About Grodno



Grodno derives its name from the old east Slavic verb gorodit’, i.e., to enclose, to fence. It was mentioned in the primary  chronicle  under 1127 as Goroden’ and located at a crossing of numerous trading routes, this Slavic settlement, possibly originating as far as the late 10th century, became the capital of a poorly attested but separate principality, ruled by Yaroslav the Wise’s grandson and his descendants.
Along with Navahrudak, Grodno was regarded as the main city on the far west of so-called Black Ruthenia, a border region that was neighbouring the original Duchy of Lithunia  In the  1240-1250s the Grodno area, as well as the most of the Black Ruthenia, was controlled by princes of the Lithuanian origin, who then formed the Baltic Slavic state –Grand Duchy of Lithuania on these territories.  The famous Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas was the prince of Grodno from 1376 to 1392, and he stayed there during his preparations for the Battle of Grunwald (1410). Since 1413, Grodno had been the administrative center of a powiat in Trakai Voivodeship.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The New Castle in Grodno used to be a summer residence of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth monarchs. An important centre of trade, commerce, and culture, Grodno remained one of the places where the Sejms were held. Also, the  Old and New Castles were often visited by the Commonwealth monarchs including famous Stephen Bathory of Poland who made a royal residence here. In 1793 the Last Sejm in the history of the Commonwealth occurred at Grodno. Two years afterwards, in 1795, Russia obtained the city in the third partition of Poland. It was in the New Castle on November 25 of that year that the last Polish king and Lithuanian grand duke Stanislaw Aaugust Ponitowski abdicated. In the Russian Empire,  the city continued to serve its role as a seat of Grodno Governorate since 1801. The industrial activities, started in the late 18th century by Antony Tyzenhaus, continued to develop.

Modern Grodno

Grodno has survived after 2 Word Wars, The city has one of the largest concentrations of Roman Catholics in Belarus. It is also a center of Polish culture, with the considerable number of Poles living in Belarus, residing in the city and its surroundings. This city is known for its very important Medical University, where many students from different parts of Belarus acquire an academic degree, as do a good number of foreign students as well. Other higher educational establishments are Yanka Kupala State University (the largest education center in Hrodna province) and Agricultural university. Nowadays Grodno is modern beautiful city with rich architecture.

The Old and New Grodno Castles

The town was scored to be dominated by the Old Grodno Castle, first built in stone by Grand Duke Vytautas and thoroughly rebuilt in the Renaissance style by Scotto from Parma at the behest of Stefan Batory, who made the castle his principal residence.

1After Stefan Batory’s dead the Saxon monarchs of Poland were dissatisfied with the old residence and commissioned Matthaus Daniel Poppelmann to design the New Grodno Castle.

2Kolozha church of Sts. Boris and Gleb.

The oldest extant structure in Grodno  is the Kolozha church of Sts. Boris and Gleb . It is the only surviving monument of ancient Black Ruthenian architecture, distinguished from other Orthodox churches by prolific use of polychrome faceted stones of blue, green or red tint which could be arranged to form crosses or other figures on the wall.
The church was built before 1183 and survived intact until 1853, when the south wall collapsed, due to its perilous location on the high bank of the Neman. During restoration works, some fragments of 12th-century frescoes were discovered in the apses. Remains of four other churches in the same style, decorated with pitchers and coloured stones instead of frescoes, were discovered in Grodno. They all date back to the turn of the 13th century, as do remains of the first stone palace in the Old Castle.

3Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier

Probably the most spectacular landmark of Grodno is the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier, the former (until 1773) Jesuit church. This confident specimen of high  Baroque architecture  exceeding 50 metres in height, was started in 1678. Due to wars that rocked Poland-Lithuania at that time, the cathedral was consecrated only 27 years later, in the presence of Peter the Great and Augustus the strong.. Its late Baroque frescoes were executed in 1752.

4Bernardine monastery(1602-18)

The extensive grounds of the Bernardine monastery (1602-18), renovated in 1680 and 1738, display all the styles flourishing in the 17th century, from Gothic to Baroque. The interior is considered a masterpiece of so-called Vilnius Baroque. Other monastic establishments include the old Franciscan cloister (1635), Basilian convent (1720-51, by Giuseppe Fontana III), the church of the Bridgettine cloister (1642, one of the earliest Baroque buildings in the region) with the wooden two-storey dormitory (1630s) still standing on the grounds, and the 18th-century buildings of the Dominican monastery (its cathedral was demolished in 1874).