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Kamenets Tower

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Type: Towers Style: Gothic style Date of Foundation: 1 century Status: The international value Republic of Belarus, Brest region, Kamenets, on the hill near the river Lesnaya

Kamenets Tower is located on a high hill next to the once full-flowing Lesnaya River. At a height of 30 meters rises the majestic structure. Powerful walls crowned with rectangular battlements give Vezha a resemblancea large chess piece — a rook. Below the teeth, lined with red brick tape of the old Slavonic pattern. Other decorative and constructiveelements bear the imprint of early Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

Structures of the Kamenetskaya Vezha type are called donjons. The donjon is the main building of the feudal castle, which served as a place of last defense and shelter in case of an enemy attack. She had premises for housing and food supplies. It stood separately from other castle buildings and was designed for a circular shelling of enemies. Such Vezhi are typical for medieval European military architecture. In the 10th century they spread to the northern and western lands of Europe, in the 13th century they spread to Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic states. Donjons also appeared on the territory of modern Belarus - in Grodno, Brest, Turov, Novogrudok, Kamenets, Polotsk. Only one has survived to this day — Kamenetsky.

The construction of dungeons was due to a change in tactics of attack and defense. During the assault, special devices began to be used: the ditches were filled up with bundles of branches, light ladders were used to climb the walls. But the main achievement of the medieval invaders was the invention of stone-throwing machines of enormous destructive power. They threw stones, «that four people can lift», and, importantly, they were installed at a distance of 100–150 meters from the walls of the city under siege. If earlier shooting from the city walls did not allow getting close to them, then stone throwers made it possible to paralyze it. It was enough to break some section of the wall with the blows of stones and the defenders lost their cover. Then this area was fired from bows, suppressing the last defense, after which the successful overcoming of the wall was ensured. This became the basic principle of the assault, and the old types of fortresses gradually lost their original meaning.

It was then that stone and brick dungeons emerged as centers of defense for fortresses. They gave the defenders the opportunity to conduct aimed archery and crossbows, providing long-range shelling of vast territories, were practically impregnable for the siege equipment of that time.

In the XIII century a significant part of the modern Brest region, which had the name of the land «Beresteisky», belonged to the Galician-Volyn princes. It cut like a wedge between Mazovia on one side, Black Russia and Lithuania on the other, and was weakly connected with Volhynia, separated from it by swamps and forests along the upper Pripyat and Mukhovets. The city Berestie had a certain independence and developed as a trade and craft center. Important trade and military-strategic routes passed nearby, which led to the construction of a wooden castle and fortifications to protect caravans. A fee was charged here for the transport of goods.

Over the possession of Beresteyskaya land, warlike neighbors constantly argued at the cost great sacrifices.

At the beginning of the century, the Polish princes claimed the Pribuzhsky lands and Berestye: Konrad Mazawiecki and Leshka Krakowski. They even temporarily seized them, but under pressure from the local population were forced to retreat. Soon part of the territories with the city Drogichin was taken over by knights of the Dobzhin Order. In 1237 they were defeated and driven away by the Galician-Volyn Prince Daniil Romanovich. In 1240 the Mongol-Tatar avalanche came here. Uninvited guests were not greeted with bread and salt. About it testifies Ipatiev Chronicle.

«Danilov and his brother came to Berest, and could not go into the field, the stench for the sake of a multitude of beaten ones». About the capture or destruction of the city, the chronicler does not mentions. And yet, in 1240–1241 the Mongol-Tatars took the big cities of the Galicia-Volyn principality by storm. The success of the conquerors was facilitated not only by a quantitative superiority, but also by well-developed assault tactics and the use of many stone throwers. It was a tough lesson, but it didn't go in vain. Despite the fact that the invaders forced the population of the cities to destroy all the fortifications, in the remote areas of the principality, the destroyed ones were restored and even new cities were built.

That's how once prince Vladimir Vasilkovich decided to strengthen the northern border of the Beresteiskaya land. By his order, Alex's husband, experienced in construction, who, even under Vladimir's father cut many cities", went beyond the swampy Pripyat and Mukhavets in search of a place for a new settlement. With local residents, he rowed up the Lesnoy River and found a steep bank with an elevation nearby. After that, the hailstoner, satisfied, returned to the prince. Vladimir Vasilkovich, with his retinue and boyars, went to inspect that place and approved of Aleksa's choice.

Soon the hill revived, filled with the voices of people who cut down trees, built housing, fortifications, dug defensive ditches, poured ramparts. A city has grown above Lesnaya, pushed back the mighty bison and other wild animals. And in a short time, Vezha proudly rose above the Pushcha open spaces, entwined with a winding ribbon of the river. The exact date of its origin has not been preserved. But in the Ipatiev Chronicle under 1276 it is written: «And love the place above the bank of the Lysna River and rip it off and then cut down a city on it and narche its name is Kamenets zane was the earth of stone». Vezha is mentioned in the «posthumous eulogy» to Prince Vladimir Vasilkovich. It is dated 1289 Praising the state merits of the ruler and his special merits, the chronicler says: «Prince Volodimer, in his reign, hacked many cities according to his father. Chop Berestius. And beyond Berestiem, cut down the city in an empty place called Lestne, and called his name Kamenets, for the earth was not stone. Building a pillar of stone in it ... like surprise to all seeing nan...»

The wooden fortifications of the city were surrounded on three sides by an earthen rampart and defensive moat, and from the fourth they were reliably guarded by the river. In the center was the Vezha-donjon - the basis of protection. The thickness of its walls reached 2.5 meters. Try it, break them with a stone! And it was not easy to install assault equipment at a distance of his raid. The combat platform located at a height of 30 meters was covered by 14 rectangular teeth and made it possible to conduct aimed fire at the enemy. In order to better observe him during intense shelling, in the battlements there are gaps (loopholes). Vezha stands on a foundation of field stones. External diameter base reaches 16 meters, height - more than two meters. Ground floor wall has a height of 2.4 meters, lined with bricks on the outside, with a field stone in the middle.

In Vezha, nests from wooden floor beams have been preserved, which divided it into five tiers. Each of them has loopholes: the first — 2, the second and third — 3 each, the fourth — 2, the fifth — 4. The loopholes of the four lower tiers expand in the middle and end with arches on top. Unlike them, the loopholes of the fifth tier expand both in the middle and out. Their shape is lancet. Between these loopholes there are four flat niches, which were plastered and whitewashed.

In the fourth tier, from the side of the river, a large lancet opening is visible, under it — a hole from the cantilever beams that supported the balcony in the past. Above the fifth tier, there are still remains of a brick domed vault on thickened ribs. They end at the bottom with small brackets and a narrow belt that runs around the wall of the building. There, near the vault, there are four niches for water drainage.

At one time, all five tiers were connected by wooden stairs. Another staircase, brick, is hidden in the thickness of the wall. She leads from the fifth tier to the combat platform and is illuminated by two small windows. The total floor area exceeded 300 square meters. A large number of people could fit in such an area and actively participate in the defense.

Let's pay attention to the ancient masonry used in the construction of Vezha. It is characterized by the alternation in each row of two spoons and one poke. This the most ancient method in Europe is called Vendian. It originated in Lombardy at the end of the 12th century, and then spread to Germany, Poland, Livonia. Kamenetskaya Vezha is the first known 13th century building on the territory of Belarus, which is folded “in Vendian style” and has stitching.

Kamenetskaya Vezha is often called White. It happened with the light hand of local historians XIX century, who mistakenly believed that in ancient times the donjon was whitewashed. As a matter of fact, Kamenetskaya Tower has never been white. Only niches were whitewashed, which are located at the level of the fifth tier. The true color is due to the color of the brick — dark red and yellow. Ancient craftsmen ran their fingers along one face of raw brick and left longitudinal grooves on it, and this was called «glove». It is assumed that these grooves were made for better masonry strength.

When laying the Kamenets Vezha, large shaped bricks were also used, but only for decorative elements. There weren't many of them. The image of Vezha, like most of its modern defensive buildings, simple and concise. The upwardly elongated forms of the Vezha, which is round in plan, are slightly decorated with lancet openings and windows with three-blade endings, an archivolt (outer frame) of the lancet opening at the level of the fourth tier, and a rib vault on the “weights”. All these elements are characteristic of Gothic architecture. Details are finely marked along with semi-circular arches of niches and slits that bear traces of earlier Romanesque architecture. The Vezha is completed by a decorative strip of four rows of bricks placed at an angle to the surface of the facade. The ancient Slavic ornament emphasizes the originality of local building traditions.

In the XIV century the territorial skirmishes of peoples continued with even greater persistence. In 1319, Prince Gedymin took possession of Berestye, and later the entire Berestey land was ceded to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 40s of the XIV century the army of the Polish King Casimir III set out on a military campaign. It captured Lvov, Galich, Vladimir Volynsky, Berestye, Kamenets and other cities. But, in the written sources of that time there is no information that the Kamenets tower was taken by storm. Intermittent military success forced Casimir III to abandon most of his new conquests. According to the treatise of 1366, he renounced the rights to Berestye, Drogichin, Melnik, Belsk, Kobrin, Kamenets in favor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Very little time has passed, and new contenders for the long-suffering land have been found. In 1373Teutons destroy Kamenets. Two years later, Theodor von Elner burst here with the knights through the impenetrable Belovezhskaya Pushcha. He also led another campaign against Beresteyskaya land - in 1379 the crusaders again destroy this region, take many people prisoner. But this time the ancients Chronicles do not say anything about the fact that the enemy captured the Kamenets Tower. The next victims marked the year 1383. Kamenets fell into the hands of the Polish prince Janusz Mazawiecki. Approximately a year later, the soldiers of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jagiello entered the city after a week-long siege.

Finally, the militant neighbors decided to seriously think about how to unite their efforts to fight the troops of the Teutonic Order. In 1385 the union of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland united their forces against the Crusaders. Jagiello undertakes "to attach his lands, Lithuanian and Russian, to the Polish crown for perpetual hours." Belarusian and Lithuanian feudal lords, with the support of the population, sought to renew their political role in the state. The flame of this struggle did not bypass Kamenets either. The army of Jagiello came here again, which, with heavy losses, after an energetic siege, took the city.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders' aggression was on the rise. Gradually the Teutonic Order seized the territory between the mouth of the Vistula and the Neman, East Pomerania, the island of Gotland, New Mark. At a secret meeting in 1408, which took place in Novogrudok, the Polish king Jagiello and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vitovt decided to start a war against the order, and a year later in Berestye they agreed on a summer company 1410.

After some time, the Kamenets Vezha silently blessed the inhabitants of the city, that with weapons they went towards Berestye. They took part in the Beresteiskaya banner July 15, 1410 in the battle of Grunwald. At the walls of Vezha, Kamenets met his heroes.

In 1413–1566 Kamianets was the center of the powiat in the Troki Voivodeship. In 1518 he received the right to self-government (Magdeburg Law). Residents of cities who enjoyed this right were exempted from feudal duties, from the court and the power of governors, elders and other state personalities. Soon Kamenets became a significant trading center. Crafts developed here, a “palace” grew up next to Vezha, in which the owners of neighboring states stayed, ambassadors were received. Yet peaceful life was interrupted from time to time. In 1500 the 15,000-strong cavalry of the Crimean Khan Mengli-Girey approached the city, but they never achieved success. The Crimean Tatars did not conduct a siege of buildings similar to Kamenets were able.

In 1569, when the Union of Lublin was signed, Kamenets ended up in a new feudal state — the Commonwealth.

The years have passed. It has long appeared, and everything has improved firearms, assault technology developed. The Kamenets tower was losing its defensive value. During the war between the Russian state and the Commonwealth in 1654–1667 Kamenetz received such destruction that the Sejm freed the city for four years from paying tax.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Kamenetskaya Vezha attracted attention as a historical and architectural monument. Its restoration has begun. In 1903 the ramparts that surrounded Vezha were excavated and a three-meter layer of earth was thrown out — a cultural layer that had formed over many centuries. A new rampart was poured around Vezha and laid field stone.

In our time, the Kamenets Tower has been declared a monument of history and culture, taken under state protection. In 1960, a branch of the Brest Regional Museum of Local Lore was created here. Its exhibits tell about the land of Kamenets and the glorious past of the donjon. In1970excavations were carried out next to the ancient monument, which were led by Belarusian archaeologist M. A. Tkachev. The biography of the ancient Vezha was replenished new interesting information.

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Address Republic of Belarus, Brest region, Kamenets, on the hill near the river Lesnaya GPS Google: 52.404775′ N, 23.819203′ E