The Old Grodno Castle (also known as the Grodno Upper Castle and Bathory's Castle) originated in the 11th century as the seat of a dynasty of Black Ruthenian rulers, descended from a younger son of Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev.
The first wooden castle was built in the 11th century at the confluence of the Neman and the Gorodnichanka rivers.
The 13th-century keep of the castle belonged to a type of Belarusian defensive tower represented by the Tower of Kamyanyets. Vytautas the Great rebuilt the castle in stone and added five Brick Gothic towers in 1391–98, transforming it into one of his main residences. Casimir IV Jagiellon also favoured Grodno over Lithuania's official capital. It was there that the Polish Crown was offered to him, and it was there that he died in 1492.
The next notable tenant of the castle was Stephen Báthory who envisaged Grodno as the capital of his vast empire in Eastern Europe. He engaged Scotto of Parma to replace the Vytautas Castle with his own residence in the advanced Renaissance taste of Northern Italy. After Bathory's death in Grodno in 1586, his pet project was abandoned. The citadel was devastated by the Russians during a Russo-Polish War in 1655.
The castle's revival took place in 1673-78 due to Krzysztof Zygmunt Pac who raised sufficient funds to finance the refurbishing of the royal residence. The restored castle was selected by King Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki of Poland as the location for every third Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The castle suffered extensive damage during the Great Northern War, forcing the royal court to move into the New Grodno Castle.
At present the castle serves as a historical and archaeological museum with a collection of more than 200,000 artifacts, one of the largest in Belarus.
The newest reconstruction began in 2017.
The restoration of the Old Grodno Castle was criticized due to the lacking of historical authenticity. For instance, the contemporary viewpoint was added near the central gates. Some specialists disputed the restoration project, they found significant mistakes in documentation that appeared because the constructor couldn’t read historical inventory descriptions written in Polish and German. For example, the shape of the dome above the central tower, added levels between towers and galleries. Some authentic 16th century walls were demolished.
- "The architecture of castles and palaces in Belarus". Archives of Belarus. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
- Szulakowska 2018, p. 315.
- Szulakowska 2018, p. 316.
- Szulakowska 2018, p. 318.
- "A reconstruction of the Old Castle is taking place in Grodno". Regional Newspaper. 2021-07-06. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
- "Reconstruction of Old Castle in Grodno". Belta. 2020-08-14. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
- "10 Treasures of Polish-Belarusian Architectural Heritage". Culture.pl. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
- Szulakowska 2018, p. 319.
- Lebed, E. (2021-11-03). "Король возвращается в Гродно — после реконструкции для посетителей открывается Старый замок. Что внутри" [The King Comes Back to Grodno] (in Russian). Vecherniy Grodno. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
- "Реконструкция или уничтожение? В Гродно открыли Старый замок" (in Russian). Belsat. 2021-11-05. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
- "В Гродно после реконструкции открывается Старый Замок. Его уже можно будет посетить". Onliner.by. 2021-11-01. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
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- Szulakowska, Urszula (2018). Renaissance and Baroque Art and Culture in the Eastern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1506-1696). Cambridge Scholar Publishing. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-5275-1135-4.
- Virtual Tour of The Old Grodno Castle
- The Old Grodno Castle Official Website
- Restoration process, 2019
- Video report about the reconstruction (in Russian)