Monday, February 13, 2012

Belarus - Nesvizh Castle Museum

This is my eighth blog post about my Belarus trip - the Nesvizh Castle Museum. The others have been about travel, activities, money, statues and monuments, buildings and architecture, Mir Castle, and Nesvizh Castle.

We enjoyed walking through the Nesvizh Castle Museum.  Pictures capture only part of the beauty we saw there.

Model of castle complex
Large room that appeared to be a library
with books and family records from centuries past
Large tapestry (visible on the back wall in the above picture)
and globe
A family book
Another tapestry
One of the rooms
Another room
Old furniture
Another piece of furniture
This room had family pictures like this all around the room
Design on the ceiling in one of the rooms
Another part of the ceiling in the same room
These dishes were beautiful.

We were told that the next section of the museum would be opening to the public later this year and that the next portion would be even more beautiful.

How about you?  Can you trace your family history back to the 16th century?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Belarus - Nesvizh Castle

This is my seventh blog post about my Belarus trip - the Nesvizh Castle.  The others have been about travel, activities, money, statues and monuments, buildings and architecture, and Mir Castle.  There are several more posts planned.

The second site we visited on Tuesday was the Nesvizh Castle.  What a beautiful place!  The day had gone from bright and clear to very foggy, so most of the pictures are different than at the Mir Castle.

Entrance to the castle itself
The following information about the palace I gathered from the UNESCO website. The Nesvizh Castle, also known as "The Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh", was added to the World Heritage List because it led to the establishment of a new architectural school in Central Europe, because it represents an important state in the development of building typology in the history of Central European architecture in the 16th and 17th centuries, and because of the family's significance in being associated with the interpretation of the influences from Southern and Western Europe and the transmission of the ideas in the Central and Eastern Europe.

The large sign about the World Heritage List designation
This castle is located in central Belarus. The Radziwill dynasty, who built and kept the ensemble from the 16th century until 1939, gave birth to some of the most important personalities in European history and culture. Due to their efforts, the town of Nesvizh came to exercise great influence in the sciences, arts, crafts and architecture. The complex consists of the residential castle and the mausoleum Church of Corpus Christi with their setting. The castle has ten interconnected buildings, which developed as an architectural whole around a six-sided courtyard. The palaces and church became important prototypes marking the development of architecture throughout Central Europe and Russia.

The gate and to the right
After 1939, it was first taken over by the Soviet army, and subsequently the Germans used it as military hospital. From 1945 to 2001, it was used as a sanatorium. Since then it has been subject to restoration and adaptation to use as museum and as a cultural and visitor centre. In 2002, a fire destroyed the upper part of the residence and a part of the gallery, which were rebuilt in 2003.  The castle was opened to the public in 2010.

The main gate and to the left
The castle has ten interconnected buildings, including the palace, the galleries, the residence and the arsenal, which developed as one architectural whole around a six-sided courtyard.

A bit later without the fog
The buildings are set within the remains of the 16th-century fortifications that comprise four bastions and four curtain walls in a rectangular plan, surrounded by a ditch. The ensemble is in the middle of a cultural landscape that has various design components. The boundaries of the area cover an elongated territory with the main axe parallel to the Usha riverbed and waterfront.

Part of the frozen moat going around the castle
The castle is oriented from west to east. The entrance is from the west through the gate building, the lower part of which is embedded in the rampart. It has an octagonal two-story gate tower, topped with a helm. The original structure dates from the 16th century. The first floor and the tower were added in the 18th century. The principal building of the complex is the palace, which occupies the centre of the east side of the inner yard. It also dates from the 16th century, and was enlarged in the 18th century. This is a three-storey building on an almost square floor plan.

The corners are strengthened by four octagonal towers with alcoves. The ground floor, originally used as a treasury, has preserved the 16th-century vaults. On the first floor the interiors date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The south side of the court has the three-storey residence building, built in the 16th century, with a tower. The north side has a corresponding Arsenal building, which also used to house a chapel

These are connected to the palace via gallery structures, which cut the corners of the court. The court is then closed by annexes that connect these buildings to the gate structure.  The plan of the building is based on a Latin cross, with an elongated rectangular body from which project two lateral chapels with five sides and a chancel. At the crossing of the nave and the transept there is dome. The side chapels are roofed with domes without lanterns.

Crest of the family on the gate entering the property
Original construction 1583
Renovation 2010
The inside courtyard is gorgeous!  These pictures circle from left to right, but do not cover the full area of the inside courtyard.

This castle is on the 100,000 ruble note.

We walked around the palace as it was starting to get dark.

We also went through the museum at the castle, but you will need to wait for my next blog post to see those pictures.

How about you?  Can you imagine how much work it was to clean this place or how much it cost to heat it?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Belarus - Mir Castle

This is my sixth blog post about my Belarus trip - the Mir Castle.  The others have been about travel, activities, money, statues and monuments, and buildings and architecture.  I still have more to tell.

Tuesday was a fascinating day as we visited a couple of historic sites, both from the 16th century.  The first of them was a castle near the town of Mir.

Mir Castle

The following information about the castle I gathered from the UNESCO website.  The Mir Castle was added to the World Heritage List because it is an exceptional example of a central European castle and because the region has a long history of political and cultural confrontation and coalescence.

Plaque for being added to the World Heritage List

The construction of this castle began at the end of the 15th century, in Gothic style. It was subsequently extended and reconstructed, first in the Renaissance and then in the Baroque style. After being abandoned for nearly a century and suffering severe damage during the Napoleonic period, the castle was restored at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a number of other elements and the landscaping of the surrounding area as a park. Its present form is graphic testimony to its often turbulent history.

The region in which Mir Castle stands is graphically represented in the form and appearance of the ensemble. This is a fertile region in the geographical centre of Europe, at the crossroads of the most important trade routes, and at the same time at the epicentre of crucial European and global military conflicts between neighbouring powers with different religious and cultural traditions. The short period of history starting in the late 15th century was marked by a combination of unprecedented changes in the religious, humanitarian and economic spheres. The Mir Castle complex in its setting vividly symbolizes the history of Belarus and, as such, it is one of the major national symbols of the country.

Building had been completed by the beginning of the 17th century with some Renaissance features, after it had passed to the Radzivill family. Following sieges in 1655 and 1706 reconstruction work involved the addition of some Baroque features. After being abandoned for almost a century and suffering severe damage during the Napoleonic period (in both 1794 and 1812), the castle was restored at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a number of other elements and the landscaping of the surrounding area as a park. Its present form is graphic testimony to an often turbulent history. The old castle survived as a romantic ruin.

The Mir Castle complex is situated on the bank of a small lake at the confluence of the Miryanka river and a small tributary. The fortified walls of the castle form an irregular quadrilateral; there are four exterior corner towers with hipped roofs rising to five storeys and a six-storey external gate tower on the western side. The facades are in brick, with recessed painted plasterwork, and the window and door frames and the balconies are sandstone. The roofs are tiled, some of the tiling being glazed.

Some restoration work was carried out in the 1920s and 1930s, as a result of which some Secession and Romantic elements were added. During World War II it served as a prison camp and a ghetto. Restoration did not start in earnest again until 1982.  The Mir Castle was opened to the public in 2010.

Back side of the castle

These pictures are from inside the courtyard, from left to right.

These are things we could see from in front of the castle.

An Orthodox church with the traditional blue domes

The town of Mir

Near the castle is the Chapel-Crypt of the Dukes of Svyatopolk-Mirsky. Its facade is decorated with a mosaic panel depicting the image of Christ, made from multicoloured tesserae.

How about you?  Are you interested in history and sites like this?