View of Ostrog by Vogel (19 c)
Me at New Tower in Ostroh, 2002.
The New Tower in Tygodnik Ilustrovany (Polish magazine of the middle of the 19 c.)
Small towns sometimes impress by their great history. Such is the town of Ostroh in the Rivne region. Ostroh is considered to be the cradle of education and enlightenment in Ukraine. It is here that the first complete edition of the Bible in Old Church Slavonic was printed; it is here that the powerful Ostroh Academy, which had given many famous names to the world, was established. Last year, the Ostroh Castle and the Ostroh Academy were listed among Ukraine’s new wonders…
| The Ostroh Wonders|
Historical events should be judged from a distance. Millions of insignificant dates are sifted through the sieve of history. But the15th of July of 1410 is imprinted in History by right: the battle of Grunewald that took place in 1409-1411 stopped the expansion of the Teutonic Knights into Eastern Europe. The Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Czechs and Tartars rose against the most powerful military order. Without the steadfastness of the Ukrainian army, who knows if the great Ulrich von Jungingen would have been defeated?
One of those who fought at the field of Grunewald was duke Fedir Ostrozky. This is how the Ostrozkys, a Ukrainian princely family of art patrons and architects, entered world history. There was even a saying about that dynasty: “rich as Ostrozky”. The dukes not only became wealthy but defended their native land: the great-grandson of Fedir Ostrozky, the Lithuanian Hetman Konstantin Ostrozky, was known for his victories over the Tartars. And his youngest son, Kostantin-Vasyl became the Kyiv Voyevoda (commander of the army) in 1559.
Ostroh was the patrimonial estate of the Ostrozky dukes for almost 300 years. Located in the South of the Rivne region, the city, first mentioned in the Ipatievsky chronicle in 1100, is rich in medieval monuments. One of the most important is the Duke’s castle, under whose walls stand the bronze Ostrozky dukes, the favourite models of wedding photographers. There is the ancient 15th century Bogoyavlenska Church on the territory of the castle, and the Museum of Regional Ethnography is located in the Vezha Murovana (the Guard Tower).
Guides will tell you about the medieval patron Galshka Gulevychivna-Ostrozka (1575-1642), forced to live with a man she did not love. Beautiful Galshka was forcibly given in marriage to Polish magnate Dmytro Sangushko by her uncle Kostiantyn Ostrozky. According to legend, during the marriage ceremony in the cathedral a strong wind rose, blew out the candles, rang the bells, auguring something evil. They say the unhappy beautiful girl threw herself from the castle tower. In fact she died at the age of 67… It was Galshka Ostrozka who was one of the originators of the famous Kyiv-Mohyla Academy: the school out of which the academy grew was opened at her expense in Kyiv in 1616.
In the suburb of Ostroh, once inhabited by the Tartars, the Tatarska Brama (gate) rises, and the Lutska Brama from the 16th century guards the ancient road from the West. The Museum of Books and Printing, with its rich collection, is located in the tower of the gate. Not by coincidence: it is precisely here in Ostroh that Ukrainian book printing started. Printing pioneer Ivan Fedorov, invited by Kostantin-Vasyl Ostrozky, created his masterpieces here: “Bukvar” (abecedary) in 1578 and the Ostroh Bible printed in 1581, on which the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko swore his oath of office.
But Ostroh was famous not only for fortifications and book printing. The Konstantin Ostrozky duke established military brotherhoods and printing houses, opened schools in 1570-1580. The Renaissance needed new people: educated, intelligent, and the duke understood it. His main creation became the Ostrozka Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy, the first institution of higher education not only in Ukraine, but in all of Eastern Europe, established in 1576.
Europe’s brightest “stars” of the times lectured in the Academy: the Greek scientist Dionisio Paleolog, Galileo’s pupil Kyrylo Lukaris, Krakow University professor Jan Liatos; and writer Herasym Smotrytsky was elected the first rector. The Academy would not have acquired the fame of the “Ostrozki Athens” without them. Ukrainian hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny and the author of “The Slavic Grammar” (1619) Meletii Smotrytsky are among the graduates of the Academy.
Afterwards, the Academy declined: the last of the Ostrozky family, Ianush, transformed it into a Jesuit College and the Academy ceased to exist around 1640. For centuries, owners changed: the Orthodox Church and Polish Roman Catholic Church, a hospital and a pedagogical institute all had a turn at owning it. The tradition of academism broke for almost 350 years!
In 1995, the Academy was revived (www.uosa.uar.net). Now its buildings are located in the former Capuchin 17th century monastery. And, who knows, maybe the names of new students of the revived “Ostrozki Athens” will resound all over the world one day…
| USEFUL INFORMATION|
Some views of modern-day Ostroh
The Ostroh Museum of Regional Ethnography
Rivne region, Ostroh, 5 Akademichna str. (on the territory of the Ostroh castle).
Tel.: +38 03654 306 01, +38 03654 225 93.
The Museum of Books and Printing
Rivne region, Ostroh, Lutska Brama, Papanin str.
Tel.: +38 03654 232 71.
Schedule: the museums are open daily, except Mondays, from 09:00 to 16:30.
Get from Kyiv to Rivne on one of the regular trains or buses and then to Ostroh by public bus (every 20 minutes).
© Panorama Magazine