The castle on Bona Mount, Kremenets
It is early morning. The town of Kremenets slumbers at the base of Bona Hill. The great building of the Kremenets Lyceum, impressive belfry of the Mykolaivska church and the other old houses of the city also sleep. In their dreams they see the many famous people who used to visit Kremenets: the great composer Franz Lizst, genius author Honoré de Balzac, and Ukraine’s legendary Taras Shevchenko... Towering 400 meters above, their rest is guarded by the castle of Queen Bona.
| The Castle of Queen Bona |
Kremenets fortress appeared long before Bona herself – the wife of Polish King Sigizmund I. There is a theory that the stronghold was already built by the 8th – 9th centuries. The first written references about Kremenets can be found in Polish books dated 1064. Kremenets castle became widely-known when Khan Batyi attacked the city with Mongolian hordes, but still did not manage to conquer it, in 1240-41.
The stronghold became a part of history with its connection to the Polish Queen of Italian origin – Bona Sforza. At that time there were many strange and evil rumours about the Queen. They said that in her quest for eternal youth Queen Bona shed the blood of innocent girls. Another legend told of a bridge made of hair which carried the queen to the castle. According to another fable Bona hides in a well in the underground section of the palace, leaving only at Easter and holding in her mouth a key from a secret treasury full of gold. Just imagine the film that could be made with such a plot in such a place, among the green Kremenets Hills in the Ternopil region!
All legends aside, the castle owes much to this wife of Sigizmund I. In 1536 the king presented Kremenets and the suburbs to her as a gift. The new hostess strengthened the high castle walls, three towers, billets, service premises and flasks. Ruling the region through her elders, Bona introduced a system of unbearable money and in-kind taxes on local people. And leaving for Italy after the death of her husband, she carried out of Kremenets 70 carts of goods and chattel!
Having been discarded by the Italian, the castle nonetheless continued to maintain its patrol. For a long time no one was able to conquer this prominent building. In September of 1648 the troops of colonel Maksym Kryvonis besieged the castle. Severe battles between the Cossacks and Polish gentry continued for one and half months. Finally the stronghold was conquered and destroyed. Since then the castle has not been restored. At the Piatnytskyi cemetery under the hill the lime crosses on the Cossacks’ tombs grow white.
These days the Castle Hill is a tourist site of the Kremenets State-Historic Architectural reserve, and visitors to the castle ruins do not even need tickets. Thousands of people come here to admire the fortress walls and wonderful panorama of the city commanded by the hill. The gothic arc of the entrance gates leads to the castle yard. Once a local television relay tower stood here, but now only the ruins of the fortress walls overlook Kremenets. Also here there was once a well. In the 1530s it was hollowed out in the rock by soldiers of the garrison, because without water it would have been impossible to survive the long hostile besiegement. According to legend this is the well where Bona appears on Easter with the keys. She searches for those to whom she will pass on her underground treasures.
Oh, these old legends…
| Getting there|
The town is situated on the north part of Ternopil Region. Kremenets is a centre of a district (raytsentr). There is no railway connection in Kremenets.
There are comfortable trains to Ternopil from Kyiv daily (www.uz.gov.ua). You can then reach Kremenets from Ternopil (60 km) by scheduled buses.
© Panorama Magazine