Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh
Architectural, Residential And Cultural Complex Of The Radziwill Family At Nesvizh
Cultural Belarus Europe And North America Minsk Province (minskaya Voblasts')

The architectural, residential and cultural complex of the Radziwill family at Nesvizh was the cradle for inoculation of new concepts based on the synthesis of Western traditions, leading to the establishment of a new architectural school in Central Europe. It represents an important stage in the development of building typology in the history of architecture of the Central Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular the Corpus Christij Church, typologically related to the cross-cupola basilica.

Built and occupied by the Radziwill family from the 16th to 20th centuries, the ensemble is located in the town of Nesvizh, in the Province of Minsk, in central Belarus. It consists of the castle-residence and the mausoleum church of Corpus Christij with their setting. The castle has ten interconnected buildings, including the palace, the galleries, the residence and the arsenal, which developed as one architectural whole around a six-sided courtyard. The buildings are set within the remains of the 16th-century fortifications that comprise four bastions and four curtain walls in a rectangular plan, surrounded by a ditch. Via a dam, the castle is connected to the Corpus Christij Church, which forms a block of the urban area of Nesvizh. The ensemble is in the middle of a cultural landscape that has various design components. The boundaries of the area cover an elongated territory with the main axe parallel to the Usha riverbed and waterfront.

The castle is oriented from west to east. The entrance is from the west through the gate building, the lower part of which is embedded in the rampart. It has an octagonal two-storey gate tower, topped with a helm. The original structure dates from the 16th century. The first floor and the tower were added in the 18th century. The principal building of the complex is the palace, which occupies the centre of the east side of the inner yard. It also dates from the 16th century, and was enlarged in the 18th century. This is a three-storey building on an almost square floor plan.

The corners are strengthened by four octagonal towers with alcoves. The facade is decorated by stucco work by Antoni Zaleski. The ground floor, originally used as a treasury, has preserved the 16th-century vaults. The main staircase is decorated by the 18th-century representation of 'Aurora' Francisezek Smuglewicz. On the first floor the interiors date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The south side of the court has the three-storey Residence building, built in the 16th century, with a tower. The north side has a corresponding Arsenal building, which also used to house a chapel. These are connected to the palace via gallery structures, which cut the corners of the court. The court is then closed by annexes that connect these buildings to the gate structure.

Corpus Christij Church lies in the eastern part of the town of Nesvizh, next to the street leading to the castle. The plan of the building is based on a Latin cross, with an elongated rectangular body from which project two lateral chapels with five sides and an apsidal chancel. At the crossing of the nave and the transept there is dome. The side chapels are roofed with domes without lanterns.

Among the most valuable fittings are the tomb of Krzysztof Radziwill (1607) and the altar of Holy Cross (1583) by the Venetian sculptors Girolamo Campagna and Cesare Franco. The vaults of the church have frescoes by Ksawery D. Heski from 1852-53. The two-storey facade is divided by a prominent entablature, slightly offset on the axes of the pilasters and topped with a triangular gable. Under the church there is a crypt with the coffins of 72 members of the Radziwill family, dating from the 16th-20th centuries. The church is surrounded by an 18th-century boundary wall.