CYCLE ARTICLES ABOUT VOLYN
Lutsk is the central city of modern Volyn region and one of the most ancient cities in entire Ukraine that managed to save for centuries and pass to modern generations unique spirit of Middle Ages. Lutsk is a unique reflection of Europe from the times of Oleg, Lubart and Vitovt.
According to historical legends, Lutsk was established in 1000. The following year Great Kyiv Prince Vladimir built a wooden defensive fortress here, which had been a strong protection for citizens for long. Only once the fortress couldn’t resist and lost its strong defensive capacities. It happened in one of Tartar invasions in ХІІcentury.
In the middle of XIV century Volyn was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and consequently, Lutsk became a Southern residence of Lithuanian Princes, as well as the last capital of Galych-Volyn Duchy. That was the time, when prosperity of Lutsk started connected mostly with Prince Lubart-Dmitriy Gedimonovych. Due to him, wooden fortifications were replaced with brick ones, which dramatically changed appearance of Lutsk fortifications. Prince Lubart-Dmitriy Gedimonovych built a stone castle (Upper Castle), which nowadays is the landmark of Lutsk.
From the very beginning, two castles were built which are Okolny (castle with several protective towers on the territory of which city peerage and clergy used to live) and Upper Castle. The later is saved till nowadays in a perfect state, only now it is called Lubart’s Castle or Lutsk Castle. Okolskiy Castle didn’t have such luck. The only thing left till today is the tower of Princes Chartoriyskiys and ruins.
Upper Castle used to play a very important role in life of the whole Galych-Volyn Duchy. There were court institutions, bodies of legislative and executive powers and others located on its territory. Fortress of Ioann Bogoslov is located in the central part of its yard. This fortress has survived from times of ancient Rus. The castle was becoming the center of the city spiritual life.
It took constructors more than forty years (1340-1384) to build this majestic architectural masterpiece. Later on, this castle has been renovated and completed for many times. The appearance it has nowadays the castle gained in 1542 when its construction was finalized. Due to such a long period of construction works, the building includes elements of two styles namely gothic and renaissance.
Initially, three towers were built on a high hill above Lutsk, which are Entrance Tower (Lubart’s Tower) on the Western side, today you still can see ancient walled up gate and entrance on the South-Eastern side there was Styr Tower (whose name originates from the Styr-river, which the tower was overlooking); and on the Northern side Ruler’s Tower was erected (construction was financed by the ruler that caused such a name). Thick walls used to connect these towers. Lubart’s Castle resembles a triangle in the shape which was easily explained by the local landscape.
Nowadays, Ruler’s Tower hosts a unique armory museum and exhibition of bells “Bells of Volyn, history and modern times”. An installation of construction ceramicsoperated in Lubart’s Tower.
As it should be concerning any Prince residence, history of Lubert’s Castle is rather fascinating and interesting, also connected with names of famous historical figures. In 1429 a famous summit of European monarchs was held that gathered more than 15000 people. A series of very important questions were raised at this meeting, such as forming a coalition against the Ottoman Empire and unification of Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) churches. Main historical figures of this event include Polish King Yagaylo (two years later he intended to occupy the castle), Vasiliy II, Grand Prince of Moscow, German Emperor Sigismund, Walachian waywode, Prussian Grand Master, Danish King, Pope’s legate, ambassador of Byzantium and khan of Perekop.
Naturally, such majestic and ancient architectural construction that has been adorning the capital of Volyn for more than six centuries can’t avoid having its own legends. A sad legend is connected with Lubart’s castle. In Styr Tower confined Prince Lubart a capricious beauty named Oksana who dared to reject marriage proposal of the Prince. Prince Lubart gave a cruel order to his soldiers. They could do with the girl everything they wanted and then kill her. People say, the ghost of this dreadfully killed girl often wanders around the castle and it will disappear only having found her ring that had been stolen by one of the warriors.
After Great Duchy of Lithuania and Poland united in a sole state - Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth - (1569) that included Volyn province as well, and also in connection with continuous collisions between Uniates and Orthodox, Lutsk gradually looses its protective function and status of the spiritual center of Volyn region.
Along with other ancient monuments of architecture, since 1985 Lubart’s Castle has been included in historical and cultural reserve “Old Lutsk”. For the moment being, building of Lutsk Castle is fully renovated and it’s always open for visitors. A traditional festival of medieval culture called “The Sword of Lubart’s Castle” is held in Lubart’s castle annually. The festival includes a theatricalized performance of knights of bold emprise encased in armor just the same as in mediaeval times, demonstrating their command of sword craft.
It is impossible to visit Lutsk and avoid visiting Lubart’s castle! Tour to this castle will bring a lot of unforgettable impressions to every guest of the city. You can’t relate with words all the beauty and majesty of Lutsk castle and its atmosphere. Its walls will tell visitors their own story!
Author Marina Melnichenko