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Great Ukrainian Castles

Great Ukrainian Castles

Ancient treasure of Ukrainian lands

A great amount of historical events lies buried in the land of Ukraine and we, the heritage, has only to predict what happened here many years ago. Ukraine is the country rich in places of interest that can bring a great feeling for anyone visiting them. Hence one of the main and unforgettable parts of out country is its ancient castles and fortresses. Here one can feel the breath of real history. Many of them are located in the hilly or mountain surroundings in the Western part of Ukraine. Right here the influence of refined Europe is felt in the highest level. That Europe that gifted the world with unique art masterpieces. It is present here in every stone. Of course, many of the Ukrainian fortifications properties are remained as ruins, not being fully reconstructed, but this is the real treasure for every Ukrainian.

Berezhany castle

The outstanding Ukrainian real estate is located in a small town in Ternopil region – Berezhany. It was built in 1534-1554 by Polish magnates - the Seniavskys. The castle includes the palace with an entrance gate, guarding walls, a bastion , a quarter tower and a church. It was unapproachable. The castle was created by Italian architects but there are many Ukranian features in its design and layout. The walls from the North side had 2 m in width, from the South-West side- almost 6 meters. The beautiful carved ceiling is present in Seniavsky's chapel. Now this property in Ukraine is not used and stands lonely in town's park near the beautiful Zolota Lypa River.

The castle is fanned with legends and stories. The collection of fine art was rich and very famous. There were some special rooms decorated by gold and silver that mostly were used in order to receive noble guests. All that gone without any track and only some sculptures remained .You can see them as a part of permanent exhibitions in Krakow and Lviv Art Galleries. The name of the castle church is the Church of St.Trinity.

Berezhany castle is considered to be the masterpiece of defensive architecture in Ukraine and in whole Europe.It was designed by famous French architect Beauplan and built by the Italian masters. Castle was home for the Polish magnates and Kings and even Peter the Great of Russia visited it twice.

View of the castle Residues of the medieval decor... Domes of the ancient building...

In 1554 in Berezhany the construction of unseen before in this area stone castle was finished. The castle was strengthened and enlarged later - in 1570- and in the 1-st quarter of 17- th century. Unlike other fortifications Berezhany Castle emerged not on a high, unapproachable mountain but in a deep boggy river valley, on an island, formed by two flows of Golden Lime Tree river. Besides these natural features, the defensiveness of the castle was strengthened by the deep gutters with water and high land walls. Berezhany castle images those great changes that took place in castle architecture in the middle of 16 th century, namely the transition of the castles from military defense buildings into residential ones. This evolution touched not only the outer appearance but also castle’s lay out. So, in Berezhany castle, not defense walls but residential buildings were built along the perimeter of the castle’s yard. Outer walls of these residential buildings had canon holes. The front sides with big windows and two stories arcades - galleries which remind the Italian palazzos were turned to the side of the courtyard. In the 17 th century, at the Eastern part of the castle, a palace decorated with white stone carving was built. For its luxury decorations it was compared to Krakow’s Wall. Under the lords halls and apartments, there were smaller rooms for the lord guards, poor guests as well as warehouses. There were also battle towers, three of which have been preserved until nowadays. An entrance gate decorated with stone carving and chain bridge led to the castle. Interesting monument of medieval architecture is castle Roman Catholic
church in the yard of the castle. Despite the mixture of different styles provided by reconstructions, the beauty of architectural lines, harmonic correlation of forms, the perfection of separate details provide basis to consider (along with Roman Catholic churches in Ternopil, Mykulyntsi and Sydoriv) as the best monument of Roman Catholic Church Art, which has been preserved until nowadays.
The central part of church with Gothic like building fragments and windows was built at the same time the castle was built. Later, in the first half of the 17 th century, two renaissance chapels with some baroque features and elegiac interior domes on the top, were formed. Exceptional artistic value had the interior design of the church. Only baroque sculptural decoration pattern of the dome interior, western chapel and partly drawings and sculptural ornamentation over the choruses are left. Some of the marble grave stones and sarcophaguses of the owners of the castle belonged to the masterpieces of sculptural arts. Now they are almost fully destroyed, namely the pair gravestone of Mykolaj and Hieronim Sieniawskiy (Mykola and Ieronim Syniavskiy) of 1582, created by the outstanding artist Henrich Gorst, and also two gravestones and sarcophaguses, formed in 1619 - 1636 by well-known sculptor Jan Pfister. They represented the best samples of European sculpture of that time.  Sieniawski sarcophagus has been taken by Polish authorities retreating from the Soviet occupation in 1939 and as far as I read was placed in Piaskowa Skala Church near Cracow. Some of Berezhany sculptures and exhibited remained at the Olesko Castle Museum in Olesko close to the Lviv city. With the Russian Soviet occupation of Berezhany in 1939 and occupation of the town in 1944, new Russian authorities set a bomb in the castle and deliberately destroyed it. And all during the Soviet times and Soviet stagnation years the castle was ultimately became the ruins. The fires of two world wars also brought much to the destruction of this Ukrainian real estate. It is worthy to admit that at the beginning of the 17 th century Berezhany became a kind of the art center, where many famous artists and masters used to live. Jan Pfister possessed his stone house here. In some sources he was even referred as "Berezhany sculptor and townsman".

Berezhany castle, as a property in Ukraine of civil and masterpiece architecture was the exceptional creation of local artists. Its connection with the Ukrainian, Polish and Italian architecture can be traced in the planning of the building, in its external look. It impressed the fancy of people of different times. With astonishment Berezhany Castle was described by outstanding traveler Ulrich von Verdum, who saw already not just one majestic fortifications back in Belgium, France, Germany. Polish writer Z. Kaczkowski described Berezhany castle in his well-known novel "Sodalis Marianus" in the 19 th century. Here among noisy parties life of Berezhany owners passed. Such a luxury demanded serious spending, so the magnates used the work of poor peasantry. Besides the maintenance of "royal court" of Sieniawski dynasty, half hungry society was obliged "to fortify and repair the ground walls and wood fences" for the guarding and also to keep on guard the ready guns and dust, in order to defend the town wherever there is such a need. In the castle Berezhany people had the right to hide only in case when the town was conquered. During the alarm the inhabitants of whole surrounding areas were escaping there.

Goncharna Tower

The first protective structures in Kamianets’ were built in the areas where the island was most susceptible: at the narrow isthmus in the West and on the gentle slope of the canyon in the North-West part. Built in the 11th-13th centuries these earthworks served as the basic foundation for the Old Castle and Polish gate complex. Taking the Kamianets-Podilsky fortress as the sample, one can trace the history of protective architecture in Ukraine. Apart from the main fortifications there was a system of structures made of walls constructed to defend particular sections of the city. They include the Stephan Bathory tower and the gate in the city's outskirts, Turkish bastions and walls. In the Eastern and South-Eastern side there is a chain of towers- Potter, Slyusarska, Kushnirska united by a bulwark while in the south-west there are high defensive walls skirting the Armenian quarters on a long terrace.

The Potter Tower was the main fortification of the Eastern part of the whole city. It was built in 1583 by Kamianets potters ( they used to live in this part of the town) The tower was repaired in 1669- at that time it had 5 stories and a high roof with a watch (after the world war 2 the tower was rebuilt in 1960-1961 in the forms of the 17th c ). It is interesting to admit that the highest raw of the gun-slots are cut from outside: it was made for lead bullets to ricoushette. It's the only a sample of such gun-slots in Ukraine. Sometimes the tower was and is also called Durer tower because that type of gun-slots was invented by this well-knwon German artist.

What one can see near the Tower is the 19th century synagogue. What an irony of Soviet life-after the World War 2 there was a popular restaurant" The Old Castle there , and now it's a night-club" The Fort-post".

It used to be many years ago Tower and autumn... Stone to stone... Tower in green surroundings...

Mukachevo castle

The citadel was a residence of mighty Koriatovych family for almost 200 years. During the period of ruling of prince Felix Koriatovych the fortress became one of the most invulnerable in the whole country. The prince and his family used to live in the highest side of the castle, there was a really rich and luxurious interior there. The citadel  has a good armory: 164 cannonades of different sizes and 60 barrels of gun-powder. The building was surrounded by deep ditch. The inner bank of the ditch was surrounded by the strong wooden fence wall (in Ukrainian this sort of fence is called "palanok", that's why this Ukrainian property is known as Palanok Castle. The area of this fortress is 14000 m2 the castle consists of 130 different premises with a complicated system of underground passages between them. The castle was the centre of the rebel lead by Ferenc Rakoshy. Since 1789 the castle was utilized as a jail. In 1926 the citadel became a barracks, later there was an agricultural college in it. Nowadays it's a museum.

Terrific view in rainy day... ...and under the sunshine the castle stands on the hill... pleasant courtyard is opened for visitors...

Tykhoml castle

Tykhoml Castle is located in the Khmelnitskiy region in the Western part of Ukraine.

On this image one can see the residues of the Tyhoml Castle. The chapel-tower is standing in the centre of an ancient settlement in the Northern part of
Khmelnytsky region in the Western Ukraine, near the town of Jampol. The settlement is well known since 1152, in the 16th century it was the fief of Seniuta family. The oratory was built over The Seniutas graves, and was renewed in the 18th century. Visitors can find the residues of frescos there. In fact this place is almost unknown even for inhabitants of the Khmelnytsky region.

Residues of outstanding oratory...

Halych Castle

This famous historical memorial is located in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, in small ancient town Halych. For today the castle is presented as ruins.

Halych used to be a capital of famous Halych Rus in the 11-th – 13-th centuries. The fortification ruins are standing on the mountain looking over the Dniester river. It has a triangular form and possesses 5 towers and 3 gates. There are many secrete passages and cellars. The castle has a long and rich history of multiple destructions and reconstructions.

Probably it is necessary to say a few words about the state of which Halych was the capital. Halytske and Volynske Principalties were segments of the once powerful state of Kyivan Rus, which began to disintegrate after the death of its greatest ruler Yaroslav the Wise in the mid-eleventh century. Roman Mstyslavych who brought these two principalities together into the Halytsko-Volynsky state, took upon himself to renew the unity of Kyivan Rus, and in 1203 he added Kyiv and its surrounding lands to his state. But in 1205 he died and the new state entered a period of internal controversy and temporary disintegration. The neighboring states of Hungary and Poland were not slow in trying to utilize the flexible situation in the Halytsko-Volynsky Principality to their advantage and sent herds to gain by force as much territory as possible. Resistance to the external power resulted in the expulsion of the invaders in 1221, but it was only under the Grand Duke and King — Danylo Romanovych that the unition of Halytske and Volynske Principalities in one state was fully renewd in 1238. The same year Danylo routed a force of German nights who attempted an invasion.

Danylo then set out to expand his state and again introduced Kyiv into his lands but in 1240 Kyiv was captured and conquered by the devastating Mongol invasion. The Mongols proceeded westward and brought death to Danylo’s lands. In spite of great human and material losses the Halytsko-Volynsky state survived and even found enough power to beat off the renewed aggression from Hungary and Poland that decided that Danylo was too depleted by the Mongols to fight back. In the struggle in Yaroslav on 17 August 1245, Danylo, aided by Vasylko Romanovych, defeated the Polish and Hungarian army, reinforced by the forces of the Halytsko-Volynsky rebellious boyars. The union of the Halytsko-Volynsky state was once again reaffirmed.

Ancient ruins... Current view of the castle... Ruins of basement... Castle on the hill...

In 1245 Danylo went to the Golden Horde, and though he received the Golden Horde khan’s supremacy, he was in turn recognized as the sole ruler of the Halytsko-Volynsky Principality. In the 1250s he signed a number of military operations against the Golden Horde, which made his state virtually independent of the Mongols. In 1253 he was crowned as King. Danylo died in 1264 and was buried in his capital Kholm.
Several decades later, with no ruler strong enough to manage the unity of the Halytsko-Volynsky sate and preserve its independence, the Halytsko-Volynsky state ceased to exist after it was overrun by Poland.

Ivano Castle

Castle ruins...

These ruins one can see in Ivano-Frankivsk region, in the Ukrainian Carpathians .This property in Ukraine was founded on the mountain near the Bystrytsa river. It has pentagonal form and possesses 4 towers in the corners (the towers are round ) and has triangular projection on the Eastern side with 2 rows of arrow-slits. It was built in 15th-16th centuries, lost its functions at the beginning of the 19th century. The castle was considered to be one of the strongest fortifications in the Western Ukraine.

Izyaslav Castle

This residues of the strong and famous fortification are located in the town of Iziaslav (the North of Khmelnytsky region, Western Ukraine). It used to be the feudal establishment of mighty Sangushky magnate family. The castle was built in the 16th century. The ruins consist of a 2-storeyed "skarbnytsa"(Treasury), basement and a cellar. The interesting welkin is preserved in the treasury. There are lucarnes in the cellars. The ruins are used by none and only in historic annals we can read about one of the richest collection of really old books and art-works that was in this castle earlier. Where are the marble columns and floor, where the tapestries and paintings-there is no answer there will not be ever.

Ruins of the famous Izyaslav castle...

Kamyanets-Podilskiy Castle

You can't imagine Kamianets-Podilsky, ancient and extremely beautiful town in the Khmelnytsky region located in the Western Ukraine without outstanding Old Castle, a unique fortified structure of the 11th-18th centuries. The castle was created on a rocky cape near the narrow isthmus that was crossed by the road to the Old City. Stone fortresses of the 11th century, which replaced the even older ones didn't resemble the today citadel of 11 towers united by high strong walls. Residues of Old fortress were found in different sections of the castle. In the late 14th-middle 15-th century Spytko Melsztynski, a Krakow voivoda ventured an attempt to renovate the castle. In the middle of 15th century it was rebuilt: the old towers were reconstructed and 10 new ones were created, 2 of which have not survived. In the middle of the 16th century another rebuilding was started by Iov Pretfes, a military engineer and architect who constructed the New Western and New Eastern towers over the old well ( it still exists today) and the Polna Gate with a bridge whose residues have been recently found. At the beginning of the 17th century with the advent of long-distance artillery, Theofil Schomberg, a military man, built the stone and earth bastion fortifications on the west facade which were given the name of the New Fortress. In1672 the castle was captured by the Turkish troops led by Mohammed IV .However, this defeat resulted from the peculiarities in the historical development of well-known Rzecz Pospolita. In the 18th-19th centuries 2 bastions were added from the North and the South while the barracks were built in the inner yard. In spite of the considerable alterations to the Castle complex, it can still be seen as a single architectural whole. In 1711 Peter the Great paid visit to the castle and was very impressed by its fortresses. All visitors come to the castle through the Turkish  bridge and there is a theory that it was built by Roman legionnaires while the emperor Traian reign. The town of Kamianets-Podilsky posseses more than 100 architectural buildings including churches, palaces ,towers and other places of interest.

Castle in Kamyanets... Ancient buildings... Mysterious fortification...

Letychiv castle

This castle is in Khmelnytsky region is located close to Medzhybizh , in the town of Letychiv. The town itself is standing on the bank of a tremendous lake .The residues of the castle and a monastery are in the centre of this tiny town. The fortress was built on the place of a wooden fortification in the 16th century and a church appeared simultaneously. The church was on fire for many times and was rebuilt in 1724. The castle was not very strong enough. Only one of 4 castle’s towers and walls left remained until now. The monument near the tower is Ustym Karmaluk, memorial to our Ukrainian Robin Hood. He lived in the first half of the 19th century, robbed the rich people and gave their gold to the poor. He was caught for many times, 2 times he was put to jail in Kamianets-Podilsky Ukrainian property, but he always was able to escape. But one time he was caught and killed in Letychiv. His grave in the town cemetery is another Letychiv's place of interest.

Memorial to Ustym Karmaluk... Beautiful castle in the heart of Western Ukraine...

Lutsk Castle

This beautiful and luxurious fortress is standing in the capital of Volyn region, Lutsk city. It's a typical Ukrainian citadel of 13th-14th centuries. Sometimes this fortress is called "the Upper Castle " or the fortification of Lubart Hedyminovych (it's the name of one of the first host of the citadel, the well-known warrior prince ). The castle was built between the Styr and the Maly Glushets rivers and from the North it is surrounded with a bog. Such difficult location made the castle hard to approach. During the Middle Ages walls and towers (Nadbramna, Styr and Vladycha ) were 3-storeyed and crenellated (the residues of merlons now also can be seen). But with time passed (and development of weapon) the old bastions needed  renewal. In 14th century one more story was added to the towers, the walls were increased in height to 3-4 m (now they are about 12 m in height ), and double series of arrow-slits appeared. At the same time the lower ( or "okolny") Castle was built. But this castle was left unfinished.

The castle has triangular shape. 3 towers are square and their forms are simple and  mysterious at the same time. Grapes and counterforce only amplify the simplicity and power of the castle. Nadbramna tower is the centre of the citadel.  Inside the castle there was a palace of the prince, the palace of the bishop, the Cathedral and barracks. The architect of these buildings was Luka from Priashiv. But only the bishop palace and the prince palace remained unchanged. Romano-gothic in the beginning, the castle looked like typical Renaissance fortification later. The restorations were held in 1970-1977 and in 1985-1987. Now there is a museum in the castle ,the most interesting department of it are "The Arsenal", "Bells" and "The Dungeon".

Inner yard of the castle... Upper castle... Incredible city of Lutsk...

Olesko castle

The Olesko Castle is one of the oldest and the one good-looking Carpathian real estate in Pidhirtsi. The Olesko Castle has an additional advantage of standing right next to a highway that unites Lviv with Kyiv and thus can be easily approached. The Olesko Castle is placed under the jurisdiction of the Lviv Arts Gallery whose supervisor, Borys Viznytsky, is a great castle enthusiast and specialist who has made the preservation and reconstruction of the castles in that region. In fact it was he who was leader in having the Olesko Castle reconstructed. It was due to his efforts that exhibits pertinent to the castle in particular and medieval life in general were brought to the castle and placed on view in the castle’s halls and corridors. It was about his enthusiasm that the park around the castle has been brought back to life.

The Olesko Castle is considered to have been founded in the 11th century, probably at the time when the Crusades began. Halychyna in Western Ukraine began to experience strong pressure both from the West and from the East — the nomads. Later came the crushing power of the Mongol invasion. The Olesko Carpathian property was built on a small mountain commanding a marshy area and controlling the hub of the trade routes from north to south and from east to west.

The Olesko Castle is recalled in many Western European documents of the 13th–16th centuries, including the chronicles, royal orders, official messages and private letters, but it was in the 17th century that the castle was properly put on the European map — in the year 1629. The boy was destined to become one of the most remarkable Polish rulers, King John (Jan) III Sobieski (1629– 1696). When still commander in chief of the Polish troops rather than king, he engaged in plotting against Poland but retrieved himself by defeating the Turks in a decisive battle at Khotyn in 1673. He was elected a King in 1674 and marched to Vienna with 20,000 Polish army to relieve the Austrian capital of the Turkish siege. His army reinforced, he then successfully brought the Turks back and was acclaimed as “Hero of Christendom.” It was the block of his royal career. In addition to being a effective general (and not a very successful Polish king, the political conditions in Poland being wretchedly out of control), he was a patron of science, literature and art, a man of vast and refined erudition.

His birth was fanned by circumstances the romantic writers of the early nineteenth century would surely pounce upon — as his mother went into labour, the castle was attacked by a marauding detachment of the Tartars. The protectors, aided by a violent storm, beat the attack off. One of the lights of which many hit the castle’s towers, struck the marble table, from which the happy “puerpera” had been removed minutes before — the marble top was split in two.

The Polish king’s life-long love for his wife Maria-Marysenka is an integral part of the story of this unique person. Such honesty in the licentious 17th century was a rarity and a King without a host of “official” and unofficial lovers seeking favors was an oddity. Louis XIV, who held the lead in the number of “favourites,” received the chaste Polish queen at his court and was even godfather to her first son (altogether, she had fourteen children, of whom only five survived to live to mature age).

Love for Marysenka was the guiding light of all Sobieski’s life. His letters to her are full of gentle sentiment declarations of love: “O the light of my eyes and sovereign of my heart, if by God’s grace I return home from the war safe and sound, I swear to God I’ll kiss my beloved wife who is the sunshine of my life, a million times and remain her most humble servant for as long as I live…” Though his long letters are written in the convoluted style of the time, there is no mistake about the true feeling and passion their express. In our age of short e-mails, no one seems to be writing letters like this anymore. King Sobieski would be an oddity and maverick in the twenty first century as he was in the seventeenth with his unroyal-like fidelity.

The Olesko Castle is believed to be a haunted place. Unmarried girls and men have a chance of meeting a ghost. This spirit is that of a nobleman, Adam Zholkevsky who was in love with a most fair girl named Martsiana. He kept proposing to her but his proposals were refused by her father, and once, driven by his unquenchable love, he pricked his breast with a dagger right in front of the implacable father. As a suicide, he was denied burial in the cemetery and his body was thrown into a nearby swamp. Since then, he is said to be lurcking around at night, revealing himself only to single women, sighing pitifully and making feeble noises with the silver buttons of his ancient surcoat.

Castle view... Painting with castle on it... Olesko – ancient mysterious castle...

Castles in the Lviv region

The map below shows the location of castles and fortresses in the Lviv region of Ukraine.

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