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Exotic landmarks of Ukraine
Olena Krushynska continues her indefatigable search for unusual old architectural landmarks in the villages and towns of Ukraine.
An Odd Castle
The silhouette of the castle in Sydoriv is truly unique in Ukraine — it looks like a mighty icebreaker ready to sail over the waves of tall grasses in the fields of the Land of Podillya.
The castle, which is situated not far from the River Zbruch, was built in the 1640s. Its architectural design reflects the founder’s verve and Îlan. The founder was Marcin Malinowski, a Polish magnate, among whose fiefs was the neighboring town of Husyatyn. Malinowski was known for his construction zeal — “I build where and when my whim takes me.”
The Polish aristocrat must have taken part in designing his castle which rises over thirty meters high into the air and stretches on the ground for almost two hundred meters! The walls around the castle follow the ground plan of the castle. The moat, now dry, was filled with water from a nearby small river. From the castle’s ramparts and towers you could see far into the distance and anybody approaching, with good or ill intentions, could be spotted from afar. To get to the gate in the wall, you had to ride along a path that ran close to the wall — your right side, not protected by the shield, would be thus exposed to the missiles hurled at you by the castle defenders, if you were thought to be an enemy.
The “prow” of the ship-castle is formed by the walls and a defense tower. The castle used to have a keep surrounded by smaller massive towers which, in combination, provided excellent defensive capabilities.
But as they say, castles and walls are only as strong as the men who defend them. In the second half of the seventeenth century the castle was several times besieged and captured by the invading Turkish armies. The Turks finally destroyed the castle but it was largely rebuilt in the early eighteenth century by one of the descendants of Marcin Malinowski, the castle’s founder. There is a plaque fixed above the gate that says in Latin that the rebuilding of the castle was completed in 1718 and it goes on to inform those who would care to read the inscription, of the previous history of the castle. The plaque also carries the family coat of arms of the new owners of the castle — Kalinowski and his wife. The castle acquired several new buildings, among them the living quarters of the owners.
After Ludowik Kalinowski’s death, the castle was inherited by his daughter. She must have neglected to maintain the castle in good order as is evidenced by a document, compiled by a local official for a court of law. The document that dates from 1771, says in part, “The castle is made of stone; it is surrounded by stone walls…inside the castle, many doors are missing, the roofs are leaking…There are four ponds near the castle; their dams are in a poor state and there is no fish in the ponds… I [the compiler of the document] was told in the local tavern by some of the locals that the mills and the brewery are in a poor condition… the nearby villages are in a rundown state too…”
By the mid-nineteenth century the castle was hardly more than a ruin which was used by the local people as a quarry for getting stone for their own needs. This process continued well into the twentieth century. Some of the castle stones were used for paving the roads but it did not seem to improve them one bit — the roads continue to be as bad as they always were. The rutted, bumpy roads are hardly an invitation for potential tourists to come and have a look at the ruins of a once mighty castle.
Panoramic view of Sydoriv with the castle
in the background.
The Church Shaped Like Coat of Arms
The castle — or what has been left of it — is not the only architectural landmark in Sydoriv. On a hill, close to the castle, there stands a church which was built in 1741 with the money donated by the then owner of the castle Ludowik Kalinowski. The Dominican Church of the Most Holy Virgin Mary is believed to have been designed by Ian de Witte, the commandant of the Kamyanets fortress and an architect, engineer into the bargain.
Kalinowski wanted the design of the church to reflect in some way the design of his coat of arms which had silver arrows and golden stars in it. The interior of the church does seem to have something of Kalinowski’s coat of arms in it — the altar section may be imagined to be the tip of an arrow and the flanking towers on both sides of the entrance are octagonal in plan and thus can be suggestive of stars. The church was reconstructed several times in later years but the reconstructions did not change the general Ukrainian Baroque appearance of the church. The crypt under the church was meant to be the burial place for the Kalinowski family but there is nothing left there which could indicate its original purpose. The church, badly neglected in the soviet atheistic times, is in a dilapidated condition but there are plans to have it restored. Recently, after some preliminary restoration, the religious services in the church have begun to be held.
The ground plan of the church is suggestive
of Kalinowski’s coat of arms.
In the village of Okopy which is situated at the confluence of the River Zbruch and the River Dnister, I discovered the remnants of fortifications of rather an unusual appearance which date from the seventeenth century. As it turned out, these fortifications were ordered to be built by the Polish king John III Sobieski (1624–1696, the very king who routed the Turks near Vienna thus preventing them from invading Europe). The construction of the fortifications in Okopy dates from the early 1690s, when John Sobieski planned to capture the town of Kamyanets from the Turks who by that time had established their rule over a considerable part of Ukraine. The construction work was completed in six weeks and was financed by Stanislaw Jan Jablonowski, a Polish magnate.
Two earthen walls were erected at about 500 meters one from the other stretching the land from the Zbruch to the Dnister. Several stone towers rose above the walls; the towers that stood above the gates had gun emplacements on the second floor.
The fortifications served their purpose well — their garrisons took part in the siege of Kamyanets, disrupted Turkish communications and food supplies, and destroyed small Turkish units in skirmishes. After the Turks left, the fortifications were used for a military purpose only one more time, in 1768 when some Polish units fought against Russian troops.
After the third partition of Poland (a series of wars led to the conclusion of treaties among the victorious powers — Russia, Austria and Prussia — between 1795 and 1797 on the third partition of Poland; by the terms of the treaties, the Russian Empire received about half of the remaining Polish territory, and Prussia and Austria each received about a quarter; with these events, the Polish state disappeared from the map of Europe until the twentieth century), the fortifications in Okopy came into disuse and only some remnants of it — ruins of towers and gates — bear witness to once powerful fortification facility. The memorial plaque at one of the towers, Kamyanetska, says that it was restored in 1905 by the Polish Society of Enthusiasts of Antiquity Admirers with the money donated by Count Mecislaw Dunin-Borkowski.
Photos by the author.