Lutsk castle: nowadays and in the past
The Lutsk (or Lubart’s) Castle is the main historic monument of the capital of Volyn. It is the only castle in Ukraine seen by nearly every Ukrainian, thanks to the fact that they hold its picture in their hand with every 200 hryvnas bill. The 28 meter-high Entrance Tower of Lutsk Castle was where the idea of a united Europe was voiced for the first time. And it happened in 1429
| Castle from a Banknote|
The city of Lutsk appeared in the year 1000, when Prince Volodymyr the Great annexed the Volyn region to the Kievan Rus’ state. First, the Prince ordered a castle built, stopping invaders many times. Then, in 1150, Luchesk (as the city was known in ancient times) withstood a six-week siege from the troops of Kyiv-born Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy, the founder of Moscow. The son of Dolgorukiy, Prince Andriy Bogolubskiy, was nearly killed by the stones with which the residents of Lutsk met the unbidden guests.
The castle’s inhabitants not only engaged in war, but also cultural leisure activities. At least we are sure they played chess: archaeologists found carved ivory figures. But in 1261 this advanced outpost was abandoned by order of a Tartar commander. This was an ironclad edict from the Tartars in all lands that were paying tribute to them in order to avoid mutiny among the local populations.
The castle was renovated in the 1340’s, at the time of the reign of Prince Lubart, Grand Duke of Lithuania. But construction was only completed in 1542. According to historical chronicles, there were two castles in medieval Lutsk. Unfortunately, the second one, the Okolnyi Castle, was practically destroyed. Its remnants are the Chartoryisky Tower and fragments of the wall.
Still the legacy remains with the people here about how prince Lubart built a dam on the Styr River, put a drawbridge to the Entrance Tower and gradually replaced the wooden fortifications with stone ones, adding chicken eggs in the mix (and this is a type of construction reputed to last forever).
In 1392, Lutsk was transferred to Lithuanian Prince Vytautas the Great. In January of 1429 he invited European monarchs from 15 states to Lutsk. The Holy Roman (and German) Emperor Sigismund, Danish King Eric IV, Polish monarch Władysław II Jagiełło, the Grand Masters of the Teutonic and Livonian orders, a legate of Pope Martin V, Vasili II, Grand Prince of Moscow, an ambassador of the Byzantine Emperor Palaeologus and other high and mighty leaders responded to this invitation. In total more than 15,000 guests came (members of royal families and servants not counted), while the population of Lutsk itself was only about 5,000 residents! A series of very important questions were raised at this “summit”, such as forming a coalition against the growing power of the Ottoman Empire (groundwork of the modern European Union!), equal rights for Catholic and Orthodox churches, and, among other things, the coronation of Vytautas. The Pope’s Nuncio was on his way to Lutsk with a diamond-covered crown for this occasion. But it disappeared somewhere on the way. Legend has it that it was cut in pieces and dispersed throughout Europe. Whatever the reason, Vytautas was never to become king. His cousin Jagiełło refused to acknowledge Vytautas as monarch despite the fact that his domain stretched from the Baltic region to the Black Sea.
Imagine the cost to organize such a summit! Just for the coronation banquet alone (also the birth of European diplomacy) 700 oxen, 1,400 rams, 100 buffaloes and elks were consumed, and nobody even tried to count all the geese and chickens. Seven hundred barrels of beer and honey drinks were consumed daily! It seems that in the Middle Ages the term ‘diet’ was completely unknown.
Legend also speaks of another owner of the castle, Prince Svidrigailo. They say he was a shepherd in Voloschyna for seven years, until Lutsk came into his possession. Under Svidrigailo’s reign, Lutsk was said to be the unifying centre for all of Ukraine at the time. But after 1452, when Svidrigailo passed away, the history of the Volyn Principality ended.
But it was not the end of the castle’s history. Three towers of the stronghold, Vladych, Lubart and Styr, still stand today hugged by 10 meter thick walls. In Vladych there is an armoury and a unique collection of bells. In Lubart’s Tower there is an exhibition of building ceramics. And the foundation stones show where the palace of Vytautas and the church of John Bogoslov stood. “Knights’ tournaments”, known as the “Sword of Lutsk Castle”, are held here annually. And the castle of Lubart still rises over the modern city. It was so in the 14th century, it is so now and let it be so for centuries to come.
Address: 1, Kafedralna Str., Lutsk, Ukraine. The castle is open daily from 10:00 to 19:00h. Entrance ticket for adults costs UAH4, for children – UAH2, castle excursion – UAH20.
© Panorama Magazine
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