One of the old Belarusian cities with almost a thousand years of history, Grodno attracts tourists with its historical and architectural monuments. Especially interesting is the Old Castle in Grodno. Its history includes pages of ups and downs, total destruction and large-scale reconstructions. It has evolved from a fortress to a royal residence, and now works as a museum, forming a single complex with the New Castle.
The natural elevation, where the river Gorodnichanka flows into the Neman, is simply created for the construction of fortifications. Traces of the first of these date back to the 9th century. The flat bowl-shaped top was enclosed by a moat and a palisade, inside which were buildings for various purposes.
The fate of the building was not easy. It died several times in fires, was destroyed and rebuilt. Had it not been for the surviving engravings and drawings, it would have been impossible to convince posterity that it was essentially the same fortress.
Originally the fortifications of the castle were combined, some were built of wood, the remaining fragments were completed with clay and stones. The Lower Church was the first to appear, towering above the rest of the structures. The next dominant height was the watchtower. It partially protruded beyond the perimeter of the walls, allowing you to shoot the enemy on approach. With the improvement of long-range guns, the tower had to be dismantled for the safety of the inhabitants of the fortress.
Grodno Castle in the 14th century became the residence of Prince Vitovt, who ordered the construction of the Upper Castle surrounded by five towers and a crenellated wall in place of the burnt wooden structure. Its shape resembled a slightly irregular triangle, which was a tribute to the natural landscape. Later it would serve King Stephen Bathory as a royal castle.
The 16th century was marked by a new reconstruction, during which only the walls and part of the fortress wall remained untouched. The building appeared in the appearance of the Renaissance features, the facade was decorated with bay windows, numerous decorative elements, it was called the Old Castle. Two centuries later it was almost completely destroyed by the Swedes.
Fragments of a moat, two churches and a bridge have survived. It is considered one of the oldest in the country and connects the Old and New Castles of Grodno. Leaving behind royal luxury and noisy balls, the complex has become a museum with unique exhibits.
Old and New Castles on the map
Opening hours and prices
The museum complex is open all year round. It has permanent exhibitions devoted to historical events, collections of documents, chronicles, engravings, paintings and household items. There are thematic tours for children and adults.
The Old Castle is open Tuesday through Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. The last visitors are seen off at 6 p.m. Monday is the employee’s day off.
Ticket prices depend on the age and social status of visitors:
- children – 1.5 rubles;
- student and pension-2;
- adult – 2.5.
Young children, servicemen, the disabled admire the collection of rarities for free. Hourly rates are provided for tour groups. At the beginning of the 21st century it has become a good tradition to hold marriage ceremonies in the New Castle.
After the destruction of the royal residence just a few years later, new construction began. This time they did not use the old foundation and moved the structure slightly to the side, joining it to the existing fragments of walls. The resulting U-shaped structure, united by an ancient bridge.
In the 18th century the castle became a summer palace for the Lithuanian King Augustus, part of the rooms were decorated for personal quarters of the monarch, the other half was given for receptions and celebrations. The Alabaster Hall especially stood out for its elegance and abundance of light.
On the territory remained a chapel, which has important historical significance. Under its vaults, the re-division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was approved, and the king abdicated power.
The luxury of the interior was in perfect harmony with the deliberately austere lines of external architecture, balls and receptions with the participation of ambassadors, Polish princes and other important people, were held regularly and on a grand scale. After the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lost its position in the political arena, the noisy social life in the castle almost ceased.
During World War II bombing raids, the interior of most of the rooms and halls was burned out and could not be rebuilt. Only the building and part of the outbuildings were reconstructed, turning them into a historical monument and handing them over to the archaeological museum.
Legends and Myths of the Royal Castle
It is said that every self-respecting castle should have a personal ghost. The museum staff did not notice any otherworldly entities in the corridors and halls, but the documents contain references to the fact that everyone who designed the new interiors or carried out the reconstruction suffered or died under unexplained circumstances.
There is an opinion that the curse of those who were betrayed within the walls of the castle in the Middle Ages works. There is no material evidence, but this stirring imagination story regularly fuels tourist interest in visiting the castle complex in Grodno.