Postcards from poet Adam Mickiewicz’s time remind us of our glorious past

Novogrudok Castle, from the great poet’s time, being restored, while three halls of Radziwill Palace in Nesvizh soon to welcome first tourists

By Viktar Andreev

Novogrudok Castle was many times rebuilt but the 17th-18th century wars left it in ruins. Poet Adam Mickiewicz, born locally, saw Kostelnaya Tower in its former glory and his sketches remain with us — often depicted on postcards. A hundred years ago, the tower crumbled, leaving only fragments of its walls. The other towers are in total ruin, with nothing remaining. However, the National Academy of Sciences is unearthing the basements of the towers and remains of the walls, which are to be preserved for future generations and opened to tourists. Kostelnaya Tower is to undergo full restoration, since some of its walls still stand.

In the 1920s, Polish archaeologists worked at the site, with their work now continued by Belarusians, led by Andrey Metelsky — a senior research officer at the National Academy of Sciences’ History Institute. The Director of the Novogrudok Museum of Local History, Tamara Vershitskaya, comes to the Castle every day. She tells us, “In my view, work is being conducted thoroughly and competently.”

This autumn, bones of aurochs, cross-shaped bricks, remains of ceramic goods, colourful tiles for ovens and 17th-19th century coins were found on the site, with further study continuing. In fact, years ago, scientists from Leningrad (today’s St. Petersburg) discovered Byzantine age articles in Novogrudok, which are now kept by the Hermitage.

By spring, the Castle should be completely restored, with work on its towers to follow. The remains of a princely palace and an old church are yet to be unearthed. Meanwhile, the Culture Ministry is developing its Castles of Belarus state programme, which envisages the restoration of medieval fortresses in other Belarusian cities.

Soon, three halls of restored Nesvizh Castle are to open to visitors: Kaminny (Fireplace) Hall in the southern gallery, plus Maly Stolovy (Small Dining) and Bely Balny (White Ball) in Kamenitsa. The latter has its original panels, columns and fretwork along the edge of the ceiling, and chandeliers from the Radziwills’ times. There are plans to organise costume balls there, while a local exhibition will include Slutsk sashes, medieval coins, medals and documents.

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