Posted: 06.06.2024 10:50:00

Architectural pearls of Belarus

Over the past few years, the list of architectural pearls in Belarus has become wider — luxurious palaces, castles and manors have opened their doors to tourists after large-scale restorations

Looking for treasure

The Ruzhany Palace’s entrance gate of honour is a mini palace in itself

The Ruzhany Palace used to be the largest one in the Belarusian lands. Now it is called the greatest ruins of modern Europe. Time did not spare the Sapiega family estate. Nevertheless, there are still crowds of people who want to look at the former splendour. All the more so as, thanks to the restoration work, the entrance gate of honour has been restored — and it is already a mini palace in itself. Moreover, the restoration has been done quite skilfully to meticulously repeat every detail as it was in the past, with a sculpture of St. Anna and the coat of arms of the princely Sapiega family installed above the gate.  
The main feature of the Ruzhany Palace is the treasure, which, according to the locals, was buried a lot. The rumours are not groundless — during the wars, the treasury of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was sheltered here. In addition, gold was indeed discovered in the gate of honour in the 1990s. 

Sweeping through the ages

It is easy to feel like a medieval townsman inside the Old Castle, Grodno         Aleksandr Kushner     

The history of the Old Castle in Grodno dates back more than a thousand years. This place was for a long time the residence of the first persons of several states — first the ancient Russian princes, then the princes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, followed by the kings of Poland. The complex of buildings on the high bank of the Neman River has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. The current version, therefore, has absorbed the breath of different epochs and architectural styles. Literally across the street from the Old Castle, there is… the New Castle! However, it is already almost three hundred years old.
It is possible to make a tour of both castles by buying a ticket to the historical and archaeological museum. More than eight thousand unique exhibits are displayed in 30 halls. Moreover, many rarities have been discovered quite recently — in the course of the latest reconstruction, archaeologists worked tirelessly. Among the valuable finds are household items and medieval clothes, as well as jewellery, money and chess pieces.

Catching a sunbeam

The Puslovsky Palace in Kossovo PAVEL BOGUSH

The Puslovsky Palace in Kossovo was once conceived and built by pretty eccentric people. The owner of the palace — a famous industrialist Count Vandalin Puslovsky — wanted everything to be symbolic. That is why anyone can draw an analogy between the 12 crenellated towers and 12 months, while the four main towers hint at the four seasons.  
Each hall of the Kossovo Palace had its own purpose   PAVEL BOGUSH

The architects designed the palace so that each of the 132 rooms is completely filled with sunlight for two days a year. In the 19th century, the Puslovskys celebrated a kind of Room Day on this occasion, richly decorating it and spending most of their time in it. Each hall had its own purpose — white halls hosted balls, black halls were used for playing cards, and in pink halls people worked and listened to music. There were also blue, silver, gold, glass, mirror and many other rooms. According to the legend, if you stand on the windowsill on the second floor of the east side and clap your hands, you can hear the vaults ‘singing’. One of the walls was entirely musical — it started to sound at the touch. The secret lies in the dozens of small clay pots embedded in it.

Meeting the Black Monk

A knight’s festival is held in Golshany every year      Aleksey Bibikov

 All castles have ghosts. It is only in Golshany that they have long become a tourist brand. The legend is nothing out of the ordinary. Princess Hannah-Gordislava Golshanskaya fell in love with a poor man. The misalliance was not allowed, and the couple began to meet in secret. The guy showed up on dates dressed in monastic vestments so as not to be caught. However, this did not save him, as the girl’s father ordered her lover to be walled up in a thick wall. Since then, the ghost of the Black Monk has been wandering around the castle. Nearby, a White Lady can be seen in the Franciscan Monastery — the ghost of the wife of one of the builders buried alive during construction.The restoration and conservation of the castle has been going on for several years, but tourists can already visit the North Tower of the Golshany Castle. You will have to climb from the outside, so the unusual staircase design will allow you to assess the impressive scale of the ancient possessions. 

Admiring the ‘Versailles’

The Bulgakov Palace’s interiors are decorated with sophisticated bas-reliefs, frescoes, stucco mouldings  Aleksandr Kulevsky

In 1814, Ignatius Bulgak, the district leader of nobility and a knight of the Order of St. Anna, second class, returned from a foreign campaign of the Russian army to his homeland. A year later, he bought an estate in remote woodlands and conceived a grandiose construction project. “Versailles, no less!” the nobleman’s plan was — and he fulfilled it. The huge palace in Zhilichi, Kirovsk District, evokes memories of gallant knights and beautiful ladies waltzing on the lacquered parquet floor.  
The Bulgakov estate has reached our days in excellent condition. Sophisticated bas-reliefs, frescoes, stucco mouldings decorate the interiors now as they did under the first owner. Attentive tourists traditionally try to solve the mystery of the ‘all-seeing eye’ on one of the gables of the side extensions. Is that the Masonic trail? Missed it! There was a home Roman Catholic church in this part of the building.

The Botanical Garden of Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences was engaged in landscaping in the style of noble luxury  Aleksandr Kulevsky

 By Sofia Arsenyeva