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Monday, November 5, 2012

Belarus : Mir Castle Complex (2000)

 
The construction of this castle began at the end of the 15th century, in Gothic style. It was subsequently extended and reconstructed, first in the Renaissance and then in the Baroque style. After being abandoned for nearly a century and suffering severe damage during the Napoleonic period, the castle was restored at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a number of other elements and the landscaping of the surrounding area as a park. Its present form is graphic testimony to its often turbulent history.

Justification for Inscription :
Criterion ii: Mir Castle is an exceptional example of a central European castle, reflecting in its design and layout successive cultural influences (Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance) that blend harmoniously to create an impressive monument to the history of this region.
Criterion iv: The region in which Mir Castle stands has a long history of political and cultural confrontation and coalescence, which is graphically represented in the form and appearance of the ensemble.

Long Description :
The region in which Mir Castle stands has a long history of political and cultural confrontation and coalescence, which is graphically represented in the form and appearance of the ensemble. This is a fertile region in the geographical centre of Europe, at the crossroads of the most important trade routes, and at the same time at the epicentre of crucial European and global military conflicts between neighbouring powers with different religious and cultural traditions. The short period of history starting in the late 15th century was marked by a combination of unprecedented changes in the religious, humanitarian and economic spheres. The Mir Castle complex in its setting vividly symbolizes the history of Belarus and, as such, it is one of the major national symbols of the country.
Construction of the castle by the Ilyinichi family began at the end of the 15th century, in Gothic style; it was subsequently extended and reconstructed. The initial work consisted of building the walls and towers in Gothic style, but work came to an end for some unknown reason. Building had been completed by the beginning of the 17th century with the addition of palatial accommodation, with some Renaissance features, after it had passed to the Radzivill family. Following sieges in 1655 and 1706 reconstruction work involved the addition of some Baroque features. After being abandoned for almost a century and suffering severe damage during the Napoleonic period, the castle was restored at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a number of other elements and the landscaping of the surrounding area as a park. Its present form is graphic testimony to an often turbulent history. The old castle survived as a romantic ruin.
The Mir Castle complex is situated on the bank of a small lake at the confluence of the Miryanka river and a small tributary. The fortified walls of the castle form an irregular quadrilateral; there are four exterior corner towers with hipped roofs rising to five storeys and a six-storey external gate tower on the western side. The facades are in brick, with recessed painted plasterwork, and the window and door frames and the balconies are sandstone. The roofs are tiled, some of the tiling being glazed.
Near the castle is the Chapel-Crypt of the Dukes of Svyatopolk-Mirsky. Its facade is decorated with a mosaic panel depicting the image of Christ, made from multicoloured tesserae. Other features are the watchman's house, close to the north of chapel crypt; the palace annex built in the late 19th century, which is located in the landscape park area with stuccoed and decorated facades. The ruins of the main palace building are situated at the eastern outskirts of the complex and are not currently in use. The 19th-century chapel is a tiny stone stuccoed building. The memorial on the site of the massacre of the Mir ghetto prisoners lies in the northern part of the complex, to the east of the former Italian garden.

Historical Description :
The castle was built in the late 15th or early 16th century (the first reference to it dates from 1531) by the Ilyinichi family. The initial work consisted of building the walls and towers in Gothic style, but work came to an end for some unknown reason. Building had been completed by the beginning of the 17th century with the addition of palatial accommodation, with some Renaissance features (including an Italian-style garden and a system of ponds), after it had passed to the Radzivill family in 1569. This work was probably supervised by the Italian architect Gian Maria Bernardoni.
Following sieges in 1655 and 1706 reconstruction work involved the addition of some Baroque features. It was badly damaged during the Napoleonic period, in 1794 and again in 1812, and it remained in a state of ruinous abandon until the late 19th century, when the complex was purchased by the Duke of Svyatopolk-Mirsky, who began laying out a landscape park with a lake. A new palace (destroyed in 1914) and other structures (chapel, watchman's house, etc) were erected within the grounds. The old castle survived as a romantic ruin. Some restoration work was carried out in the 1920s and 1930s, as a result of which some Secession and Romantic elements were added. During World War II it served as a prison camp and a ghetto. Restoration did not start in earnest again until 1982.

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