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?

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