The Old Grodno Castle was built in the 11th century as a complex of fortifications and culture buildings. This is the only royal palace that survived in Belarus (except for the New Grodno castle located next to it). For a long period of history, the palace was a residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and kings of Poland.
The Beginning of Construction
In the 11th century, the Gorodensky citadel was located there. After the fire in the 12th century, the citadel was reconstructed and served as a residence for Grodno dukes. In the 13th century, Grodno was included in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the citadel was frequently attacked by Crusaders. In 1391, it was made a residence of Vytautas the Great, the governor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1398 the wooden fortress was rebuilt into a stone castle with 5 towers. It has preserved its general appearance to this very day.
At around the same time, a church was built on its premises. Some archaeologists say that it was built based on the same technologies as the Kalozha church, and probably by the same architects. The distinctive feature of this church is that it was constructed using split stones that were laid together with bricks. This technique was used to save on building materials and strengthen the walls.
The Middle Ages
In 1445, Casimir IV, the governor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, welcomed a Polish ambassador who arrived at the castle to propose him to become the king of the Kingdom of Poland. Later, Stephen Báthory, the Grand Duke of Lithuania and the King of Poland, frequently stayed at the palace. On his initiative, it was rebuilt in the Renaissance style, with the work led by an Italian architect Santi Gucci.
Losing Its Power and Significance
At the beginning of the 18th the castle was set on fire during the Great Northern War and forever lost its significance. In the middle of the 18th century, the New Castle was built nearby, and the Old Castle lost its positions.
After the partitions of Rzeczpospolita, also known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Grodno takeover by the Russian Empire, the castle hosted officer assemblies, barracks, a military hospital, and storage. From 1863 to 1864 it served as a prison to the revolt participants.
These days it hosts the main exposition of the Grodno Museum of History and Archaeology. The government has designed a reconstruction project and the castle is supposed to regain its former appearance. The renovation works began in 2015.
Would you like to see the castle yourself? Book our tour around Grodno and feel the atmosphere that prevailed there in times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Or set off on one of our history tours to learn more about Belarus in ancient times. No matter what you choose, rest assured that you will have a great time!