Renovated image of our heritage

[b]Challenging projects soon to be initiated by renovators[/b]We’ll begin our excursion with Mir Castle, registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. After many years of restoration, it appears again in all its beauty. Powerful walls and huge towers have always attracted numerous tourists; now their number is sure to rise several-fold.Lida stands a hundred kilometres away, known for its ancient castle, which has also survived wars and destruction. It has long awaited restorers’ attention and is now undergoing huge change. In 2010, the castle’s second tower was reconstructed and the courtyard, surrounded by 2m wide stone walls, was paved with cobbles. To allow access upstairs, comfortable wooden galleries have been made for tourists. Restoration of the ancient castle, which is only now returning to its former glory, continues. However, this spring, it will host an international knights’ tournament, with dozens of teams invited from around the world.
Challenging projects soon to be initiated by renovators

We’ll begin our excursion with Mir Castle, registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. After many years of restoration, it appears again in all its beauty. Powerful walls and huge towers have always attracted numerous tourists; now their number is sure to rise several-fold.
Lida stands a hundred kilometres away, known for its ancient castle, which has also survived wars and destruction. It has long awaited restorers’ attention and is now undergoing huge change. In 2010, the castle’s second tower was reconstructed and the courtyard, surrounded by 2m wide stone walls, was paved with cobbles. To allow access upstairs, comfortable wooden galleries have been made for tourists. Restoration of the ancient castle, which is only now returning to its former glory, continues. However, this spring, it will host an international knights’ tournament, with dozens of teams invited from around the world.
The Old Castle in Grodno is another ‘pearl’ of ancient Belarusian architecture. This defensive structure is the country’s only former royal castle, now housing a regional history and archaeology museum. Daily, over a hundred visitors from throughout Belarus visit the site, alongside foreign guests. Why does it draw visitors… Perhaps because its history is filled with mystery and romantic legends.
Downward from the castle is the Nieman River quay, offering wonderful views from its banks. Tourists must walk several hundred metres along Starozamkovaya Street to reach the walls of the Old Castle, which was built in the 11th century, where the Nieman and Gorodnichanka rivers meet. A century later, the fortress became a princely residence: a two storey ‘terem’ (palace) and church were built at that time. According to the Ipatievskaya Chronicle, in the second half of the 13th century, the Castle was made from hewn timber, with firing grounds and the approach to the entrance protected by a high stone tower.
A new page in the history of Grodno Castle is connected with the Great Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas. In 1398, he constructed a Gothic castle with five towers, made from stone and brick, which later became known as ‘Stary’ (Old). It was surrounded by 2m wide walls along the perimeter and stood until 1580, when it was reconstructed for the King of the Rzecz Pospolita, Stefan Batory. The Renaissance-style two storey palace boasted true abundance of decoration.
After Stefan Batory, the Old Castle was greatly damaged during various wars. It was restored in 1678, yet failed to achieve its previous royal ‘gloss’. In 1920, the first museum exhibits appeared inside. It now requires a long-term restoration but architects have failed to agree upon which historical period should dominate. Grodno engineer Igor Adasik proposes that the Old Castle be restored to its appearance from the days of Duke Vytautas. His model, made from cardboard and glue, took six months to create (scaled down 500 times). Historians from Yanka Kupala Grodno University provided him with essential information. Having seen the model, I can vouch for its impressiveness. We can only hope that Mr. Adasik’s decision will be approved by the experts.
Out trip around the castles of Grodno Region would be incomplete without seeing the ruins of Novogrudok’s ancient castle. Even these are impressive. It seems hardly possible to completely restore it, but it surely needs conservation.
Architects are likely to choose the castle in Golshany for reconstruction, although only its grand brick walls remain. This once magnificent castle was praised by the Belarusian literary genius Vladimir Korotkevich, in his Black Castle of Olshany. However, the ruins attract numerous tourists, whose imagination helps them ‘add’ missing elements and picture its rooms with inhabitants. It’s said that ancient ruins preserve the energy of the past, which awakens the imagination of all who visit. When I’m here, I’m always keen to embrace the atmosphere of the past, which is familiar to me from Grodno Region history.
Additionally, the castles in Krevo, Lyubcha and Geraneny (in Grodno Region) are to receive funding for restoration, reconstruction and conservation.

By Iosif Popko
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