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Mir Castle

  • Address: 2, Krasnoarsiyskaya Str., township Mir, Karelicheskiy district, Grodno district region
  • Coordinates: 53.451448798217,26.472074652417
  • Site: www.mirzamak.by
  • Phones:  +375 15 962 82 70
Mir Castle is one of the most significant and unique architectural monuments in Belarus.

The castle was built in the 1520s at the behest of the magnate of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Yury Ilinich, who acquired Mir in 1486. The owner of Mir had strong reasons for erecting such a mighty fortification. At the beginning of the 16th century Crimean Tatars attacked these lands quite frequently. Additionally, the unstable political situation was worsened by hostility among the feudal groups inside the country. Nevertheless, there was one more important reason for building the castle. Yury Ilinich aspired to attain the title of a count of the Holy Roman Empire and one of the necessary conditions for this was having a stone castle. This was the first case when such a mighty fortress was built on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by a private owner.

At the first stage of construction five towers were erected. They were connected with walls whose thickness at the foundation was up to three meters. All the towers were planned as independent centers of resistance.

The owners of the castle – the Iliniches – didn’t manage to complete its construction. Their family died away within the following forty years. Shortly before his death Yury Ilinich Junior, the grandson of the founder, bequeathed Mir County to his cousin Prince Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill, nicknamed the Orphan. Over the next three centuries the castle was owned by the representatives of a powerful dynasty, the Radziwills.

Having acquired the ownership rights for Mir County in 1569, Prince Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill, nicknamed the Orphan, decided to make the castle one of his residences. At his behest three-storey palatial living quarters were erected along the northern and eastern walls of the castle, the three adjacent towers were rebuilt and a barbican appeared at the Entrance tower. Earth mounds with bastions at the angles were raised around the castle. At the end of the 16th century the bastion fortifications lost their importance. The reasons why Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill decided to stop further modernization of Mir Castle are still unknown. After the construction of a mighty castle in Nesvizh, at the end of the 16th to the beginning of the 17th centuries, the princely residence changed location. Due to this, Mir Castle became something like a country seat. The basement and the ground floor of the palace incorporated housekeeping facilities and storerooms; the administration of Mir County, a municipal court and a clerical office were located on the first floor; the second floor was intended for the owners, whose living accommodation was situated there.

After these massive transformations, the castle's peaceful existence was broken off by a war between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Tsardom of Muscovy. In 1655 Mir Castle was ravaged by the Cossacks of Ivan Zolotorenro and the Russian troops of voivode (or warlord) Aleksey Trubetskoy. Moats filled with water, earth mounds with bastions and even the barbican, defending the entrance gate, failed to repel the enemy.

The castle fell into oblivion for around 30 years. It wasn’t until 1680 that Katarzyna (Ekaterina) Radziwill, from the Sobiessky family, initiated restoration works in Mir Castle after her husband Mikhail Kazimierz had died. However, the Great Northern War of 1700-1721 suspended her undertakings for many years. In April 1706 Mir was invaded by the troops of Charles XII. The whole township, including the castle, was set on fire; everything that had been restored was destroyed.

The castle regained its former grandeur thanks to a new owner – Prince Mikhail Kazimierz Radziwill, nicknamed the Rybonka. The chambers of the fourth princely floor were re-planned. The Stateroom, the Portrait Hall and Dance Hall were decorated with oak parquet floors, gilded ceilings, superb furniture, tapestries, paintings, chinaware and delftware. A lot of valuable and refined objects were produced at the Radziwills’ factories.

One of the Rybonka’s sons, Prince Karol Stanislaw Radziwill nicknamed Panie Kochanku, lived in Mir Castle from 1754 to 1762. He used to hold luxurious balls in the castle and invite guests for hunting. After his death in 1790 the estate was inherited by his nephew, Prince Dominik Hieronim Radziwill, who during the war of 1812 took the side of Napoleon. Lethally injured in a battle, Dominik died in 1813. His estates were divided into two parts by the emperor’s order of March 17, 1814. One part, including Mir and Nesvizh, passed to Dominik’s second cousin, Prince Antony Radziwill, whilst the other part was given to Dominik’s daughter Stefania. In 1828 she married the tsar’s adjutant Count Ludwig Wittgenstein. The ongoing legal proceedings between them and Antony Radziwill concerning the ownership of Mir County came to an end only in the 1840s. According to the decision of a special commission Mir County passed to Ludwig Wittgenstein who lived in Germany at that time. But his descendants didn’t manage to possess the castle for very long. According to the Russian law adopted in 1887, foreigners (and such were the Wittgensteins, including their daughter Maria Hohenlohe-Schillingsfurst) had no right to possess property on the territory of the Russian Empire, therefore they had to sell it.

In 1891 the Mir estate and the castle were purchased by a Cossack chieftain of the Don Troops, Prince Nikolay Svyatopolk-Mirsky. Apparently, the prince was attracted by the name of the estate. When he came to Mir he immediately got down to work with great enthusiasm. An alcohol plant and a two-storey palace, which became the main composition center of the palatial and park complex, were built opposite the castle. A water reservoir with islands was made in front of the new palace, replacing five ponds and a cut down garden.

In 1922 Nikolay’s son, Mikhail, started to restore Mir Castle. These works continued for 16 years. During this period a part of the Eastern palace and two southern towers were restored. The Elephant Hall was the only one among those designed by Warsaw architect, Theodor Bursze, that was completed. All the rooms featured household amenities: they were supplied with water and electricity, equipped with a sewage system and a telephone, which wasn’t common for those times. Mikhail Svyatopolk-Mirsky lived in the castle until 1938.

During the Great Patriotic War, from May to August 1942, the castle served as a ghetto wherein Hitler’s forces imprisoned around 800 local Jews. During the summer the prisoners organized a resistance group. On August 9, 1942 over 250 Jews managed to escape. Three days later those who stayed in the ghetto were shot by the fascists in a forest not far from Mir.

After the liberation of Belarus in July 1944 dwellers of Mir whose houses had been ruined found refuge in the castle. The last family moved out from the castle in 1962.

The restoration works in Mir Castle began only in 1983. In 2000 it was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. On December 16, 2010 an official opening of Mir Castle took place.

In recent years, Mir Castle became one of the most favourite places where different cultural events and festivals are held.

Knights’ festivals and reconstruction of battles near Mir Castle have been organized since the 1990s.

The First Arts Festival, called Mir Castle, took place more than 10 years ago. Every year it welcomes scientists and culturologists from different parts of our country. The festival includes exhibitions, conferences and concerts.

The Musical Accompaniment of Autumn Excursions has been organized since September 2011 in the Portrait Hall. Enchanting music of Chopin, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and other talented composers can be heard in one of the most luxurious halls of Mir Castle.
The ceremony of marriage registration has become quite popular in the castle. The participants go back into the Middle Ages, due to the interiors of the castle and unusual characters that participate in the ceremony. Newlyweds are met by a polite court architect who accompanies the couple during their stay in the castle. The solemn ceremony of marriage registration takes place in the Portrait Hall.

Annual Christmas Balls, organized in the castle for adults and children, have become traditional. Everyone has an opportunity to feel like real cavaliers and ladies. Games and performances have become a good addition to the dances.

In recent years Mir Castle has repeatedly become a place where different exhibitions have been organized. They have been connected to the history of the castle and to the cultural heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. One can see ancient objects of applied arts, portraits of the castle owners, ancient dresses and accessories.

The impressive history of Mir Castle has, on numerous occasions, attracted outstanding directors – creators of films in which the castle was used as a picturesque and charming scenery.

Such notable films as “Through the Cemetry” (1964), “Eastern Corridor” (1966), “To Be Afraid of Woe – not to See Happiness” (1973), “Three Merry Shifts” (1977), "Shlyahtich Zavalnia, or Belarus in Fiction Stories"(1994), "Ermolovy" (2008), "Sniper. Weapon of Nemesis" (2008–2009) and many others were shot in Mir Castle and its surroundings.

The architectural ensemble of Mir includes a museum castle of the 16–20th centuries with 39 high-grade espositions, embankments, picturesque parks and a pond, a church and burial vault of the Svyatopolk-Mirsky Princes.

The museum offers both traditional excursions and dramatized tours. Moreover there is a ceremony called "Wedding in Mir Castle" which will make the happiest day of your life unforgettable.

The Mir Castle Complex has a well-developed infrastructure: two conference halls for high-level events, a hotel with 16 luxurious rooms, a restaurant serving old cuisine, a souvenir shop with products of Belarusian craftsmen.

Conference hall, which is located in the mansard of the northern palace of Mir Castle, is an ideal venue for conferences, forums, business presentations, gala evenings and important public events. It offers room for 150 people, with the possibility of different furniture placement and seating guests, with modern equipment - projector, screen, simultaneous translation equipment into 3 languages, a separate room for translators, conference system with 30 microphones, sound system. There is also a VIP room for negotiation.

Small conference hall, which is located in the south-eastern tower of Mir Castle, is the perfect place as a hall for presentations, meetings, seminars and conferences for a small number of participants. The hall is equipped with a video projector, interactive whiteboard, Wi-Fi. There is a possibility to connect a document camera. Small meeting room seats up to 35 people.


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Regions Belarus in the Middle Ages