experience, the monks fortified the monastery, converting it into a defensive fortress. In 1721 the wonder-working icon returned to the monastery from Lviv. In 1737-1754 in the likeness of the Roman temple of Santa Maria Delia Neve there were built the “upper” Roman Catholic Church of St. Maria with Child and the buildings of monastic cells (arch. Jan de Vitte and G.Tarnavsky). Interior paintings were executed by the Italian artist B.Frederice. In the monastery there were the relics of the warrior-martyr Feodor, and part of the gonfalon of the great martyr George. In 1759 the monks brought from Lublin the body of the founder J.Tyshkevych and buried it in a tomb of the “lower” temple. In 1758 Carmelites received permission from king August III to found their own printing-house.
In 1863 the monastery gave refuge to the Polish insurgents, whereupon czar’s government made the decision about its liquidation. The premises of the monastery were given over to the department of the district police and firemen. It resulted in the decline of the building. In 1908-1915 the architect Zhiller carried out restoration work. The work was cut short by World War I and the Civil War. The interior was almost fully destroyed. In 1941 the wonderworking icon disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Only in 1992 was the monastery able to renew its activity. In 1998 Pope John Paul II sanctified the copy of the lost image executed in 1991. Museum of Local Lore operates in the territory of the.
Among other sights of the city noteworthy is the baroque Roman Catholic Church of St. Barbara (25 K. Liebknecht St.) built in 1826 in place of the temple raised in 1759 on money of Barbara Radziwill. In world history the temple is known as the place of the wedding ceremony of the French writer Honore de Balzac and Evelina Ganska. From 1992 it is a Roman Catholic sanctuary.