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Castles of Volyn...
By Pogranicze Galicja
Published: 25.03.2010


   The castle raised by duke Liubartas is the most important monument of Lutsk. In the half of the 14th century, the Ukrainian prince raised the lower castle in the place of a mediaeval town. The upper castle was raised and enlarged first by duke Vytautas and after his death - by his son, duke Švitrigaila. It is the biggest castle in Volyn and one of the few Gothic monuments of this region.
   In 1366 king Casimir III the Great attacked Lubartus.
    Earlier, in 1364, the king founded a Volhynian bishopric with a bishop’s seat first in Vladimir and, since the beginning of 15th century, in Lutsk. The bishopric in Lutsk actually existed since 1375. The diocese embraced five regions: Volhynian, Podlaskie, Bratslav, Brzesk and a great part of Rus. The church under the invocation of Holy Trinity built around 1425 with time became a cathedral church.
   In 1429 an assembly of the European monarchs took place in the Lutsk castle. It lasted 13 weeks since January the 6th. Among the rulers who visited Lutsk there were: the Grand Duke of Lithuania - Vytautas, the Polish king - Ladislaus Jagiello with queen Sofia, the German emperor - Sigismund with the empress, the Danish king - Eric VII, the Grand Duke of Moscow - Vasily Vasiliyevich (Vytautas’ son-in-law), Grand Master of the Teutonic  Knights - Rusdorf, Grand Master of Brothers of the Sword - Sigurd, legates a lathered the metropolitan of Rus - Photios, khans of Tatars of Perekop and Volga Tatars, the hospodar of Wallachia, princes of Mazovia, Pomerania, Silesia, Twersko and Odojew, legats of Emperor of Byzantium, John VIII Palaiologos. A project of defense against the power of the Ottoman Empire threatening Europe was the subject of debates.
   In 1431, after the death of Vytautas, Švitrigaila stayed in Lutsk where he was besieged by the Poles. In 1437 Švitrigaila gave Lutsk back to Poland.
   The actual development of the town took place in the first half of the 17th century, when numerous churches and monasteries were founded. Their number and the presence of two and, by the beginning of the 17th century, even of three bishops caused that the town in the old Reczpospolita was called “Volhynian Rome”. Also the Jews, the Armenians and the Crimean Karaites had their temples there.
   In 1539 bishop Falczewski erected a stone church there. In 1630 bishop Achacy Grochowski brought to Lutsk the relics of St. Recess the Martyr, who became its patron.
    A complex including a church and a monastery of the Society of Jesus is the biggest building within the castle (the Society of Jesus was brought to Lutsk in 1604 by bishop Martin Szyszkowski). A baroque cathedral under the invocation of St. Peter and St. Paul is an important element and the only Catholic Church there.
   A famous Volhynian family - Felińscy - had their seat in Lutsk, where also a prominent Polish writer, Maria Gabriela Korwin - Piotrowska, writing under the name Gabriela Zapolska, was born.


- One of the oldest Ruthenian towns in Volyn. The place is a former seat of the great lordly Volhynian family - Ostrogski.  The first mention about the settlement is dated by 1100. A nestor in his chronicle writes about Ostroh “the town with the castle”. The Lithuanian duke Liubartas gave the town to the family called since that day Ostrogski. The following history of the town is closely related to the history of that family.
   Since 1386 the town was a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was granted the city rights in 1528. A big Jewish centre was also situated there.
   Among the rulers of Ostroh Constantine I (16th-17th century), who created an important centre of education by establishing a printing house and the Ostroh Academy, ought to be mentioned.
   In 1609-1753 the town was the centre of the “ordynacja” estate, which at the beginning of the 17th century was the biggest in Rzeczpospolita (24 towns and castles, 392 villages). In 1626 the duchy line of Ostrogski family died, which contributed to the fall of the town. Additionally, it was burnt in 1648 during the Cossacks’ attack.
   In 1772 Ostroh went into the hands of the Jablonowski family (their property was confiscated because of their taking part in January Uprising), in 1793 it belonged to Russia and in 1929 it came back to Poland.
    Because Ostroh was situated at the Polish-Soviet border, some of the suburban houses unfortunately were at “that” side.

In the 30’s of the 20th century, the Jews constituted two-third of the town’s inhabitants. After an occupation of the town by The Red Army in September 1939, and in 1942 after an occupation by the German army, a scheme typical for almost every Volhynian town belonging to II Rzeczpospolita occurred: Polish people were taken away to Siberia and, after the Hitler’s army entered the town, the executions of the Jews by firing squads took place (8.5 thousand of victims out of 10.5 thousand of inhabitants).


   In the 13th century the town belonged to the Kingdom of Galicia-Vladimir, and since 1340 - to Latvia. From the half of the 14th century a strong Polish garrison was stationing there.
   In 1386 king
Ladislaus Jagiello gave Dubno to Prince Fedorow Daniłowicz, who changed his name into Ostrogski, after his main residence in Ostroh. Since that time, Dubno for the century and a half had belonged to Ostrogski family. The castle successfully resisted the Tatars’ attacks.

    In 1507 Dubno obtained Magdeburg Rights. Since 14th century the town belonged to the Ostrogski family, but since 1609 it became the property of Aleksander Zasławski who expanded it. In 1673 Dubno went into hands of the Lubomirski family, and later it belonged to the Sanguszko family.
   One of the most important Jewish communes in Eastern Europe developing already since the 14th century was located in Dubno.
   Dubno was a private town and a centre of broad landed estates. In 1670 Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki gave the town a privilege to host four annual fairs, which made it reach the dignity of an important centre of commerce. The years after the first siege of Poland the period of the biggest prosperity took place, because after the seizure of Lvov by Austria, it was in Dubno that the grand markets of Lvov called the contracts were hosted.
   A town-planning arrangement of an old settlement was preserved in Dubno, whose centre was acknowledged to be a national reservation of history and culture. The castle, the Bernardines’ monastery complex, the parochial church under the invocation of St. John of Nepomuk, the Orthodox church of the Transfiguration of Lord, the Orthodox cathedral under the invocation of St. Ilja and the St. George’s Orthodox Church deserve a special notice.
   A fortress was greatly destroyed during the Russian partition.
   Dubno is at the same time one of the towns in Ukraine which is very well prepared to receive tourists. It is worth to go to the bookshop (in the buildings to the right of the castle) to buy the recent publications. The name of the town is derived from an oak forest in which a settlement Dubienka, a predecessor of today’s town, was established.
   In 1774-1779 famous four-week fairs called the contracts took place there.
   Wojciech Bogusławski, whose theatre performed in the town, lived in Dubno. The Russian invader moved the contracts to Kiev (to Kontraktova Plosha), which caused an economic fall of the town. In 1813 Tadeusz Czacki died there and in 1847 Honoré de Balzac visited Dubno on his way to the palace of Hański family in Wierzchownia.


   The town has a very long history. Already in the 10th century in its place there was a Ruthenian town, which subsequently belonged to the Kingdom of Galician-Volhynia. In 1226 the Hungarian king Andrew besieged it with no success, and in 1240 equally unsuccessfully it was beleaguered by the Mongolians. The castle was built probably in the 12th century and during the Tatars’ attack on Rus and Volyn it was the only one which managed to defend itself.
    In 1320
the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas included Volyn together with this castle to the Ruthenian kingdom. In 1321 the castle became the part of Lithuania and in 1366 it was reined by king Casimir the Great. In the following years the owners of the castle changed but eventually in 1434 it comes back to the Polish king. Sigismund I the Old demised the town to bishop Janusz who greatly contributed to the extension of the castle.
   In 1542 Lew Patkiewicz Tyszkiewicz described the castle in the following way: “situated on a high and precipitous mountain, inaccessible from the town, and an arrow shot from the top does not reach the castle; it has access only to the eastern side through the embankment, that is the neck, 176 fathoms long, 4 fathoms wide. There are two bridges on the embankment; the smaller one which should be repaired by the burghers and the bigger one divided into villages with an indication which part ought to be repaired by which village; next to the entrance to the castle there is a drawbridge with chains, it is guarded by a bastion with 6 cannons. To the left from the gate there is a wooden house built by bishop Janusz as a place for the crew; there is also a tower with 4 cannons  and a third tower, i.e. a bastion, with the same number of cannons. The biggest cannon is called “piszczya”, there are 4 hawks, 9 mortars, 22 falconets, 10 gnomes, 30 calivers; a supply of bullets, lead, sculpture and saltpeter so numerous that it would be sufficient to defend 10 castles, inasmuch as this castle is better protected than the Lutsk castle and Włodzimirski castle. Ukrainian princes, boyars and the inhabitants of the district when asked: who would lay bricks in that castle? Answered that no one shall remember it. Starost Falczewski erected a mill with 6 mortars put into motion by one man for producing powder; he heightened towers and bastions; brought water to the castle by ordering to make the wooden gutters with tar around the battlements which protected the walls and brought water to a huge brick chest with wood on its top and with tar inside. There were 3 gunsmiths: a Pole John and two Germans: Matus and Hanus; each of them annually received 10 threescore of Lithuanian pennies and some fabrics”. The castle had the so called air bases i.e. the wooden rooms adjoining to the castle’s walls. Each village of the Kremenets District had its own air base and during the enemy’s attack people stored their property there.
    In 1438 Kremenets was granted the city rights. Since that time also the Jews settled in the town forming one of the most important communes in Volyn.
   In 1539 Queen Bona received the Kremenets’ County. It was then that the Kremenets Mountain was called “The Bona Mountain” in honor of Queen Bona.
   In 1569, together with the whole Volyn, Kremenets was incorporated to the Crown. Its meaning as a centre of education grew. In 1638 a first print house and a school were established.
   During the Chmielnicki uprising the town and the castle were entirely destroyed by the Cossacks’ squads of Maksym Kryvonis. In 1648 the castle and the town were invaded by the Cossacks, who for ten weeks, having the castle as their excursion point, were robbing and destroying the surrounding villages and towns.
   The castle did not come back to its former greatness. Abandoned and neglected it more and more went to ruin.
    A lustration from 1789 describes the castle with the following words: “an old castle on the high mountain with a circular brick-wall greatly destroyed in 2 places; there is a gate in the wall, the gate has a tower on its top and a hutch below; there is also a room with a vault and 1 window with an iron grating; there is a town archive in this room, quite uncomfortable to perform conservatory work; under the room there is a lower tower; from this room 2 other small rooms abandoned.”
   Kremenets was under the Russian partition.
   Till today, on the top of the mountain called “The Bona Mountain” there are remainders of the castle, i.e. the remains of the gate and the entry bastion, and the remains of the festive walls.
   In 1805 Tadeusz Czacki founded a famous Kremenets High School, due to which the town was called Volhynian Atens.
   In 1809 Juliusz Słowacki was born in Kremenets.
Zhukiewicz Bohdan
translated by Joanna Hardukiewicz
photos Janusz Kurasz, Mieczysław Kowal, Antoni Hadała, Jurek Jaremczuk, Jurek Owczaruk, (zakapior)

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