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Lutsk - the Southern Capital of the Lithuanian-Rus State

Lutsk - the Southern Capital of the Lithuanian-Rus State
Phone: +38 (0332) 72-34-19
Spoken languages:Українська мова, English, Polski
Duration:1:00-2:00
Група до 5 осіб - 200 грн.(польською, англійською - 300 грн.); 5 - 10 осіб - 300 грн.(польською, англійською - 400 грн.); 10-20 осіб - 400 грн.(польською, англійською - 500 грн.)

Lutsk always welcomes tourists, but like a devoted guard, the city protects its history and opens only a crack in the door to the life and the glory of the past. We invite you to visit the ancient city, which will surprise you by its youthfulness. The tune of the ancient Lutsk temple bells will definitely capture you, and the aura of the past will overwhelm you with its mystery.

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A trip around Lutsk should begin from the old part of the city. Here, at the eastern end of Kafedralna Street, the ancient Lutsk Castle rises above you. It is one of the few medieval castles in Ukraine which is preserved today. Its strong walls and towers keep the secrets of many events and of the political and private lives of the nobility, dating back to the Lithuanian-Polish epoch. The Castle’s history covers more than 600 years.  It served as the seat of government and the residence of the head of the state and was the last capital of the Galicia-Volyn state. 

In 1429, the great Lithuanian duke Vitovt hosted a gathering of European monarchs in the Castle, bringing Lutsk to the attention of all of Europe.  

After the city was added to the Great Lithuanian principality (in the 1380’s) and once Lutsk was granted the Magdeburg Rights, the city began gradually to change in its outlook. Since those events, Lutsk became recognized as a major centre for international trade. During Vitovt’s reign the city expanded beyond its early island borders, and became more like a European city. It was in these times that Lutsk was known as Luchesk the Great.

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In the past Lutsk Castle consisted of two parts: the Upper Castle and Okolnyi Castle.

The Upper Castle is quite well-preserved. Its reconstruction started at the beginning of the 20th century and still continues.   Originally, there were wooden fortifications (built in 10-11 c.) on the current site of the Upper Castle; stone walls and towers were built in the middle of the 14th century during the reign of Duke Lubart. Thus, one can often hear the castle’s other name – Lubart Castle.

At first the Upper Castle was an example of romance-gothic architecture, but during an early reconstruction in the 16th century it gained Renaissance features.  The Castle is in the shape of an irregular triangle. Its towers are square and surprise visitors by their grand size and simple shape.  You are encouraged to have a look at the towers and and other Castle buildings, and to walk along its walls. Today you can see three main towers which are preserved almost without change from their original form.

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At the western extreme of the Castle is the Nadbramna tower, or Vjizna (Entrance tower).  Its height is 27 metres. The tower was connected with the wooden drawbridge. The powerful buttress emphasizes the Castle’s strength and inviolability. This tower is the focal point of the whole complex. Numerous representatives of European nobility passed through the gate of the tower: the Great Duke Vitovt and King Yagailo, Danish King Eric and Emperor Sygizmund, the Great Moscow Duke Vasylii and Tatar khans, the first printer Ivan Fedorov and the future Ukrainian hetman Ivan Vygotskii.

At the eastern point of the Castle is the Styr tower (Svydrygaila). It is the same height as Nadbramna and was the location of the Castle chancery and archives, where a half - million documents were saved in so called grodski books. The basement of the tower was used as a prison for those who were sentenced to death.

The third tower is Vladycha (the Dukes’ tower), at a height of 13, 5 metres. Under the wall connecting the Dukes’ and the Styr towers, there is a huge cellar, where food products were stored in case of a Castle siege.

Today, in the centre of the Castle grounds, the remnants of the oldest clay brick structure of the main role in the spiritual life of ancient Lutsk and the attached territories of the Lutsk-Ostrig eparchy.

After extensive archeological excavation, researchers came to the conclusion cerkva-bogoslova_(1).jpgthat John the Theologian church played a special role in the development of Rus architecture because of its unique features which can not be found in the other churches. It is one of the churches whose remnants contribute to and understanding of how church architecture in Ukraine changed over a period of 600 years. The church was built of old thin bricks – plinfa. The decorative features of the church were well preserved, and include colorful frescos depicting the Saints, different geometrical figures, stars, horses, and even ancient inscriptions.  Today there is a protective covering over the church walls. In the future it will be a museum.

The unique in Ukraine bell exposition “Volyn Bells. Past and Present” is also situated on the Castle grounds. There are 90 bells (17-20c.) in Vladycha tower from different countries: Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Austria and Germany.

Leaving the Upper Castle, let’s go to the territory of the former Okolnyi castle, of which, unfortunately, only a few parts have been preserved.  The area of this castle, just like Upper Castle, was surrounded by walls, ramparts and ditches. There were 8 towers of the Okolnyi Castle, 4 of which were stone – the Chartoryiski tower, The Svyniuska tower, Ivan Pidskarbiya, Chetvertynskyi and other princes tower, Arkhimandrycha tower – and 4 wooden towers (on the side of the castle facing the residential area of the city): the Vorotnia tower, the Peremylska tower, the Pinska tower and the Volyn Sovereign tower. The Upper Castle was the nobility residence; members of government, servicemen and court employees occupied the Okolnyi Castle.  

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If you go along Kafedral’na Street, to the south you will approach the walls of the Brigit Monastery (catholic monastery of 17th century). In the past, this was the location of the palace of Lutsk headman Albrecht Radzyvil, who presented it to the nuns of St. Brigitte.

The Brigits built a new section of cells and the huge baroque Catholic Church. Among Catholic orders for women, this one was distinguished by special piety and a high level of welfare. The nuns received their education in the monastery for educating orphaned girls of nobility.

Returning to the Castle square, you will see a complex of buildings known as the Sharits monastery. This complex was built and functioned from the 15th-18th centuries.  It consists of the Old Catholic Holy Trinity church, as well as the bishop’s palace, a hospital, chancery and Latin school. The oldest Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral was also situated at the monastery yard.   The first wooden church on the site was built because of the initiative of Vitovt in 1425 – 1427. In 1781 there was fire in Okolnyi Castle which also damaged Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral.  After that, the chair was moved to the St. Peter’s and Paul’s Cathedral.

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Opposite from the Sharits monastery is the Jesuit Monastery, which includes St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and the Jesuit College.  The monastery was a part of the Okolnyi Castle, proved by defensive openings on its western façade and clock tower.  The Jesuit College was one of the most famous educational establishments of the time and played an important role in regional enlightenment.  It was famous for its rich library of ancient books, and for theatrical performances presented there.

The St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and the attached college building were built between 1616 and 1639 according to the design of the Italian architect Giacomo Briano. The college and the Catholic Church were built for the Jesuits’ needs. Originally, it was of the Renascence style, but because of fires in the city it was transformed several times. In general the church is a basilica modelled after the Greek cross with the roundabout galleries and towers on the corners of the main façade. костел_1.jpgThe central sculpture in the façade is the Sculpture of God’s Mother, who is standing on the Earth, fighting with a snake. At a lower level on either side of the entrance there are sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul. A peculiar feature of the church is that it was also used for the defensive purposes. It was built relative to the former Vjizna tower (Entrance tower) of the Lower Castle (Okolnyi Castle) in such a way that its wall substituted the part of the Castle wall. The church interior is also very rich, featuring canvases, epitaphs, paintings on the walls, ancient furniture, sculptures and bas-reliefs. There are three side altars in each side of the church in addition to the central altar and the altar of the Saints’ Secrets chapel. The Catholic Church is also famous for its organ and unsurpassed acoustics – classical music concerts are often presented here.  Church services are conducted in Polish and Ukrainian.

We continue our travel around the historical part of the old city, through trade and craft districts and also church-landowner yards of Lutsk. Not far away from Castle Square, on Dragomanova Street, you find the Protection of the Virgin Orthodox Church. This complex is dedicated to the one of twelve main holidays of the Orthodox Church. The Protection of the Virgin Orthodox Church together with the old cemetery is situated in one of the districts of the former Rynok (Market) Square. The site of the church, at a lower level than the surrounding streets, demonstrates ancient origins, as development has been built up on raised ground around it.

The Protection of the Virgin Orthodox Church is the most ancient Orthodox Church in Lutsk that still functions in its original form. Most researches consider the church construction to have extended between the 14th-17th centuries. The founder of the Protection of the Virgin Orthodox Church was the Lithuanian duke Vitovt.  Almost the whole 19th century, the church served as the Orthodox Cathedral for Lutsk.

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 The church is known for an icon of the Virgin of Volyn.  It is one of the oldest icons in Ukraine, and was kept in the church until 1962. Today this pearl of sacral art is kept at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Kyiv. Going down Danylo Galyts’kogo St. on your left you will find the complex of the Lutsk Orthodox Brotherhood – the Exaltation of the Cross Orthodox Church, and also the Vasilian Monastery. 

The Volyn nobility, clergy and Lutsk citizens created the complex for the protection of their religion, language and culture from state Catholicism and Polish influence in the first part of the 17th century. We are on our way to the Brats’kyi Bridge. Can you imagine that in the middle of the last century this was a bridge over the Glushets River? It stood in the place of the oldest bridge in Lutsk, dating back to 1149. Lengthening the dam which passed from the Castle over the flood plain, it connected the old part of the city with the settlements on the right bank of the Styr River.

Today this bridge is a kind of link between the past city, which is buried in mystery and the future city which welcomes us with thousands of colorful lights.

As you stand at the Brats’kyi Bridge, it’s your turn to decide where to go. Maybe you’ll walk more along unknown streets of the old city. Or maybe you want to relax, drinking coffee or fragrant tea? Or you wish to be more active, or attend a concert or visit museums?  Don’t hesitate to ask for advice at the Center for Tourist Information and Services, which is situated on S. Levchanivs’koi St. 2 (the corner of S. Levchanivs’koi and Lesya Ukrainka Streets). 

Welcome!

 

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2 Comments

  • Олекса13-01-2019 15:25reply

    Добре та цікаво подана інформація! Авторові - низький уклін за працю. Окреме йому спасибі за те, що не забув згадати про споруди Пізнього Середньовіччя - не лише окремі споруди (як Покровську церкву) а й ті, що були свого часу перебудовані (і тепер - у складі монастиря шаріток).

  • Олекса з Київа13-01-2019 15:27reply

    Луцьк - взагалі моє чи не найулюбленіше місто. Зі славною історією, купою унікальних пам'яток (чимало з яких, нажаль, невідомі), і неймовірно затишне!!..)

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