zondag 10 maart 2013

Belarus, Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh

The Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh is located in central Belarus. The Radziwill dynasty, who built and kept the ensemble from the 16th century until 1939, gave birth to some of the most important personalities in European history and culture. Due to their efforts, the town of Nesvizh came to exercise great influence in the sciences, arts, crafts and architecture. The complex consists of the residential castle and the mausoleum Church of Corpus Christi with their setting. The castle has ten interconnected buildings, which developed as an architectural whole around a six-sided courtyard. The palaces and church became important prototypes marking the development of architecture throughout Central Europe and Russia.

The architectural, residential and cultural complex of the Radziwill family at Nesvizh was the cradle for inoculation of new concepts based on the synthesis of Western traditions, leading to the establishment of a new architectural school in Central Europe. It represents an important stage in the development of building typology in the history of architecture of the Central Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular the Corpus Christij Church, typologically related to the cross-cupola basilica.
Built and occupied by the Radziwill family from the 16th to 20th centuries, the ensemble is located in the town of Nesvizh, in the Province of Minsk, in central Belarus. It consists of the castle-residence and the mausoleum church of Corpus Christij with their setting. The castle has ten interconnected buildings, including the palace, the galleries, the residence and the arsenal, which developed as one architectural whole around a six-sided courtyard. The buildings are set within the remains of the 16th-century fortifications that comprise four bastions and four curtain walls in a rectangular plan, surrounded by a ditch. Via a dam, the castle is connected to the Corpus Christij Church, which forms a block of the urban area of Nesvizh. The ensemble is in the middle of a cultural landscape that has various design components. The boundaries of the area cover an elongated territory with the main axe parallel to the Usha riverbed and waterfront.
The castle is oriented from west to east. The entrance is from the west through the gate building, the lower part of which is embedded in the rampart. It has an octagonal two-storey gate tower, topped with a helm. The original structure dates from the 16th century. The first floor and the tower were added in the 18th century. The principal building of the complex is the palace, which occupies the centre of the east side of the inner yard. It also dates from the 16th century, and was enlarged in the 18th century. This is a three-storey building on an almost square floor plan.
The corners are strengthened by four octagonal towers with alcoves. The facade is decorated by stucco work by Antoni Zaleski. The ground floor, originally used as a treasury, has preserved the 16th-century vaults. The main staircase is decorated by the 18th-century representation of 'Aurora' Francisezek Smuglewicz. On the first floor the interiors date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The south side of the court has the three-storey Residence building, built in the 16th century, with a tower. The north side has a corresponding Arsenal building, which also used to house a chapel. These are connected to the palace via gallery structures, which cut the corners of the court. The court is then closed by annexes that connect these buildings to the gate structure.
Corpus Christij Church lies in the eastern part of the town of Nesvizh, next to the street leading to the castle. The plan of the building is based on a Latin cross, with an elongated rectangular body from which project two lateral chapels with five sides and an apsidal chancel. At the crossing of the nave and the transept there is dome. The side chapels are roofed with domes without lanterns.
Among the most valuable fittings are the tomb of Krzysztof Radziwill (1607) and the altar of Holy Cross (1583) by the Venetian sculptors Girolamo Campagna and Cesare Franco. The vaults of the church have frescoes by Ksawery D. Heski from 1852-53. The two-storey facade is divided by a prominent entablature, slightly offset on the axes of the pilasters and topped with a triangular gable. Under the church there is a crypt with the coffins of 72 members of the Radziwill family, dating from the 16th-20th centuries. The church is surrounded by an 18th-century boundary wall.

Historical Description

Historically, Belarus is a trans-boundary place in the European context. Its territory was consecutively part of: the Kievan Russia and Russian Mediaeval Principalities (10th - 13th c.); the Great Duchy of Lithuania (14th c.); the united Polish-Lithuanian state, Republic of Rzeczpopolita (1569-1795); the Russian Empire (1772/1795 - 1917); Poland (for Western Byelorussia, 1921-1939); USSR as Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (from 1922); and the Republic of Belarus (from 1991). Due to these circumstances the territory of Belarus was at historical, cultural, artistic, political, military and religious (Calvinism, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Uniat church, Judaism) crossroads between the East and West.
The Radziwill dynasty, to whom the Nesvizh residence belonged from 1523 to 1939, represents some of the most notable personalities in the European history and culture since the 15th century. The Radziwill landlords governed the territory of the former Rzeczpopolita (now Belarus) and they were the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire since 1518.
The first confirmed records of Nesvizh date from the 15th century. From 1513, it belonged to the Radziwills, who lived here until 1939. Before the castle, there was a manor house, inhabited by Duke Mikolaj Radziwill, the chancellor of Lithuania and voivoda of Vilnius. The duke was protestant, which made Nesvizh an important centre of the Reformation. The first catechism in Belarusian language was printed in the ducal press.
The first phase of the Castle dates from 1582-1604, when Mikolaj Radziwill started the construction of a new seat. It is shown with bastioned fortifications in a drawing of 1604 by T. Makowski ("Nesvisium"). The Residence has survived practically in the original form until the present, while the other parts have been altered or added to later. The galleries were constructed in 1650.
In 1706, the Castle was occupied by the Swedes, who destroyed the fortifications. After their departure, the Castle was renovated by Michal Radziwill in 1732-58, who used architects from Germany, Italy, Poland and Belarus.
In the 19th century, the castle remained uninhabited until the ownership passed to Antoni Radziwill and his French wife Maria de Castellane, who renovated the interiors in 1881-86. They also added a terrace with Neo-Gothic turrets against the palace. They also designed and built the romantic landscape park around the castle complex (1878- 1911). After 1939, it was first taken over by the Soviet army, and subsequently the Germans used it as military hospital. From 1945 to 2001, it was used as a sanatorium. Since then it has been subject to restoration and adaptation to use as museum and as a cultural and visitor centre. In 2002, a fire destroyed the upper part of the residence and a part of the gallery, which were rebuilt in 2003.

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