The project "The Pearls of Little Motherland". Tourists try on armors and are knighted in renewed Lida Castle

The project "The Pearls of Little Motherland". Tourists try on armors and are knighted in renewed Lida Castle

The ascetic castle of Gediminas proudly rises above Lida, reminding about glorious and heroic past of our land. It will hardly impressa tourist by its luxury, but certainly by its greatness. It was built in 1320 by the order of Gediminas, Duke of The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, along with castles in Novogrudok, Kreva, Medniki and Troki. It was intended to protect lands from enemies.

Now this wonderful piece of architecture of defensive type attracts tourists by legends about medieval fights and love, exclusive exhibition compositions, professional animation, gorgeous jousts and festivals.

The outpost at the Nieman lands

There is a version, that in 1323 Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas ordered to build a fortification at the confluence of Lideika (from Lithuanian "pike") and Kamenka, which would have become the obstacle on the way of crusaders moving deep into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The architects of Lida Castle took a chivalry castle as a basis, having decided to fight with crusaders by their weapon. That's why the castle has the shape of a wrong triangle (the length of northern wall is 93,5 meters, the length of southern wall is 80 meters, the western wall is 84 meters, the eastern wall is 83,5 meters).

The prisoners from Volyn and Kiev built the citadel in conditions of peace with neighbors – Gediminas sent a letter to Pope John XXII, in which he expressed his willingness to convert to Christianity for the price of peace with crusaders. Pope forbade crusaders to invade the Duchy of Lithuania.

The new combat outpost at the Nieman lands have been built about five years. The walls have been constructed of large boulders. That made them particularly strong. 23000 cubic of meters of boulders were required for the construction of Lida Castle, a big amount of lime and sand. The courtyard and banks of the castle high ground also were paved. The height of the walls is 12 meters, the thickness ofthe bottom part is two meters, the thickness of the upper part is a meterand a half. One of the towers - south-western - was erected along with the walls of the castle, the second - at the turn of the XIV-XV centuries. The dam on the Lidek River and the formed pond turned Lida Castle into an impregnable citadel. He saved Lida from the raids of enemies during the XIV-XVIII centuries. The castle was badly damaged in the Russo-Polish war (1654-1667).

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-Nobody knows for sure, when the castle was built, but the first official mention of the fortress in the chronicles wasin 1379, says Valery Slivkin, a senior researcher at the Lida History and Art Museum, who devoted part of his life to researching the history of the castle and more than one scientific work. "Medieval history reached us in a distorted form, it was studied exclusively by secondary and third sources. The primary sources have now been translated and become available to a wide audience. Jan Dlugosz is a Polish historian and diplomat, a major Catholic hierarch, author of "The Chronicles of the Glorious Kingdom of Poland" in 12 volumes, who lived at the time, bringing up the sons of King Casimir, completely breaks our ideaof the castle particularly. "The Chronicle of Dlugosz" uses materials from state and church archives, Polish, Czech and Hungarian chronicles, Russian and Lithuanian chronicles.

Ghosts of Warriors

One of the legends of Lida Castle is associated with knights-invaders. Allegedly in December of 1394 they besieged the citadel. Frosts helped the crusaders: on the ice-bound swamp the enemies managed to get as close as possible to the impregnable walls. The defense was commanded by Prince Dmitry Koribut, who, having a prepared squad, enough weapons and supplies, nevertheless decided to leave the castle at night with the majority of the squad. Only a few soldiers left In the castle, who defended it tillthe last drop of blood and honestly lay down their heads in battle. And now for seven centuries the soldiers do not leave their post, wander through the old galleries, inadvertently scaring the visitors of Lida Castle.


Ghosts of the Lida warriors were repeatedly discussed on the Internet, and one of them even got into the lens of the Lida photographer Igor Peshekhonov. Probably, it's just a game of light and shadows, but the photo clearly reveals a mysterious male silhouette.

The favorite of the kings

From the end of the fourteenth century to the beginning of the sixteenth century, Lida was a grand duke's city. It was ownedat different times byKeystut, Olgerd, Jagiello, Vitovt. For sometime, the Khan Tokhtamysh lived in Lida, who, being expelled from the Golden Horde, hoped to regain power with the help of Vitovt.


The events of great significancetook place in the castle. Here in 1386 Prince Skirgailo of Polotskswore an oath to the Grand Duke of Lithuania and the King of Poland, Jagiello. Here in 1422, with a truly royal scale, a feast was held in honor of the wedding of the 71-year-old King of Poland Vladislav Jagiello and 17-year-old Princess Sofya Golshanskaya. Here in July 1506, King Alexander signed the death testament in the presence of the Lithuanian magnates, his wife Elena Ioannovna - the daughter of the Grand Duke of Moscow, John III. Hence the militia retreated to the victorious Kletsk battle with the Crimean Tatars ...


Stages of Revival

In 1891, a fire broke out in Lida, destroying the entire center of the city. Local authorities began to disassemble the fortress and sell it in parts, using the receivedfunds to restore Lida. At that time, the remains of the south-western tower were almost completely destroyed and the part of the western wall was dismantled.


The attempts ofthe restoration of the Lida Castle were undertaken several times. The very first wasin the XIX century. On it, the Imperial Archaeological Commission even allocated 1943 rubles 2 kopecks. On this money, the walls were partly measured, photographed and in several places dismantled the unreliable masonry ...

In the twenties of the last century, another attempt was made to restore the castle buildings: the western and southern walls were connected by a brick wall, as well as the southeast corner and the side entrances were laid. In the summer, a wandering circus or a menagerie stayed here, and in the winter they put a Christmas tree and poured a skating rink in the middle of the courtyard.


In July of 1941, there was a camp of Soviet war prisoners war.

After the war, the inner courtyard of the castle was used as a sports stadium.
In 1953, the Lida fortress was included in the list of architectural monuments taken under the protection of the state, but the restoration works, which was conducted in the late seventies of the last century until 1991, now cause a lot of controversy and censure. Several times the part of the restored western wall collapsed, exposing the poor-quality work of restorers.

- In the 21st century, the castle felt a large-scale restoration as a result of the State Program "Castles of Belarus", says Anna Drab, director of the Lida Historical and Art Museum. Both towers, galleries, newly rebuilt parts of the fortress walls are reconstructed, and an inner courtyard is equipped. The bulk of the restoration work of the castle was completed in 2010, but reconstruction continues to this day.


The castle path

From the beginning of 2018 the castle was visited by more than 13 thousand people. Tourists from neighbouring and more distant countries and residents of Belarus crave to admire the architectural pearl and feel the spirit of the Middle Ages. The castle courtyard, battle galleries, the territory near the castle and the northeastern tower are open forvisitors.

Since 2004, the castle acts as a tourist site. The staff of Lida Historical and Art Museum developed an exclusive program "The revival of the ancient walls", which in 2009 was given the award the President of the Republic of Belarus. The traditional knight festival "Gediminas Castle" is held here. This is a real holiday for fans of medieval culture, which attracts visitors from different countries.


In May of the last year, the unique cultural and tourist project called "The castle fairing" was launched, which citizens and visitors of the city really like. On weekends, the street next to the castle becomes pedestrian, and people can enjoy the numerous activities of the castle, admire the works of craftsmen, participate in master classes. The cultural and entertainment program ofthe weekend "At Lida Castle" echoed in the hearts of people.

There are reviews, thematic and theatrical excursions, animations, games and medieval games. The museum attracts knight clubs, animation and music groups to cooperate, when organizing such programs.

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Walk around the castle, go into the courtyard, climb on one of the towers, watch the knight's tournament from the battle gallery, try on armor, take part in the quest, shoot from the bow, look into the hall with weapons and armor, visit the feast in honor of the wedding of King Jagiello and Sophia Golshanska, to see a performance with refreshments, medieval music and dances, a knightly duel and even a fire show - what a pleasure it is! And you can become a knight yourself and pass the initiation rite or celebrate your own birthday in a castle, a medieval wedding.


-This year we will continue to held our favorite programs, and we will also present new museum and educational programs, theatrical excursions for schoolchildren, animation programs for adults, a variety of museum classes and quests, a series of activities "The music sketches in LidaCastle"and much more, says Anna Drab. New international cultural and entertainment events are planned, for example, the hip-hop festival "Battle for the Castle-2018".

Stay, moment!

Many artists at different times sought to capture a medieval architectural pearl. Valery Slivkin, the staff memberof the museum, collected a unique collection of postcards, watercolors, engravings of various authors with descriptions in his "Analytical Study of the Lida Castle".


Gediminas Castle was sung in the 18th century by Józef Pesca, VikentyDmohovsky, VasilyGryaznov, Napoleon Orda. In the summer of 1929 the castle was sketched by the famous artist YazepDrozdovich.

In the same collection there arephotographs of the ruins of the fortress, which date back to the late XIX - early XX century.

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Hundreds, thousands of modern digital images stop the moment of today's new era of the castle, which at all times has been and remains the heart of beautiful Lida, preserves the spirit of history and gives a sense of eternity …

Редакция газеты «Гродненская правда»