The Sapegas' Palace in Ruzhany: history and facts

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The Sapegas' Palace in Ruzhany: history and facts

The history of the Belarusian Versailles


The Belarusian Versailles is the flattering epithet of the Palace complex in Ruzhany. Even now, when it is just rising out of ruins, the comparison does not seem to be an exaggeration. In terms of the significance of the palace - that is right!

In 1552, the place belonged to the Tyshkevich family, then to the Bruchalski family. In 1598, the future chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lev Sapega bought Ruzhany for his residence. It was here, in Ruzhany, that he later drafted a progressive code of laws for his time - the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which, by the way, was written in the old Belarusian language. In the cellars of the castle in Ruzhany there was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania's treasury and a whole arsenal of weapons. There is also a legend that from Ruzhany the Chancellor sent Fals Dmitry (allegedly  rescued by a miracle the youngest son of Ivan IV the Terrible - Tsarevich Dmitry) to an adventurous campaign to Moscow.

It should be noted that at the time of Lev Sapega it was a defensive castle. At the beginning of the XVIII century during the war with the Swedes the castle in Ruzhany was looted and destroyed. Alexander, the descendant of Lev Sapega, had to build everything anew, and already with him there was a palace that was compared to Versailles with its own theatre (it was called the "opera house"), a rich library, a collection of art and weapons. There was also a rather exotic collection of huge cups - curtsy of the owners' rampant way of life.


Thanks to the Sapegas, the small town became known in Europe, and in 1637 Ruzhany even received Magdeburg law. It had its own town hall and coat of arms with the image of St Casimir (the heavenly patron saint of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania ). By the way, the relics of this revered saint were stolen in 1655 from the chapel of the metropolitan cathedral in Vilnius, transported to Ruzhany and remained here in the local church for several years.

Representatives of royal families and kings themselves were frequent guests of the Sapegas. For example, Sigismund I the Old visited Ruzhany. In 1617, the king's son Vladislav went on a military campaign from Ruzhany. Later, when he became the king, he came again to visit it.

The Palace complex in Ruzhany nowadays


Time, war, fires and the change of political epochs did their job - only the ruins of the main and eastern buildings, arcades, wings and the entrance gates with the Sapegas' coat of arms carved from wood have miraculously survived. The buildings of the Ruzhany Palace, which are slightly better preserved, have already been reconstructed in our time. The eastern wing has opened a museum with four exposition halls and one exhibition hall, where you can see the palace complex in Ruzhany in miniature - as it could have been if it had not been for the wars and the Soviet years. They also recreated the Chancellor's Living Room with furniture in the style of the XVII-XVIII centuries. Alas, only two candleholders belonging to Sapega were left of the former luxurious interior of the palace.

The last owners of the Ruzhany Palace fled in 1939. But nowadays, theSapega's descendants have come here at least six times to help with the restoration. There is also a legend that Lev Sapega's great-great-granddaughter came to get the treasure that her famous ancestor had left - and even found it, but she was unable to travel abroad because of Belarusian laws.

Vladimir Vysotsky in Ruzhany

The locals will tell you another interesting legend - about Vladimir Vysotsky. The fact is that in the Palace Complex in Ruzhany a film "I come from childhood" directed by Viktor Turov was shot. Turov and Vysotsky were friends, so it was no surprise that he starred in this film. They joke that Vladimir Vysotsky left here not only the memory of himself, but also illegitimate children.

If you want to touch a living Belarusian history, you cannot miss a visit to the palace complex in Ruzhany. And this can be done because one tourist route can include many other sights that are located nearby.