For some 150 years Grand Duchy of Lithuania ruled much of the modern-day Ukraine. These lands still have many tremendous Lithuanian castles that once guarded the boundary of Christian Europe as well as opulent palaces, churches and monasteries funded by the Lithuanian noble families. Olyka has always been known for its independent character. In the middle of the 16th century Olyka received the Magdeburg rights, and by the 19th century it had become one of Volyn’s richest cities.
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Radziwill bastion occupied an area of 2.7 hectares; there are 365 rooms - the number of days in a year. The family managed to thrive in Olyka under each of the shifting regimes (Lithuanians, Poles, Russian Empire).
It is interesting that during its existence the castle withstood all sieges but one. In 1702 the castle was taken by Swedish troops, and in the end of the century lost its strategic purpose, remaining, however, the residence of Radziwill. In 1755, one of the descendants of the founder has upgraded bastion: two-storey clock tower and three-storey palace were built over there.
During Napoleon's invasion of Russia the Russian military hospital moved in and remained there until 1837. An 1840 document refers to the castle as untenanted. In 1883 a campaign of restoration was launched but it was not taken to its conclusion until after the First World War.
The last owner of the castle - Janusz Radziwill - was arrested in 1939 and sent to one of Stalin's camps. Communists placed in the castle the regional psychiatric hospital functioning to this day. The Olyka Castle comprises four residential buildings of unequal height, forming a court in the middle and encircled by a moat. The towers of the original castle have crumbled to the ground, but the network of bastions is still in place. Visitors can freely attend the territory of the castle.
Other buildings of the castle complex include the 17th-century gateway, two-storey clock tower, and two Catholic churches that have survived: the Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity (1635–1640), an imposing baroque structure, and Saint Peter and Paul Church which is even older, dating to Lithuanian era and is an elaborate replica of Il Gesu in Rome.
Today Radziwill’s era is also reminded by a picturesque cobbled road to the town which is surrounded by trees that once provided a shade to the arriving horse riders.
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These days Olyka is a sleepy Ukrainian town with population between 1-5K people. Not many tourists come here as Radziwill Castle needs so much work to be done in order to restore it to even the fracture of its former glory. However, in case you happened to be in the area, this is a great destination for a day trip.
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