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Ruzhany Castle

Pruzhany, Belarus

The palace complex in Ruzhany is one of the unique places in Belarus. For centuries this magnificent architectural ensemble, nicknamed the Belarusian Versailles, was owned by the mighty Sapieha dynasty.

The first written record of Ruzhany dates back to the late 15th century -  before 1552 it had belonged to the Tyshkevich dynasty. The place was famous for its cloth, carpets, decorated belts and pottery. Big fairs were held in the town..

In 1598 the Ruzhany estate was bought by  the famous magnate and politician, the chancellor and one of the authors of the unique code of laws, the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lew Sapieha who ordered a major construction of the estate in the early 17th century.  Soon a castle with three towers was biult in Ruzhany,  combining the traits of a defensive fortress and a ceremonial palace.

In the 17th century Ruzhany Castle was a center of political life in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania where a lot of important state  issues were discussed. The castle  hosted state receptions for kings and ambassadors.

The state treasury of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the arsenal, state documents, the archive of the Sapieha family, food supplies and casks with wine were kept in the huge two-storied cellars of the castle.

Later in the 17th century the castle was plundered and left in half-decay due to feuds between local Polish gentry and the Great Northern War.

In the 1770s Ruzhany’s owner Aleksander Sapieha rebuilt the residence. Saxon architect Jan Samuel Becker  turned the castle  into an elegant palace which boasted gardens, parks and greenhouses.

Combining two architectural styles, baroque and classicism, the castle was equal in beauty to the famous Versailles. The restoration works finished in 1786.

Ruzhany Castle was proud of  its rich library, a picture gallery and one of the best theaters in Europe. Around 60 artists and 40 musicians played in its troupe, and many performances were staged in French. After the 1831 rebellion the Ruzhany residence was confiscated and the Sapieha family members had to move to another estate. A merchant leased the castle and set up a weaving factory here which was operational until the 20th century.

During the First World War the complex was ruined again  and during the Second World War seriously damaged. Only the main building and the eastern one, the entry gate and several outbuildings survived.

In 2008 restoration and excavation works began at the site of this ancient residence of the Sapieha family.

To date, the reconstruction of the entrance and some outbuildings has been finished.

Nowadays  Ruzhany Castle is partially open for tourists.

The museum Palace Complex of the Sapieha Family is open in the eastern outbuilding where one can see authentic items and elements of the interior. One of the halls is dedicated to the Sapieha dynasty, while the gallery hosts expositions of Belarusian artists.

Since 2011 the yearly festival Ruzhanskaya Brama has been held in the castle. Its guests can get familiar with the history of the residence, enjoy excursions, historical re-enactments and artists’ performances and also visit a folk crafts fair.

Ruzhany Castle is located in Pruzhany District, Brest Region

There is one small hotel in Ruzhany but it will probably be more reasonable to come here for one day.

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