Have you ever visited Ukrainian castles? One of them is situated aside from the center of old picturesque town Zbarazh in Ternopil Oblast. Renewed and well kept till the present time as a treasure of the national history, it is a great example of The Late Renaissance and Early Baroque architecture.
This fortified palace was built on the hill in 1620-1631 years by brothers Krzysztof and Yerzy, state figures of The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the last offspring of the princely family Zbaraski. But till the building was completed, they both mysteriously left this world and as they were singles, the castle was inherited by Prince Janusz Wisniowiecki, their nephew.
According to the project of Venetian Vincenzo Scamocci the castle territory has square form and it takes 16 hectares of the land. The building process was under supervision of military engineer Andrea dell'Acqua. This castle was reflecting the newest achievements of the European fortification art. The castle general view in the middle of the 17th century was reproduced on the engraving by the Dutchman Wilhelm Hondius.
Surrounded by gorgeous park with statues, Zbarazh Castle was well protected with trench 40m width and rampart 23m. By means of hydro-technical system this trench was filled with water. But you can easily reach the main entrance by the heavy bridge. The entering arch has overbuilding tower for guards. In our days you have to look there for buying tickets and you are allowed to come in the past epoch.
I traveled here in the first days of the autumn and all nature was blooming as in the summer yet, showing the full attraction of the place. The first what you see it is beautiful two-storied palace in the opposite the arch entrance. Its large balcony is embellished with stone consoles and is the main decoration of the facade. The basement is also made of stone and the upper part is built with bricks. The thickness of walls is amazing! It’s 105cm for the first storey and 175cm for the second. The corner angles are ornamented with rough-hewn sandstones rustic tiles. The top is crowning red four-sloping roof.
Earlier from the every corner five-sided bastion passages were leading to the palace yard and casemates. Now bastions are saved only partly, till the height of the fortress wall between the towers. Recently was discovered long underground tunnel directing from the palace far to the city monastery of the Bernadine Fathers, dug on 22m depth under the river Gnizna. Some of them are going to the deep well that is dug out on the left part of the yard. It’s very deep well with 68m depth. It's not recommended to come very close because it has "magnetic" strength to collect phones occasionally fallen off from the hands, glasses and etc.
In the times of knighthood wars Zbarazh Castle was besieged in 1649 year by Ukrainian Cossacks and hordes of Crimean khan during 42 summer days. This period of court life was described in the old treatise “History of Ruthenians”, written by the unknown author on the cusp of 18th and 19th centuries. With big efforts Zbarazky people and prince Wisniowiecki survived, locked in the mighty walls of their castle. These events are brightly dramatized in the Polish movie bestseller “Ogniem i Mieczem” (“With Fire and Sword”, 1999) directed by Jerzhy Hoffman. Its plot is based on the novel with the same name by Henryk Sienkiewicz. The key parts of this epic story are filmed on the Zbarazh Castle territory.
Wide inner yard is surrounded by casemate ramparts with escarpments. Inside of them is situated restaurant “Legenda” of tasty local cuisine with ancient recipes. Walking by the wide terrace on the top of casemates, you can feel all greatness of the history, sealed in every stone. You would not believe, but after those splendor times of princes and princesses, this “palazzo in fortezza” was used as a sugar factory for a short time in 19th century. Then it was damaged by fire and Polish Union of Officers restored the castle in 1935 year for re-planning it as a gymnasium but The Second World War stopped these plans. After the war people were taking stones from the broken castle for building farms and other.
But the fate was kind to the castle and in 1959 year after its reconstruction here was opened the museum and it became home for archeological artifacts and antiquarian things. Thanks to the all famous events that took its place here, in 1994 year Zbarazh Castle was included into the registry of national historical architectural heritage of Ukraine.
Every hall and chamber of the palace is exposing different collections of ancient and artistic examples. More than 50000 exhibits of antiquarian furniture, art, paintings and weapons are showed off for visitors in more than 25 rooms. From the beginning Zbarazh Castle was built in such way that going from one room to another it was possible to pass from the one end of the building to the other.
In the main hall there is art gallery dedicated to the famous persons connected to the history of the castle. Also here and there you can see different exhibitions of local painters.
At the first storey there are two guest halls, “Green” and “Olive” dining rooms, renewed accordingly as they were in the beginning, filled with vintage furniture that have special carvings of humans and animals.
At the second storey there is big collection of sacred art in catholic and orthodox traditions: hand written books, church items (17th – 19th c.) priest clothes and hall dedicated to the Ukrainian embroidery. In the museum ethnographic collection you can see items from traditional Ukrainian rural life: colourful female head scarves, clothes, sickles with ornaments, spinning wheel and other that were widely used in the local villages.
In the casemates is situated exhibition of sculptures that belong to students of Pinzel school, that worked in the style of baroque and rococo. Also you can find here wooden sculptures of Volodymyr Lupiychuk that enchant visitors by original scenes from the life of Ukrainian Cossacks. Passing these military rooms you will find museum weapon collections, that includes Caroling sword (8th – 10th century), fighting axes (11th - 12th c.), sword of Russian dragoon (1841) and many cannons.
The special unforgettable impressions I received from the excursion in the castle dungeon and underground tunnels. The heavy cold air and tools of torture will transport you in the ages of knighthood... In the secret chamber along the walls you stood in the raw fiddle of gossipers, pillar of shame, cross for human crucifixion and roaster that were renewed with the help of old schemes.
Many people believe that Zbarazky Castle is a haunted place. In 1980 year two schoolchildren descended in the underground dungeon and were lost. When the rescue team found them, children told about clandestine ghost rider who was pursuing them.
Also it is considered that the soul of the first castle owner Yerzy Zbaraski, who died during the banquet dedicated to the finishing of this construction, plays on the organ and causes unearthly creaking sounds in the nocturnal time. But who knows... Will you check? ;)
For viewing all these exhibits and ancient artifacts it can take at least two hours. Every year on the May 8 Zbarazh people celebrate Day of the Town and make castle festival. In that day you can watch knight tournament and buy handmade ethnic crafts.
Zbarazh Museum Castle is opened daily from 9 A.M till 8 P.M and in winter time from 9 A.M. till 6 A.M.
Address: Morozenka Str. 28, Zbarazh, Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine.
Telephones: +380355023449; +380355024247.
For adults: 80 UAH; for students and pupils: 30 UAH.
Less than 10 people: 150 UAH; less than 20 people: 200 UAH; more than 20 people: 300 UAH.
*Photo on the museum territory: 80 grn.
By car, going on the road E85 (M19), distance 24 km; parking is available.
By the direct bus to Zbarazh. Bus stop “Zbarazh” is near the park (300m to the castle).
By the commuter train, going in Lanivtsi direction. Train stop “Zbarazh” is 2 km far from the town. So you can take a local bus to the town.
In Zbarazh you can stop in the 3-stars hotel "Hetman" that is located on the castle park territory.
Address: Morozenka Str. 4, Zbarazh.
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Igor Marynowski is an international poet who lives in Ukrainian town Ternopil, winner of different literary competitions. His poems were published in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ghana.
He is very fond of nature, birding, folklore and hiking. All images used in this article are owned and copyrighted by Igor Marynowski.
Follow him on Instagram/Twitter : @IgorMarynowski