Niasvizh Town Hall – a memorial of architecture of the 16th century – is the most ancient among the town hall buildings preserved in the territory of Belarus. Its construction began, in the judgment of quite a number of researches, under the design of the Italian architect Giovanni Maria Bernardoni after the town had acquired the Magdeburg Right. Stefan Batory, King of Rzecz Pospolita and Great Prince of Lithuania signed the Privilege on Magdeburg Right for Niasvizh in Grodna on April 23, 1586. It permitted the town to enjoy full rights ofself-government, tax remissions, jurisdictional immunity, profitable conditions for the craftsmen and tradespeople.
At the same time, Niasvizh received its emblem. The existence of that attribute testified to a rather high economic and cultural level achieved by the town. The emblem was present at the municipal seal which emphasizedindependence of Niasvizh from princely or royal authority.
The second Privilege of June 18, the same year, was granted to the town by the owner of Niasvizh Mikołaj Krzysztof 'the Orphan' Radziwiłł. In accordance with the latter Privilege, the municipal authority had to construct a 'stone town hall'. Ten years after Magdeburg Right had been conferred, the Town Hall was erected in 1596. The first graphic representation of Niasvizh Town Hall came to us in Tomasz Makowski’s engraving (about 1604). The ancient etching depicted the town clock, bells, and observing platform on the tower.
The town council building erected on the citizens’ money was the main place for every township member to solve his urgent problems for several centuries.
The edifice is simple in shape but massive in volume. The mall consisting of numerous cell-likeshops was constructed in the same style. There were 52 stone-walled shops in the 17th century. Thedriveways between them and the Town Hall building were closed with solid gates. In the so-called 'Magdeburg period' (the end of the 16th century-1836), the Town Hall basement housed a prison; the ground floor contained the mall, municipal weigh station, watch room, arms storefor the citizens in case of jeopardy, special premises for storage of fire extinguishing equipment. The first floor was given to the municipal councilinstitutions. Those were the Council Hall, Courtroom, Conference Hall, Archive, Skarbnica (depository), and Vojt’s and Starostas’ offices. The municipal archive with administration books and Privileges granted to the town by the Kings and Radziwiłłs was kept there as well.
During the Northern war, the Town Hall wason fire, it was restored in 1752. The great fire of 1836 caused an irreparable damage to the edifice, the first-floor rooms suffered very badly. The tower reduced from six to four levels. It was since that time till the end of the 19th century, that the Town Hall stayed at loose ends. The repair work was carried on at a different rate almost till the decline of the Russian Empire. From the end of the 19th century to 1939, the Town Hall and Municipal Council, Powiat Starosta’s office, police and town administration were located there. After the Great Patriotic War, the Town Hall housed the district Palace of Culture, later the Palace of pioneers and schoolchildren, children's library.
From 1997 to 2004, the repair work was carried out at the Town Hall, memorial of architecture of the 16th-18th centuries. It resulted in an initial appearance of the facades, renewal of the tower upper floors. The tower regained a municipal clock (like the one in the 16th century) and observing platform. The interiors of the first floor were reconstructed for the museum exposition 'Municipal self-government of Niasvizh in the 18th- the first half of 19th centuries'. There is a restaurant on the ground-floor.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.