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Lviv, Ukraine

Under the Black Eagle Pharmacy Museum

Ukraine's oldest operating pharmacy now offers guests a fascinating walk through apothecary history. 

The ceiling of Під Чорним Орлом, or Under the Black Eagle pharmacy, is painted with symbols of air, water, fire, and earth, representing the humors of the body, the preeminent theory of early medicine. Since 1735, Under the Black Eagle has tended to the apothecary needs of Lviv’s citizens, making it the oldest operating pharmacy in Ukraine. But since 1966 it has offered more than just medicine.

The front room of the Under the Black Eagle is still a functioning dispensary, and it’s here that the pharmacy museum tour begins. Museum visitors can walk through 16 rooms to different historic eras of medicinal care, going back in time as they retreat further into the building.

After paying a small entrance fee to the pharmacist, the pharmacy opens up to a wood-shelved room chock full of antique pharmacy equipment. There are mortars and pestles, various beakers, ornate scales, jars containing tinctures, elixirs, and other medicines, all from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

The material room contains the equipment for manufacturing medicine in earlier times (pill machines, drying cupboards, extraction presses, recipe manuals, etc.). In a replica brewery the pharmacy still offers its “iron wine,” an ancient iron-boosted beverage said to raise hemoglobin in the blood. An outdoor courtyard with an attached 17th century apartment shows what the yards of Lviv’s upper middle class looked in that time period. The pharmacy also boasts one of the most comprehensive medical libraries in Eastern Europe, with over a thousand ancient medical texts and even more books from the 18th to 20th centuries. 

In the basement, visitors can see one of the earliest forms of pharmaceutical studies: an alchemist’s laboratory. Oak stairs from the courtyard lead to this secret dungeon, where rare plants that would have been used in this seemingly magical room hang around the walls. This exhibit details the beginnings of medicine throughout Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.

Know Before You Go

The Rynok (Market Square) is in the heart of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are several other more traditional museums among the historic buildings on the square.

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