Architectural heritage

Travelling and excursions around old towns and modern cities are the best ways to get acquainted with Belarus.

Such Belarusian towns and cities as Minsk, Borisov, Orsha, Zaslavl, Turov and Polotsk are ancient military fortresses at strategic roads of medieval period from Polish Kingdom to Moscow State, on the route “from the Varangians to the Greeks”. Lovers of antiques have the opportunity to take a look at medieval architecture, surrounded by primitive country landscapes and park ensembles of the epoch of Renaissance. Old castles and palaces of brilliant nobility of Sapyeh, Radzivillov, Oginskih, which are situated in medieval towns of Mir, Nesvizh and Slonim present special interest.

The palace complex of Sapiehov

The new residence had the Gate entry as the Triumphal Arch, decorated with carved cartouche and with the bog oak garlands. Semicircular arcades went out of the main construction, connecting it with the lateral constructions, with the Gate and with the aisles. Greatly decorated windows and delicately traced sculptural details were giving a particular luxury to the building. English landscape park was encasing the mansion and it was emphasizing its flamboyance. The Ruzhanskii palace was famous for its huge picture gallery, greenhouse with rare plants ad for its theatre, which had really very good technical equipment for those times. The biggest library in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the special pride of the owners.

Because of the participating in the rebellion of 1831 Russian emperor Nickolay I ordered to withdraw the possessions of Sapieh in the treasury. After this the palace was given to the Jewish manufacturer as weaving mill. And the further fate of the building was determined. During the World War I an awful fire happened there because of negligence of factory laundresses and some of the walls collapsed. The World War II completed the destruction.

Today the picturesque ruins of the palace, the “wings” of the arcade and the fragments of the Gate entry with the same oak cartouche remind about the former magnificence.

The palace of Rumyantcevyh-Paskevichei

Gomel area
Minsk – 291 km.

There were an Iron Age settlement, the detinets of ancient Gomel, medieval castle with powerful walls in different periods of time. The palace of Rumyantcevyh-Paskevichei rises in this very historical place, at a high bank of Sozh river, surrounded by romantic landscape park.

Its building started in 1777, when Catherine II donated the “village” Gomel to her favorite Peter Rumyantsev-Zadunaiskii. In the 19th century Rumyantsevy were not able to pay off the huge debts and sold the palace to the state. In 1834 it was bought back by famous Russian chieftain graph Ivan Paskevich. The new host of the mansion was famous not only for military deeds, but he was also famous for the richest collections of the antiques and the works of art. Some of them were moved to Gomel.

Today the mansion of Rumyantcevyh-Paskevichei attracts thousands of tourists. Truly unique complex includes the palace, St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the chapel and the family tomb of Paskevichi. Very interesting fact is that the chapel became the first monument restored in the republic after the World War II.

The richest exposition of the mansion tells about the life of Russian nobility of the 19th century. It includes more than 150 exhibits, some of them are real rarity. Unfortunately many things of the last hosts disappeared. But happy findings take place. The return of goddess Mir from Voronezh – the exact replica of sculpture made by Italian master Antonio Canova is a good example of one of these. The bronze goddess weighing 35 pounds has been made by Saint Petersburg master Deput-Malinovskii. The true value of the palace is the exemplar of the Gospel of Peter Mstislavets dated the year of 1575. The book appeared in the museum nowadays.

Six wonderful statues, which were decorating the upper tier of the palace in former times, have been taken their original places. After the October Revolution the original sculptures were lost and now their compilations are set up. So that the visitors are met by graceful Greek heroes - Aphrodite, Athena, Ares, Bacchus, Nymph and ancient playwright Euripides.

An excellent example of landscape art of the end of 18th – the beginning of 19th is the palace park. Its layout and completion of the mansion was managed by talented polish architect Adam Idzkovsky. By the way the canvas with the view of the palace belongs to the paintbrush of this man too. Now this picture can be observed on the 20 thousand Belarusian ruble banknotes.

Tiesenhausen palace.

Vitebsk region
Minsk-160 km
Vitebsk-245 km

Tiesenhausen palace became a kind of the center of science and education in 18th century. Anthony Tiesenhausen started to build it in 1733-1785. He was one of the progressive people of those times. He was corresponding with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They say he was a close of friend of the last king of Rzecz Pospolita Stanislova Avgusta Ponyatovskogo.

Having been the Secretary of economy and finances, Tiesenhausen was carrying economic, cultural and urban reorganizations. Manufactures, schools for peasants’ children were created in Postavy with his help. Local theatre became one of the best in the country. This person turned Postavy into the one of the most beautiful places, but he did not find time to complete the erection of his own palace.

Only in 1814 the new owner of Postav, Konstantin Tiesenhausen, finally finished the construction. Big stone building was performed in the best traditions of classicism and it had U-shaped outline. The big worshiper of science Konstantin equipped the northern part of construction as the cabinet of zoology, mineralogy and ethnography. There were the ballet school and the secular school and the manufacture on producing of belts and paper in the palace.

But ornithology was the particular passion of Konstantin. That is why he created the ornithology museum in his mansion, one of the most beautiful and the richest all over Eastern Europe. The collection of stuffed birds from Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine has being gathered for almost 40 years. This collection was tremendous, even for this time it is great, about 3000 of exhibits. The scientist also was the author of sever books on ornithology.
There were luxury art galleries, where more than 600 canvases were kept in the palace. They say there even were original works of Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Rubens. The walls in this part of the palace were decorated with fretwork and luxury fireplaces. But the owner itself with his family preferred to live in more modest chambers, in the western part of the mansion.

There were wonderful garden with picturesque ponds, numerous parade alleys and exotic plants around the Tiesenhausen family nest.

The whole chain of the underground tunnels, stretched for many kilometers, was found under the palace basement. Right now it is restoration period there. But museum will be built in future. But even now the palace is very attractive to tourists. Its outlook has not practically changed. The territory of the mansion is decorated with the sculptures of white marble made by Italian masters as it used to be in the times of Tiesenhausens.

The Palace of Puslovskih

Ivatsevichi region
Brest area
Minsk-223 km.
Brest-152 km.

Knight's fortress-this is the way Kossovskii palace was called by poets and historians. Notched parapet around the perimeter of the building, faceted towers at the corners, loopholes in the walls, door and window openings made as narrow lancet arches make the mansion look like the real medieval fortress.

The building of the palace started in 1830 on the request of powerful graph industrialist Vandalin Puslovskii. The new owner of the palace also restored the house, which was in disrepair. This house belonged to Tadeusz Kastyushka-the leader of the national liberation rebellion of 1794. The family nest of the revolutionist stands proudly on the background of the palace on the paintings of the 19th century.

The mansion-castle had 12 towers, which were the symbol of the months of the year. The sun lighted up each of the rooms of the palace for two and a half days annually. According to contemporaries, in the "room’s days" the room was decorated and everybody tried to spend time there. The walls of the residence were covered by carpets and gobelins. There were fireplaces, decorated with carved marble and sculptures at the corners. The Kossovskii palace was famous for its huge collection of works of art and antiquities. There was rich library with thousands of volumes and manuscripts.

Such famous people as the artist and composer Napoleon Orda, the writers Henryk Sienkiewicz, Eliza Azheshko, Vaclav Lastovsky were visiting successful industrialists Puslovskih.

By the way each of 132 halls was different. The balls were taking place in the graceful White hall, they were playing cards in the Black hall, the walls of which were covered with expensive black marble, and they were playing music in the Pink hall. The lobby with glass floor, where exotic fish was swimming right under guests` feet, was another remarkable thing. There is also the legend that the lion lived in the palace and guarded the residents of the mansion at nights.

The palace was surrounded by wonderful terraced park. It included more than 150 species of exotic plants. There were fountains at the terraces and there was a big number of different sculptures among greenery.

Unfortunately a big fire happened in the mansion during the World War 11. The construction of the palace suffered a lot, and the house of Kastyushka burned out. Now there is restoration after which the museum will invite guests to get the information about the residence of Puslovskih. Hotel, bar, conference halls will be built there. But now the walls of the palace are dressed into old forests and today palace’s greatness wakes the fantasy up.

Homestead of Shvykovskih

Brest area

Minsk-274 km.
Brest-99 km.

Italian countryside villa in neo-romantic style-this is how historians call the mansion of Shvykovskih. This is the only one homestead of this kind which has been restored in Belarus.

Catherine II presented the country seat Pruzhany or Pruzhanskiy Klyuch (this is another name) itself to her favorite field marshal of Russian troops graph Pyotr Rumyantsev-Zadunayskiy. Aftermath the mansion passed to the heirs, to Nickolay Rumyantsev at first and then to Mihail Rumyantsev. The evidence about the new host Bernard Shvykovskiy appeared in historic documents at the beginning of the 19th. century.

Significant restoration of the country seat was made when the owner was Valentine Shvykovskiy. At that very period the building has got the look it has right now. The mansion was famous for its greenhouse. There were about 60 species of plants in the middle of the 19th, most of them was exotic. The hosts were proud of azaleas, palms, wax and lemon trees. Correspondents of the magazine "Ziemia" in 1911 were noticing: » The greenhouse of Shykovskih was famous all over Lithuania for its secular oranges, palms, myrtles and lemons. Even Radzivilly did not have something even similar."

According to the legend the family of Romanovy had visited the mansion in Pruzhany not once. And while the king was hunting in Belovezha his wife was spending time talking to the hostess of the villa.

Nowadays "The pruzhanskiy Palatsik" is the museum where antiques interiors have been reconstructed. One can see here graceful flowery hall, lush and fragrant greenhouse, winter garden and hunting room, executed in the 19th. century style.

The country seat of Oginskiy

Smorgonskiy region
Grodno area

The history of the country seat is connected with the name of its famous owner, talented diplomat and politician Mihail Kleofas Oginskiy. He is the author of soulful polonaise "Farewell with Motherland" and solemn sentimental Polish anthem "Poland is still alive".

This stead belonged to the uncle of the legendary Belarusian Frantishek. He did not have his own children and that is why nobleman left this mansion to his nephew Mikhail. In that time the house in Zalessye built in the first middle of the 18th century was wooden. It was executed in the Baroque style. The hosts of the country stead loved French park with unusually cut short trees and bushes a lot.

The palace was built in trendy classical style on the request of new owner in 1805. Dorian porch at the front door and high tower with chiming clock, ended by the bowl with the bell, were the main decoration of the one-storied building. Despite such laconism in the decoration, the palace was so beautiful that it was called "The Northern Athens".

The layout has traditional system. Through the front door one could get to spacious lobby with the walls covered with frescos, from where the musical salon, pink hall, billiard room, canteen and other rooms could be observed. Forged spiral stairs led to the second floor, where living quarters and well furnished library with the crucifix, made of red wood, Viennese piano and of course with the cabinets full of books situated.
Small chapel in classical style situated next to the palace. For expanding the place the architects painted its walls with architectural motifs frescos.

Mikhail tried hard to save the constructions of the 18th. century and they fit new image of the country stead very well. French park kept pleasing guests and hosts, but English park appeared next to it. Simultaneously architects increased the territory of small lake, where a few artificial islands for boating walks were created. Botanical garden with rare plants located next to it and menagerie situated behind the lake.

Unfortunately during the World War 1 and the World War 11 the territory of the stead suffered a lot. Now restoration is planned. The museum of Oginskiy will be opened for visitors and also musical parties, where an old valses and minuets will sound, will take place there.

Mir Castle Complex

Mir, Korelichski district, Grodno Region
Architectural style: Gothic, Renaissance
Age of building: XVI

Profile on postcards, calendars and souvenirs, the Castle of Mir is justly regarded the call card of Belarus.
As the legend goes, the fortress in the Borough of Mir on the River Miryanka has been around since the time immemorial. Nobody knows for sure as to who built it. The local people say the citadel was erected by mysterious hero warriors, while the historians claim the castle was built by an unknown local architect by order of the Brest Mayor — a Courtier Marshal with the Great Duchy of Lithuania Yuri Ilyinich.

The castle of Mir was being built since 1522 till 1526 at the site of a former wooden farmstead.

The Ilyinich Family had been owning the castle till 1568 until the Radziwills took over ownership.

Since the late 18-th century the castle had been property of the Gogengoe Count Family. The last private owners of the citadel were the Prince Swiatopolk of Mir and his family. Their time in the castle lasted since the middle of the 19th century till the year 1939, when Western Belarus was annexed to the Soviet Union.

The Castle of Mir was intended as a stronghold with 10-metre-high towers, 2-metre-thick walls, and earth mounds around the castle walls. The towers were adapted for using heavy artillery.

Amid all-destructing wars, the castle managed to withstand the assaults by the Swedish and Polish troops.
After WWII the castle long hosted local residents, whose houses had been destroyed. After that the castle used to host a military garrison.

It was not until the year 1983 when they started slow-paced restoration works.
On November 29 2000 the castle the surrounding territory was included into the UNESCO World Heritage Register.

The 16th century castle amazes people by its might, terse forms, and harmonious defence architecture.
The towers of the castle are very close in style and differ in their appearance. The fifth tower is regarded the most graceful. It used to have a drawbridge and a forged grate to stop unexpected assaults.

There is a integrated programme to renovate the castle that spans 2010. According to the plan, in early 2007 they are opening a restaurant and a hotel in one part of the castle.

The castle regularly hosts knight tournaments, Mikhail Finberg’s Art Festival, Song of the Year music festival.

Niasvizh castle (palace and castle complex)

Minsk region, Nyasvizh

One of the main attractions of Niasvizh is a palace and palace complex, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List (2005), and located in the north-eastern part of the town, surrounded by the ponds of the river Usha. The first mention of Nesvizh Castle found in the annals of 13th century. Yuri Niasvizh was its owner at that time. He was taking part in the battle with the Tatars at the river Kalka in 1224. In the period from 13th to 15th century the dukes of Niasvizh castle owned it on the conditions of military service. Only in 1492 the castle was transferred to the dukes Kishkam. Princess Anna from this bloodline engaged to Ian Radziwill in 1513. Jan with the wife got the castle. This is how the palace became the residence of the Radziwills for several centuries.

In 1583 (the date indicates plate placed over the entrance to the palace), the first resident Niasvizh - Nicholas Christopher Radziwill Sirotka - initiated the restructuring of the palace, the main work of which has already been completed in the early 17th century. During construction the wooden walls were replaced with stone ones. Thus, according to the sources, the engraving of Makovsky, which was written in 1604, gives complete picture of the lock after the reconstruction.

The castle had a rectangular-shaped with area of 170 by 120 feet. It was surrounded by land with a shaft located at the corners of the bastions, a moat with water (which had the shape of the inner ring), sufficiently wide roads and water bodies (playing the role of the so-called outer ring). For protection and defense facilities shaft had the height of 20 feet and it was reinforced with stones, it equipped the stone stables and left the secret passages, stockpiles and chambers positioned in the bastions. Later at the corners of four defense towers bastions were built.

During the invasion of Russian troops in 1654 and 1659 castle withstood the siege, but it could not resist the pressure of Swedes in 1706, who seized the palace and a part of it was destroyed. Later, during the second half of the 18th to the middle of the 19th century the palace was invaded by Russian troops (it was in 1764 and 1768, in 1772 and 1773, and in 1812). After such a complicated history of its existence the castle did return in the possession of Radziwills. This was followed by expansion and construction of the castle complex, the total area in 1939 amounted to about 90 acres and it included the Castle Park, Old Park, New Park, English Park and the Japanese Garden. Numerous destruction and subsequent restorations significantly changed the outlook of the castle. Gradually, it was getting the features of various architectural styles. It reflected: Renaissance and Classicism, Baroque and Rococo, Neo-Gothic and Modernism.

Only in 1939, when the Red Army «visited» the castle, the Soviet power was established, and Radziwills had to leave the castle. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the palace and palace complex came under the guardianship of the Ministry of Culture of Belarus.

But even in peacetime the destruction of the castle took place. The central building of the palace was in flames at the night from 24th to 25th of December 2002. The restoration of the castle began in 2004. The restored part has already been opened up for visitors in 2008. Nowadays in Nesvizh Castle there are several exhibition halls. By the end of 2011 it is planned to open up 27 more. Its elegant design and all the internal contents of this complex never stop to amaze visitors. Indeed, according to the literal sources, each of the room of the castle have its name, its unique appearance, there are the furnace of tiles and pottery decorated with stucco, fireplaces, heraldic images of metal, there are carved oak panels on the walls and gilded stucco. All these things reflect the lifestyle of Radziwills: plafonds with paintings and stucco, parquet floor, elegant furniture, luxurious chandeliers and mirrors, corresponding to the styles of the era. In those time there was the library with more than 20 000 of books. This was the archive of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Art Gallery kept nearly a thousand pictures.

Unfortunately, many of the items that were stored in a stone castle, with the passage of time have been destroyed or removed by the invaders.

More and more tourists come here to know about the history of the castle, to visit park area. According to the specialists, the number of visitors will reach three hundred thousand people in the following year after the opening of new exhibits.