The origin of the name of Lutsk, the regional center of Volhynia, is linked with the name of the chieftain of the Slavic tribe Dulibs- Luka, or with the numerous meadows (luky) that surrounded the settlement. First written reference to Lutsk dates back from 1087. At that time it was part of Kyivan Rus’ and an important center of Volodymyr-Volhynian and Galician-Volhynian principalities. In 1320 it was seized by Lithuania, and in 1349, by Poland. Because of numerous churches and monasteries located within the bounds of the city, Lutsk was sometimes called “Volhynian Rome.” It is considered that the city experienced the best times under the Lithuanian princes Dmitriy-Lubart (1335-1385) and Witowt (1387-1430). The first one built a fortress and invited to the city Armenians, Karaites and Jews. These communities, together with Ukrainians, quickly became proficient in finances and turned Lutsk into a powerful commercial and handicraft center. Architectural fancies of rich citizens formed the appearance of the old city.
Later on came the period of Rzeczpospolita’s sway. After its partition in 1795 Lutsk became the property of Russia and begar to lose its political importance. The 20 th century was a very complex time for the city. During World War I it suffered from the battles between the Russian and Austro-Hungarian troops. The famous “Brusilov break-through” of the Russian army took place exactly in the city’sits outskirts in June 1916. In 1918-1919 Lutsk was an active witness of the Ukrainian liberation movement. S. Petlura’s troops were stationed in the city. From 1919 to 1939 it was again part of Poland. In 1939 first “Soviets” came to Lutsk. From 1941 through 1944 the “Soviets” and the Nazis annihilated not only architecture of the city, but also a considerable part of its population. In 1941 the Germans shot 20 thousand local Jews.
The post-war stabilization and the conversion of the city into a regional center turned Lutsk into an important political and economic center of Western Ukraine. Prince Svydryhailo granted Lutsk the Magdeburg Law in 1432. The Polish historian Jan Dlugosz characterized the ruler as “a boozer and amusement lover; he had a generous nature, but inconstant and crazy; he was not noted for intellect or talents, had no discretion and respect for others, but could easily fly into a rage. However, due to his great generosity and participation in banguets he won the sympathy of many people, particularly Ruthenians, for he, a Catholic himself, regarded their faith with favor.”
It is worth starting a historical trip around Lutsk from the castle of Prince Lubart, which is also known as the Upper castle. Most of the memorials of the historical and cultural reserve “Old Lutsk” are situated nearby the castle. In the past there was a wonderful view of the city from the castle’s walls. Now in place of the former flood-lands there is a manufactured goods market.
The construction of the castle started in the 12 th century. First it was a powerful wooden fortification. In the 13 th century the castle and the city suffered from the Mongol invasion. Prince Dmytro-Lubart began to rebuild the fortress, replacing wooden structures with stone ones. The gate, known also as Lubart’s tower, was the first structure. It is 28 meters high. Later appeared Bisdhop’s and Svydryhailo’s towers. In the course of its existence the fortress had 11 towers. In case of danger the bridge in front of the gate was lifted, and the ditch was filled with water. Prince Svydryhailo was a favorite of Lutsk. In 1431 when he set out against Poland fighting for Podolia and suffered defeat, the city continued to resist. The defenders of the castle even executed five Dominican monks who were accused of espionage. From 1370 to 1385 the walls of the castle became 230 meters long and 10 meters high. In Lubart’s time the tower was the main “office” of the principality. In case of danger, craftsmen, merchants and the clergy came under the protection of its fortification walls. After 1552 the fortress began to lose its defensive significance. In 1648, when the city was attacked by the Cossacks, the state of the fortress was already unsatisfactory.
The city lost control over the fortress once and for all in 1842. The fortification walls turned into ruins, and it was only in the latter half of the 20 th century that restoration of the fortress began.
Bishop’s tower located nearby is presently a museum of bells, the lower tier being occupied by an arsenal. The exposition of the Entrance tower represents the history of the local ceramics (visiting in company with a guide). Now there is nothing there to remind you of the fact that in the past it was the archives of important documents on Volhynian history.
Today Bells festivals are conducted in the castle, and historica reconstruction clubs organize knights’ tournaments on weekends. In the yard of the castle you can see almost every day knights in fancy-dress who propose a joint photo for a cheap pay.
In the yard there are the remains of the foundation of the Church of John the Theologian, which was considered the main sanctuary of Volhynia as long back as the 13 th century. At the same time the temple was the princely burial-vault of Lubart and his sons. Scholars discovered there the remains of Prince Iziaslav Ingvarovich who perished in a battle against the Mongol-Tatars on the Kalka River. Near the temple’s walls oaths were made, and justice was exercised. From the pulpit of the church the prominent religious figure Petro Mohyla preached ardent sermons. In the 18 th century the Greek-Catholic bishop Silvestr Rudnytsky tried to restore the castle, but his attempts proved fruitless. In 1840 Russian power issued an order on liquidation of the temple and converting the members of the Uniate Church into Orthodoxy.
On the foundation of the former bishop’s estate (1807), in the early 19 th century, due to the financial management of the Volhynian province, there appeared the building of the provincial treasury. Today it is occupied by an exhibition of incunabula.
To become absorbed in the atmosphere of old Lutsk it is worth walking along D. Bratkovsky and Kafedralna streets. In the latter there is situated the most valuable architectural monument of the city – the Roman Catholic Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul and the Jesuit monastery (1616-1640, 6 Kafedralna St.). The construction of the cathedral was consecrated by bishop Pavlo Volutsky the supervision of the Jesuit architect Jacomo Briano. The monastery (arch. B.Molli) was founded by bishop Martin Strlykovsky in 1604. A large library and a student theater were Founded there at that time. In 1773, after the order was abolished, the collegium was handed over under the care of the commission of peoplie’s education. In 1787 the church was reconstructed by architect J.Uminsky in classical style, and given the status of a cathedral. It contained many artistic relics transferred there after the local Dominican churches and the convent of St. Bridget were canceled. Today you can see the images of St. Michael and the Ascension executed by A. Kunizer, the portraits of Popes by F.Smuglevich, the images of St. Jan Nepomuka (artist J. Pechtle) and St. Stanislaw (artist W.Gerson).
The fate of the temple changed drastically after 1948, when Soviet power converted it into a storehouse, and then into museum of atheism. It was revived when Ukraine was declared an independent state. In front of the church there is a bell tower (1539), which survived the fire of 1781 and numerous reconstructions.
The underground passages of Lutsk pose a mystery. Scholars assume that they stretch under the whole old town. They were built in the course of the 14 th – 18 the centuries. You can see the remains of the old passages near the Roman Catholic Cathedral. Researches of the underground passages started in 1970 and have been going on so far. There has been discovered a dungeon with a well. During World War II many citizens saved themselves there from the Nazis. (Excursions are conducted for groups of no less than 10 persons: 10.00-17.00).
Okilnyi (Roundabout) Castle developed under the protection of the Upper Castle. The local merchants and craftsmen had their self – government there. In the past its territory was surrounded by defensive towers. Buildings of St. Bridget Convent (1624, founded by A. Radziwill: 16 Kafedralna St.) and the nunnery of charity sisters (18 th cent, 19 Kafedralna St.) have been preserved in part. In 1879 Russian government converted St. Bridget Convent into a prison (similar convent in Lviv was turned into a prison by the Austrians). In 26 Drahomanov Street there is a temple of the former Dominican monastery founded in 1390. Princes Yahailo and Witowt are considered its founders. The church was reconstructed in baroque, and in 1781, in classical style (arch. P.Gizhitsky, A.Moshynsky). In 1847 Russian government liquidated the monastery, turning the cells into a military hospital. Now it is a theological seminary.
The name of Karaite Street testifies to the fact that Karaite community, quite unusual for this land, stayed in the city. This people comes from Khazar tribes. In the 8 th – 9 th centuries they adopted Karaite, a religion originating from Judaism. In 1392 they were resettled to Lutsk from the Crimea by Prince Witowt. Most of them were merchants and craftsmen. However, among them there were the famous philologist Mordechay Ben Joseph Sultanovsky, and archeologist Abraham Firkovich.The Polish student of local lore M.Orlovicz pointed out that before World War It about 79 Karaite families resided in the city.
The neo-Gothic Lutheran Church built in 1906-1907 for the
German community is situated at the end of Kafedralna Street. Before the war there were many German colonies in Volhynia. Most of them suffered from the Communist regime and emigrated in the 1990 s. Soviet power rearranged the temple into regional archives.Today it is the sanctuary of the evangelic Christian-Baptists.
The Intercession Church (11 Karaite St.) was built in the 15 th century and is one of the oldest in Lutsk. Until 1826 it was the main Greek-Catholic Church in the region. Later it became an Orthodox temple. Its present-day outward appearance remained after the reconstruction of 1873-1876. Oil paintings were restored in 1932 and 1966. Once the famous icon of the Volhynian Blessed Virgin dated back to the 12 th – 14 th centuries was found in this temple.
The Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (2 Danylo Halvtskv St.) was built in the first half of the 17 th century. First it was a wooden structure, and later it was rebuilt into a stone church. The brotherhood appeared in the early 17 th century and considered that its main task was fighting against the Uniate Church. The temple was greatly changed after the Orthodox Lutsk Brotherhood rebuilt it after the fire of 1803. According to the local students of local lore there are spacious underground vaults under the foundation of the church. On the facade of the church there is a plaque in honor of Halka Hulevychivna (1575-1542), the founder of the Kyiv brotherhood and the Lutsk brotherhood church.
The building of the former synagogue (33 Danylo Halytsky St.) is an evidence of the past of the Jewish community in Lutsk. A permit to stay in the city was given to the Jews by Prince Witowt in 1388. In the 19 th century they made up more than a half of the region’s population. The construction of the synagogue lasted from 1622 to 1626. King Sigismund III, having allocated money for its construction, ordered that it should be a fortress. That is why the synagogue is mentioned as a “Little Castle.’ The Jewish community even bought a cannon to defend it. During the last war it was badly damaged by the Nazis. In 1981 it was restored in part and converted into a gymnasium.
Lutsk consists of several sections. The main architectural monuments are situated in the old town near the fortress. It is not uninteresting to walk along Bratska Street to see renovated old buildings. However, public life is bubbling over in Volia and Lesia Ukrainka streets, abounding in restaurants and coffeehouses. Local artists propose their paintings for sale.
In its time the area was built up with many prestigious establishments. The restaurant ‘Aquarium” (which does not exist today) was visited by A. Denikin, P.Skoropadsky, K. Manerheim. The “House of Peter I” (2 A. Pushkin St.), where Russian czar put up in 1709, has been preserved to our time. Buildings under Nos. 7, 13,15, 32 in Lesia Jkrainka Street deserve special attention. In Theater Square, in front of a monument to Lesia Ukrainka, there is the Church of the Holy Trinity (Kyiv patriarchy). In the past it was a Bernardine Roman Catholic church with a monastery. The monastery structures were built of wood, but in 1752-1792, on money of Prince Karol Stanislaw Radziwill, acquired its present-day appearance (arch. P. Hizhitsky). In 1867 Russian government granted it to the Orthodox Church. The iconostasis of the temple was made in the 17 th century and transferred there from the Lutsk Brotherhood Church.