Future of Kmita Castle

Mysterious construction from times of Grand Duchy of Lithuania will become one of the country’s most interesting tourist site
By Tatiana Kurasheva

A team from Grodno’s Historical-Archaeological Museum — headed by Natalia Pochobut — has completed a study of Kmita Castle (previously known as an ancient settlement near the village of Berezovets of the Korelichi District). The dig — conducted for the first time on the site — brings to life a historical legend about the old castle.

Forgotten duke
The head of Orsha and Smolensk’s Voevoda — Kmita-Chernobylsky and Semen Kmita of Vilno — are the most famous characters in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Their signatures remain on many court-related documents from 1528-1541. However, writer and book publisher Piotr Blastus Kmita could have also owned the castle in Berezovets. In Lyubcha (Novogrudok Voivodship), he set up a printing house, with support from Hetman K. Radziwill and, from 1612-1629, published 52 books on history, medicine, literature and philosophy — in Polish and Latin. Yan Kmita later continued his father’s business, publishing 23 books, but the printing house ceased operation after Lyubcha’s bankruptcy by Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich’s troops, in 1655.
The site has a depth of over 2.5m, dating back to the 16th-early 17th century. This layer shows traces of three fires (the castle was built anew after each). All the discoveries relate to knowledge of local sand, clay, stones, broken bricks and lime. In addition, archaeologists have found remains of a stove (made from boulders and bricks) and of a solid brick-and-stone construction (supposedly used as 16th century accommodation). Only further research will throw light on whether the castle was originally wooden or made from bricks and stone.

Valuable finds
A rich collection of stove tiles has been discovered during the dig, including those decorated with botanical and geometric motifs and Biblical themes: Christ’s face, the Archangel Michael (Novogrudok’s divine patron, depicted on the city emblem) and the Virgin of Anguish. Other discoveries include household items (a knife and keys), weaponry (an arrow head, fragments of a harquebus and tin bullets), and dishware (fragments of clay pots and bowls). A fragment of a wine glass has been found, probably of Venetian origin, and there are numerous fragments of a stained glass window. There are also animal and bird bones, showing that our forefathers hunted and bred animals. Moreover, fragments of a bronze bell have been unearthed, leading to the conclusion that a church was once situated on the site. Five 16th century coins — including Lithuanian Grosh, a Polish-Swedish King’s Solid and a Kopeck from the days of Ivan (IV) the Terrible have been unearthed, with the latter discovered in a fire layer — probably arriving at the site as a result of the Livonian War.
All the artefacts will occupy a worthy place at Grodno’s Historical-Archaeological Museum and at Korelichi’s Museum of Local History. Specialists who have worked previously on Korelichi District digs, L. Koledinsky and V. Khartanovich, have helped, as have local authorities, the heads of the Grodno museum, volunteers from Minsk, Grodno and Korelichi and schoolchildren from the villages of Berezovets and Krynki.

Novogrudok — Kmita Castle — Mir
Kmita Castle could become an interesting tourist site in the future — being situated just 3km from the Novogrudok-Mir highway. Like Mir Castle, it is one of Belarus’ historical-cultural treasures. Information tables are to be placed on the site, to inform tourists of the castle’s history. Next year, digs will continue, with the participation of archaeological specialists from Belarus and neighbouring states. 
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