Aug 30

Lida Castle (Castelul Lida)

Lida Castle has been constructed at the beginning of the 14th century by the order of the Grand Duke Gediminas who intended to protect his lands regardless of the price paid. His worry for a possible invasion was natural taking into account that the Teutonic Knights were looking to develop and enhance their properties.

In fact, Lida Castle is but a part in the defense mechanism developed by the duke. The system consisted of various fortifications erected in the towns of Hrodna, Medininkai, Navahrudak, Kreva and Trakai.

The castle is strategically positioned as it is naturally defended on two sides, the eastern and the western parts, by the Lida and Kamenka rivers. The stone walls of the fortifications were erected between 1323 and 1325, this timeframe also being characterized by the construction of two towers and a church.

Despite his strong desire to defend his lands, the Grand Duke did not succeed to fulfill his goal as the castle fell under the ruling of the Teutonic Knights two times: in 1384 and then in 1392.

The history of the castle is quite tumultuous in the sense that the fortification was ravaged by the destructive forces of warfare on many occasions. Thus, it was pillaged by the Crimean Tatars in the first years of the 16th century and then later on, in the second half of the 17th century, by the Russian soldiers (during the Russo-Polish War).

Probably the most important event which was extremely detrimental to the castle consisted of the time when it was taken over by the Swedish soldiers, who had decided to destroy the two guarding towers.

Near the end of the 19th century, the Lida Castle caught fire and the result was that several dwellings were destroyed. In order to help with the rebuilding process of these lodgings, it had been agreed upon “dismantling” the western wall rock by rock. This was meant to provide easy access to the houses destroyed by fire and thus accelerate their restoration.


After the 1900s, the scope of the fortification shifted 360°. The location was used by wandering circuses and zoos, having been transformed into an entertainment center, the fact that it represented an important historical site seemed to have gone out of everyone’s mind.

The restoration work for the castle was initiated as late as 1982 and while several sections were rebuilt, having regained their former appearance, the real renovation took place in 2010, when the castle was significantly improved.

Since it recovered its former glory, the castle has been steadily and surely transformed into a real cultural institution. There is a medieval tournament organized on an annual basis and at present, tourists can visit the museum which has been arranged inside the remaining tower of the castle.

It is important to accurately depict the value of this castle. As the previous paragraphs clearly underline, Lida Castle is extremely rich in historical events, everything that had happened throughout time at this site contributed to defining the Belarusian evolution, and more precisely the development of the town of Lida.

Why has this specific castle become such a renowned tourist attraction? Because the municipality knew precisely how to promote the fortification so as to allure tourists and convince them to pay Lida a visit. For instance, in the wintertime, the courtyard of the castle is modified so as to favor ice skating.


It can be concluded that the castle incorporates both the past and the present. While the edifice in itself stands for the historical times, the events organized with regularity within the castle are representative for the present, thus attracting visitors with their entertaining activities.

At present, Lida Castle is protected by the state, having been declared an archeological monument back in 1940, and having been listed among the monuments which form the state heritage in 1953.

Jul 27

Neamt Fortress (Cetatea Neamt)

Located in the north-eastern part of Neamt County, in close proximity of Targu Neamt, the fortress is listed among the most valuable medieval monuments located on the Romanian territory. The origin and existance of the fortress is tightly connected to the history of the region which dates back more than 7 milenia.

But unfortunately, there is no accurate account which clearly presents the moment when the fortress came into being. Because of this, many stories have emerged, each with the puspose of explaining the origin of the keep. But the truthfulness of these stories is questionable.


There is documentary evidence according to which during the Teuton estblishment in Barsei County (1211-1225) a fortification was constructed on the eastern slope of the Carpathians. Numerous historians have concluded that this fortification had to refer to Neamt Fortress.

In fact this germanic origin has been adopted by many Romanian historians due to the fact that they had to provide an explanation concerning the construction of the edifice. In assuming the veridity of this hyphothesis, the historians also took into account the name that the fortress bore.


But the historical accounts could not be sustained by the archeological discoveries. These diggings brought to light that the materials used in the construction of the inferior part of fortress dated from the second part of Petru I’s reign over the region, when Moldova underwnet an economic and political development. Thus, the theory which claimed that Teutons were responsible for the erection of the keep was no longer valid.

In fact, the theory of Transylvanian Saxons having built the fortress doesn’t have valid grounds because the small colony which dwelt in that region did not have the authority or the financial resources to realize such a collosal  military construction. More so, the archeological diggings did not validate this theory and there are no official documents which would sustain this theory either.


The historian Radu Popa accurately emphasized that the Neamt Fortress is an ample construction which had to have requested important financial means and that such resources were not likely to be found anywhere else except in the feudal period.

Neamt Fortress is situated atop the highest peak of Plesu Mountain and it is one of the most well put together fortresses which was constructed during the medieval times on the Moldovian territory.

The location chosen for the fortress was perfect for defense purposes as the mountainous peak was shaped almost triangularly, measuring almost 480 m in height (above sea level) and 80 m above the water level of Neamt River.


The fortress is shaped as an irregular rectangular, the structure having been adapted to the terrain. The structure of the construction is said to have been influenced by the Polish-Lithuanian architectural style.

The defense towers located in the four sides of the fortress have not been constructed at the exterior, but have been included directly in the frame of the walls.

Initially, the fortification measured 12-15 m in height and 3 m in thickness. But in time, the walls have been fortified so as to offer better protection against enemy attacks. Later on, further work was conducted to the walls in as much that these gained 6 or 7 m in height.


Access to the fortress is done via an arched bridge sustained by 11 colums. The curved pathway was intended as a defense mechanism. It was assumed that the enemy soldies would have to shift their weapons from one hand to another in order to begin their attack, thus getting tired much easier.

Neamt Fortress has become a historical monument in 1866. In order to preserve the fortification as best as possible, several restoration works were initiated in the 20th century (1968-1972). At present, the mighty fortress is one of the most important tourist attractions in Neamt County. It is definitely worth visiting so if you are ever in the vicinity, do not miss your chance to gaze on one of the most imposing military constructions built in the medieval times.

Apr 23

The Lublin Castle (Castelul Lublin)

The Lublin Castle is located in Poland, in close proximity to the center of the city Lublin. It is a medieval citadel and one of the oldest castles which have survived the passage of time. The castle was erected by king Casimir II the Just and it served as royal dwelling.


The structure of the Lublin Castle, as it is today, is the result of years of construction and renovation. The castle is situated on a hill which has been fortified for the first time in the 12th century when a wall made out of wood and stone was erected. The first decades of the 13th century witnessed the construction of the stone keep. This is not only the oldest edifice within the city of Lublin but also the highest one in the area.


King Casimir the Great gives order for the castle to be reconstructed in the 14th century. The reason behind the reconstruction work is the king’s wish to fortify the edifice, by making it out of stone. The Lublin Castle also holds a church, the Holy Trinity, and even though the actual period when the church was constructed is unknown, there are reasons to believe that it dates from the reign of Casimir the Great.

The painting work for this chapel, initiated in the first years of the 15th century, were finished in 1418. It is remarkable the fact that the illustrations did not suffer massive deterioration, and even today, tourists can admire the original painting done by Master Andrej.

The painter’s inimitable artistic design which draws inspiration from both the eastern and western orthodox elements has transformed the castle into a valuable monument which has gained universal praise.

When Poland was ruled by the Jagiellon family, the castle was one of their favorite places.  Because of this, the castle was reconstructed in the 16th century but the result was impressive. Everything was “updated” so that it would be fit of a royal family. In order to meet the Jagiellon family’s expectations, architects were brought from Italy to supervise the reconstruction work.

Important historical events took place within the walls of this castle and probably the most important one is the moment when the document attesting the Union of Lublin was signed in 1569.

The 17th century was not a very good period for the castle as this was badly damaged during the wars that ravaged Poland at that time. It was between 1826 and 1828 that the castle underwent restoration work. This was possible due to the territorial settlement reached upon by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Following the decision of the congress, Poland decided to initiate the renovation of the edifice. The architectural design used for the castle was English Neo-gothic. The renovation led to a completely new edifice which had nothing in common with the old one it replaced.  But the purpose was also different: the castle was meant as a criminal prison.

The only sections that maintained their original look were the keep and the chapel. The castle maintained its status as a prison for 128 years and it was not until 1954 that the role of the castle as a penitentiary ceased. It took 3 years to reconstruct the edifice and ever since the Lublin Castle has been the home of the Lublin Museum.

Apr 18

Trascau Fortress (Cetatea Trascau)

Those interested in historical facts would definitely want to visit Trascau Fortress. This is a medieval fortification, built somewhere around 1296 by the sub-voivode Thoroczkay. The construction also goes by the name Coltesti Fortress, especially since it is located in Coltesti Village, from Alba County. This was built for defense purposes, as well as a refuge in times of turmoil when the region was pillaged by Tatar armies.

The fortress had been devastated by enemies once before, so the people of Trascau decided to rebuilt the citadel on a hilltop – the location being chosen in purpose on a steep calcareous rock so as to make it harder for invaders to take control of it.


The fortress had been confiscated by Matei Corvin in 1470 and left in the care of the Transylvania Voivodeship, but after 40 years it returns to the Thoroczkay (Trascau) family. The fortress suffered immense damage in 1514 when the peasants led by Gheorghe Doja pillaged the citadel. But the Austrian Imperial Army, led by General Tiege, was the one to devastate the fortress almost in its entirety in 1713. The armed confrontation was a consequence of the fact that the Thoroczkay noblemen refused to join Transylvania and the Habsburg Empire.

At present, only two towers and a significant part of the lateral walls are preserved. However, on the northern tower (which exceeds 20 meters in height) visitors can still read the inscription which attributes the construction of the fort to the Thoroczkay family.

Trascau Fortress has been recorded among the Historical Monuments of Alba County, a list issued by the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Cults in 2004.

Even if the keep has not maintained its original structure, tourists can still make out the towering edifice. The ruins of Trascau Fortress and the overall scenery will transpose any visitor to those historical times. One cannot help but feel respect and admiration for the historical past written in the walls of the fortification.