Ruins of the castle of Sapieha in the town of Vysokoe

Visokoe

Palaces, manors, castles

VYSOKOE: THE TOWN AND ITS OWNERS

The town of Vysokoe is situated on the territory which now is a part of Best region. We say “now” because since the beginning of the 15th century, when it was founded, it has changed not only an administrative affiliation, but also the owners for several times.  Initially Vysokoe was a strong merchant town; it was small but mighty, solid. Representatives of the noble families of Sapega and Pototsky are most common in the list of its owners over the centuries of its existence.   But the Sapegas contributed the greatest mite in the development of the town.  

The coat of arms of the town depicts a part of the castle that was founded in 1678 by Paul Sapega. The castle was a key construction, the center. It determined the line of the development of the town, the degree of interest of the owners in this residence. Because they had the widest choice: there were a lot of palaces and estates all over Europe.

 THE CASTLE: LOCATION AND ARCHITECTURE

The castle of the Sapega family was planned and constructed as a defensive installation. The place for it was chosen in such a way to use a natural landscape, add traditional for those times fortification “zests” and receive an impregnable fortress. And that was done. The Sapegas surrounded their residence with earth mounds, strengthened with bastions and a moat.  The thickness of brick walls is a meter and a half. The bank of the river Pulva was used for a defense; it was propped up with a dike having made a dam and island. The castle was practically impregnable on the island, became a citadel, and the approaches to it were well within view from a tower of several floors with tree gates.  The tower was hidden inside the ramparts. Behind the castle walls-fortifications there was located the family estate, a wooden palace and outbuildings.

Paul Sapega proved himself not only as a strategist but also as an aesthete while choosing a place for the construction of the castle. The terrain, like no other, was suitable for a park, the history of which is no less interesting than the history of the castle itself. Famous masters worked on its planning and development at different times. The park of the Sapegas’ castle in Vysokoe is called the most representative of all similar castles in many special publications.   

But first of all – a war, a defense and an attack.  It is well-known “guns speak, muses keep silence”. The political situation was very tense, and the tension had been kept for centuries. The castle went through several wars:

  • The war between Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1654-1667)
  • The Northern War (1700-1721);
  • The war against Napoleon (1812).

The castle had been burned down for several times but it was restored. In 1775, the owners of the castle received King Stanislav Avgust Ponyatovsky. One can assume the solidity and attractiveness of the castle that the King, known for his exactingness and capriciousness, did not disdain to stay in it.

Since the early 19th century, the castle has lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair.

THE CASTLE: IMAGES, OBJECTS, DREAMS

Now this place is called “the ruins of the castle” in guide-books. And that is true. But what remains is a subject of inexhaustible interest for tourists, a source of inspiration for poets, creative impulse for artists. Starting with the Belarusian-Polish artist and devotee Napoleon Orda, they tend to depict the beauty and grandeur of the ruins of the castle in their works. They tell very eloquently about the past centuries and passions, the rises and declines, the flourishing and decay.  

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