Mir Castle Complex (2000)
Belarus

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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 an often turbulent history. 

The Mir Castle Complex (in Belarusian: Мі́рскі за́мак) is located near Mir in the Karelichy District of Hrodna (Grodno) in the north-eastern part of the country, bordered by Lithuania to the north, and Poland to the East.  

The construction of the castle began at the end of the 15th century, in the Gothic architecture style. The  Building of the castle was completed by Duke Ilinich in early 16th century near the village Mir. Around 1568 the Mir Castle passed into the hands of Duke Radziwil, who finished building the Castle in the Renaissance architecture style. A three story palace was built along the eastern and northern walls of the castle. Plastered facades were decorated with limestone portals, plates, balconies and porches. 
  • Belarus 1992. Mir Castle. 

Belarus 1992. Mir Castle Complex.

Belarus 1993. Prince Rogvold.

Human settlement in Belarusian territory dates to prehistoric times, but there is no consensus among scholars on the origins of the Belarusian state. The three early Slavic tribes from which the Belarusians are believed to have derived are the Krivichi, Dregovichi, and Radimichi, who between the 6th and 8th centuries settled first on the Daugava (Western Daugava) River and later in the vicinity of the Pripyat’ and Sozh rivers. 

The medieval period of Belarusian history dates most notably from the last quarter of the 10th century, when Prince Rogvold ruled the local principality of Polotsk (Polatsk). In the late 10th century Polotsk was annexed into Kievan Rus, the first significant East Slavic state. At least three principalities -- Smolensk, Polotsk, and Turov-Pinsk -- existed on what later became Belarusian territory. The Tatar invasions that destroyed Kievan Rus and the city of Kiev (Kyiv) in 1240 left Belarusian territory relatively unscathed. 

  • Belarus 1993. Prince Rogvold and his daughter, Princess Rogneda. Behind Princess Rogneda is part of Mir Castle. 

Belarus 1993. Princess Rogneda and part of the Mir Castle.

In the 14th century Belarusian territory became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its capital at Vilnius. Slavs heavily outnumbered the titular nation and retained privileges, and state business was for a time conducted in the Belarusian language. By the 16th century a Slavic culture had begun to emerge, symbolized by the translation of the Bible into the Belarusian language by Frantsysk Skaryna in 1517. 

In 1569, however, the Grand Duchy formed a political union with Poland by the Union of Lublin, forming the Rzeczpospolita (Commonwealth) and making the sovereign of Poland also the grand duke of the Lithuanian kingdom. In this period, Belarusians faced pressure from the Poles to convert from Eastern Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. The union lasted until the late 18th century, by which time the lands of Belarus had fallen under the control of the Russian Empire as a result of the partitions of Poland that took place in 1772, 1793, and 1795. 

  • Belarus 1996. Portrait of Nikolai Radzivil Chornyi (1515-1565), chancellor of Lithuania. 

Belarus 1996. Portrait of Nikolai Radzivil Chomviy, chancellor of Lithuania.

An interesting traditional church in this area is the Boris and Gleb Church in Grodno, dating from the 12th century. Boris and Gleb are well-known to orthodox Russians through this icon from the 14th century. It belongs to the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg. 

Russia. Boris and Gleb Icon, Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg. Belarus 1992. Boris and Gleb Church in Grodno.

Boris and Gleb, Christian names Roman and David, were the first Russian saints. 

According to two 11th century Lives of Boris and Gleb (assigned to Nestor the Chronicler and Jacob the Monk), they were sons of Vladimir the Great, who liked them better than his other children. 

Both were murdered during the internecine wars of 1015-1019 and glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1071. 

Numerous churches throughout the former Soviet Union, Belarus and Ukraine are dedicated to them, e.g., the Borisoglebsky Abbey near Rostov. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Belarus (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Belarus for further information about the individual properties.  

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Revised 18 aug 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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