The castle complexes of the belarusian nobility between the 14th and the 17th centuries: european influence and regional traditions
This article studies the architectural peculiarities of the castle complexes that emerged in the Middle Ages in Belarus. It describes the common and individual architectural features of these feudal castles, outlining the extent of the cultural influence of Western European architectural traditions (for instance, the borrowing of Polish techniques of castle construction as well as those of the Teutonic Order). It is established that, on the one hand, the architecture of Belarusian defensive castle complexes of the 14th–17th centuries was traditionally based on construction principles introduced by European medieval culture. However, on the other hand, such architecture is characterised by different local technologies used when building the inner parts of towers and the use of three-layer masonry. While they are characterised by a coherent spatial approach, some towers of a number of Belarusian castles have their own architectural peculiarities: their lower tetrahedral part becomes an octahedron closer to the top of the tower at different heights, and there is a slight narrowing of this part compared to the base. An analysis of the architectural techniques of medieval monuments demonstrates that there are a variety of plastered decorative niches and ornamental belts on the facades of the castles, reflecting traditional masonry techniques in local architecture. The national Belarusian art of fortification construction was enriched by a more advanced Western European defensive system, i.e. stone keeps used for residential purposes. Owing to the building experience and the cultural and historical traditions of fortification construction of European knights, the Belarusian region learnt about a new type of a Western European castle borrowed in the 12th century from ancient Roman and Byzantine military architecture. Local masters of the regions of Greater Poland and the lands of the Teutonic Order started employing the new composition of castles in the 14th and 15th centuries. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the aforementioned type of castles was further developed in Belarus thanks to the new military achievements of French and Italian fortifiers and the introduction of the Belarusian nobility to advances in Western European defensive theory.
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