Renaissance a la Gucci

The old castle in Grodno will be renovated in compliance with an Italian project
The old castle in Grodno will be renovated in compliance with an Italian project.

The restoration project of the old fortress was worked out in the 80`s of the last century. But the chance to realize it appeared only now. The scientists made one of the most important openings during this period — they found out the name of the architect who built the Old Castle. He was an Italian, Santi Gucci by name. This surname is popular today. The name was known to those people who valued real beauty in the XVIth century.

However, nobody could say until recently whether the native of Florence, mister Gucci, left an imprint on the Belarusian land. It was only known that this architect and sculptor came from the Apennines to Poland, built several palaces in Krakow and other cities, and decorated the headstones of kings Zhygimont August and Stefan Batory in the Cathedral in Wawel.

It is known that Batory loved Grodno very much, spent much time and even died there. When the king visited Goradno, as Grodno was called earlier, for the first time, he occupied a palace there built in times of Vitovt, a great Lithuanian prince, in the beginning of the XVth century. It was a gothic fortress. Batory lived in the epoque of Renaissance and wanted the castle, which he was going to visit in Goradno, to correspond with the fashion of the time.

Gucci was not only a court architect, but the embodiment of fashion. It’s no wonder that the king chose him for the reconstruction of Vitovt’s castle. This conclusion has been recently made by Polish scientists, who analyzed the heritage of the Italian and acknowledged him the author of the Old Castle of Grodno.

However, the pictures, according to which Batory’s palace was built, were not preserved. Meanwhile, the current restoration project of the Renaissance image of this monument is almost approved. Where from did the scientists get to know how the Old Castle looked like four hundred years ago? Vladimir Bachkov, the chief architect of the restoration project, made something impossible: he found all plans of the Grodno citadel which survived until now, and managed to reconstruct its image of the times of king Batory. “In the middle of the XVIIIth century the palace was rebuilt by German architects and before a new construction they fixed the initial planning of rooms — even of those buildings, which were not preserved till our time”, V.Bachkov says.”We will renovate the front elevation and interior according to the appearance of the analogous buildings designed by Gucci and preserved till our days in Poland. Besides, archeologists found the rest of the decoration of Batory’s palace on the territory of the Old Castle, which helped to renovate these or those lost details”.

The Old Castle lost almost all the elements, which used to decorate it in the XIXth century. Now this building does not resemble neither a medieval castle nor a Renaissance palace. The ruins of the arbors of Vitovt’s epoque remained along Neman. Only a massive arched ceilings inside the museum located there remind of the Batory’s magnificent palace. Soon the time will turn back to the epoque of the Renaissance. According to V.Bachkov, at that time the castle became one of the most representative residencies in the whole Belarus (and not only there). After Vilnius, Krakow and Warsaw, Goradno was the most important city in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Perhaps, only Vilnius castle was more magnificent than Grodno castle. Besides, the restoration works are being finished in Vilnius today — a princely residency, destroyed at the beginning of the XIXth century, will be renovated next year. Vilnius castle was restored from scratch. And in 2009 Grodno palace will have a kind of “plastic surgery”.

Unfortunately, Vitovt`s palace was almost completely ruined — only basements and fragments of arbors remained. The building of the epoque of Batory needs to be corrected only from outside: to restore the form of windows and doors, to renovate exquisite details of the moulding, which covered the roof once, to crown the gates with a dome and to restore the tower from the side of the preserved arbors of Vitovt’s epoque. It is planned to take care of the courtyardr, where the ruins of the church of the XIIth century remained.

The outer appearance of the castle built by Gucci for Batory was preserved on several engravings of the XVI–XVIIIth centuries, and owing to them, we can imagine how the Old Castle will look like in the near future. According to old pictures V.Bachkov created models.

The Old Castle is the heart of Grodno, the city started there. Restoration of the Renaissance image of the palace is a symbolic event. Until recently it was impossible either for the city or republican budget to invest into large-scale restoration works. Social problems distracted attention of the state from the historical heritage. Today, when economy is effective, there is a real possibility to invest into significant projects aimed at preservation of the national culture.

Grodno authorities hold negotiations with foreign specialists (in particular, from Poland) on the possibility of their restorers’ participation in the renovation of the authentic image of the Old Castle. Belarus has got its own experts in restoration, but there are few of them and they are very busy with the works in Mirsky and Nesvizhsky Castles, the monuments of architecture of the XVIth century, which are planned to be opened in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Grodno Castle of the Renaissance epoque will become the third in the country restored in the XXIth century.

Viktor Korbut
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