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:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.