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BELARUS HERITAGE: Chreptowicz family estate in Shchorsy

BELARUS HERITAGE: Chreptowicz family estate in Shchorsy
24 Jan 2020

The centuries-old estate in the Shchorsy village is a unique place on the map of Grodno Oblast and Belarus in general. For many centuries it was an ancestral home of the old Belarusian family of the Chreptowiczes. It became famous for its magnificent stone palace in the French Classicism style, a splendid garden and a huge library. The estate was known as a unique architectural specimen which embodied the groundbreaking ideas of its owner, the last Grand Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, archaeologist and nobleman Joachim Litawor Chreptowicz.

The estate of the Chreptowicz family, one of the most prominent and influential clans in Belarus’ history, is located in a picturesque area steeped in history. In close vicinity form here you can find the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Novogrudok, the ancient residence of Lyubcha and the well-known Monastery of St. Elisha of Lauryshava. The legendary Mir Castle is less than an hour’s drive away.

In the 18th century Count Chreptowicz was a visionary who made a name for himself far beyond the borders of the duchy. He was the first to abolish serfdom in his estate, a  century before this decision was enforced countrywide. His workshops manufactured wagons and wheels. He was the first in Belarus to introduce crop rotation. The estate was known for its delicious bread, beer and the region’s best cheese that was made by Swiss cheese makers.

The Shchorsy estate rose to prominence also because it was one of the biggest cultural centers of its time. Count Joachim Litawor Chreptowicz came up with an idea to build a palace ensemble in the Louis Quinze style at his family estate in the second half of the 18th century. Three well-known architects were invited to bring his idea into reality: Italy’s Giuseppe de Sacco and Carlo Spampani and the French architect Jacob Gabriel. The construction of the palace was completed by 1776, and the astonished guests marveled at the luxurious complex which included a one-storey estate surrounded by a picturesque park adorned by fountains and cascade artificial ponds, an administrator’s house, an enormous library which kept more than 20,000 books (the count was a reading enthusiast!), and also a rich collection of geographical maps and unique historical documents.

In the 19th century the estate welcomed many eminent persons, including famous scientists, philosophers, and poets. According to a legend, it was here, under a big oak tree, where Adam Mickiewicz wrote the poem Grazyna. And the poet Jan Czeczot even worked as a librarian in the legendary Chreptowicz library.

However, time was not kind to the estate. Since the beginning of the 20th century it gradually began to decline. During the First World War it was destroyed by fire. Today you can see some fragments of the vast park and the estate: a two-storey library building, a servants’ house, a smokehouse, a basement of a residential building, ruins of the farmyard of the Chreptowicz family and stables. The cultural and educational foundation Shchorsy and the Chreptowiczes was founded to restore this architectural specimen and give the estate a new lease on life. The foundation invites everyone to get involved in the estate rehabilitation project.

A unique art collection of the Chreptowicz family is scattered throughout various museum collections around the world. The only way to bring home the lost national heritage and show it to Belarusians was to make copies of paintings that adorned the palace until 1914. The initiators of the Vyartanne educational project have undertaken to do it. They will recreate the famous paintings for several years. The first copy - Bleaching Fields near Haarlem (1675) by Thomas van Kessel went on display in the National Library of Belarus on 23 January.

Plan of the park and palace complex of the Chreptowicz family
Shchorsy Museum Estate
Shchorsy Museum Estate
BELARUS HERITAGE: Chreptowicz family estate in Shchorsy
Shchorsy Museum Estate
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