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Kamianiec. Catholic church of St. Peter and St. Paul

Kamianiec - travel guide - photos and attractions

The first written mention: 1276

Spelling variations:
Kamieniec-Litewski Kamianiec Kamieniec Kamenets Kamenec Litowski Kaments Litowsk Kamenec

Coordinates:
52 24'13.17"N, 23 49'14.22"E

What to see:

Lost heritage

History of Kamianiec (Kamieniec)

In the present day, Kamianiec is the administrative center of the region (rajon) of the same name. In 2004, the town had 8700 inhabitants. It is 39 km from Brest via the Brest Kamianiuki Motorway. Kamianiec is on the banks of the Lesnaja (or Lesna) River. The name "Kamianiec" derives from "kameny", or "stony" [1]. Kamianiec (or Kamianiec Litoŭski, Kamieniec Litewski, Kamenets, Kamenec Litowski, Kaments Litovsk), over the centuries, has been host to many cultures, religions, and ethnic groups. Up until World War II, it included a large proportion of Jewish citizens.

Kamianiec was founded in 1276 by order of the Volynsk Prince Vladimir Vasilkovich [2] on the site of a small settlement dating from the 10th or 11th century. His intention in building this outpost was to protect the area against marauding Tartars.

Under the direction of the architect Oleksa (or Alexsa), local residents built fortifications protected by a moat and rampart. The 30-meter stone Kamianiec Tower also known as Kamianiec Pillar, Kamianiec Vezha, White Vezha, or The White Tower was erected between 1276 and 1288 on a high hill on the east bank of the Lesnaja River as a simple, forward post on the border between Polish and Volyn' lands. At this time, the Church of the Virgin, the first Orthodox house of worship, was constructed in Kamianiec. In 1289, Kamianiec was seized and destroyed by Prince Jury Lvovich of Drahiczyn [3].

In 1366, Kamianiec was made part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Litva) [4]. Well-fortified, and located on the heavily-used trade routes between Brest and Grodna and between Krakow and Vilna, it became a significant center of commerce.

During the Fourteenth Century, this area was dominated by the church of Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople (orthodox church) and populated in large part by pagans. Crusader armies from western Europe entered the region during this time to oppose Constantinople's church rule and to convert last of the pagans to the Rome church. In 1375, Theodor von Elper and and a group of Crusaders took Kamianiec and plundered it; they captured many townspeople and their cattle. Crusaders attacked the town two more times and, in 1378, they burned it to the ground.

During the fourteenth century, Kamianiec was involved in the conflicts between Litva and Poland. The Grand Dukes (or Princes) Jahajla and Vitaut of Lithuania were quarreling with each other. In 1383, Polish Prince Janusz Mazowiecki, took advantage of the distraction and took over Kamianiec. A year later, after a week-long siege, Jahajla retook the town. Vitaut reconciled with Jahajla in 1384, and added the town to his landholdings. Over the following 100 or so years, the Grand Duchy and thus Kamianiec itself was subject to a series of regional conflicts based on complex regional political and religious issues.

In the early 15th century, the Roman Papacy was contested by three candidates. Ambassadors from one of them, Peter Philarges, arrived in 1409, asking both Grand Dukes Jahajla and Vitaut to recognize him as lawful head of the Roman Church. He was successful and became Pope Alexander V later that year.

In 1413, Kamianiec became the seat of the Troki Voivodship (county), which after 1520 was known as the Podlasie Voivodship, and after 1566 was called the Bierascie Voivodship. This heritage is reflected in the current names of the Kamianiec streets: Bierasciejskaja, Litouskaja, Vaskrasienskaja and so on. Today, Podlasie is still used to describe an area of western Belarus and eastern Poland, and Bierascie refers to the nearby town and region of Brest.

During this period, military assessments were made on the basis of population. To give an idea of the relative sizes of Kamianiec and the now-large city of Brest, in the 1400's, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania made identical military assessments of Kamianiec and the nearby town of Brest, 50 horses and 50 kop [5].

The first Catholic church was constructed in 1424. Through the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries, the fortress of Kamianiec and the enclosing district was ruled by grand-ducal assistants: Prince Siamion Aleksandravicz Czartaryjski and, after 1512, Baron Bogusz Bogawicinowicz.

In 1503, Kamianiec was granted the Magdebourg Right [6]. In Europe, for millennia, the city seal is an important indication of its position and emphasis. Undoubtedly, Kamianiec had a seal by this time, but its appearance is unknown. It was not until the end of the 16th century that the familiar seal of a tower on a blue field was mentioned in written records.

In 1596, the capitol of the Rzecz Pospolita [7] was moved from Krakow to Warsaw. Trade and administrative routes shifted, and the new emphasis on Warsaw-to-Vilna communications bypassed Kamianiec. Thus the town lost political and economic importance. Frequent wars also contributed to the decline of the town. Moscow's war with the Rzecz Pospolita in 1654-1667 lead to an invasion by the troops of the Duke of Moscow, which caused much damage. Perhaps to compensate, a decision of the Seym (parliament) of the Rzecz Pospolita in the late 17th century granted a four-year exemption of taxes to the residents of Kamianiec.

A Russian Orthodox monastery was established in Kamianiec in 1637. In 1640, the monastery established a school. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the government center was expanded to a fortress-palace complex. The Radziwill family operated a textile factory. The diplomat Michael Wielhorski, Polish envoy in Paris during 1768-1770, constructed a residence in the town at the end of the 18th century.

The stone-built Catholic Church of Peter and Paul's and its associated school started operation in 1723. Kamianiec became part of the Russian empire from 1795. In 1801 it was placed under the administration of the Brest District of the Grodno province.

Around 1850, Kamianiec-Litouski counted 597 courtyards, about 2900 inhabitants, and a brewery. The town held 3 trade fairs each year. In 1897, the population had increased to 4600 and a total of 1186 houses, of which 679 were listed as "inhabited". The town included a clinic and a church school. By 1914, the town included 7 "small fine enterprises", and the stone church of Saint Simieon was completed.

Starting in March, 1918, the town was in the territory of the Belarusian National Republic, or BNR. The town, now known as Kamianiec-Litouski, was located in territory disputed by the governments of the BNR and Ukraine. In 1921, the border shifted, and Kamianiec-Litouski came under the government of Poland. It was at that time a town with a large Jewish proportion of its 2348 inhabitants. The town, in Jewish terms called a "shtetl", included 3 sawmills, a brewery, 2 creameries, and a fur-processing concern.

In September 1939, government of the area passed to the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR). Since 15 January 1940, the town of Kamianiec was the administrative center of the Kamianiec rajon of the Brest region of the BSSR (one of the republic of the USSR). From 23 June 1941 until 22 July 1944 it was occupied by Nazi troops. The Nazis brutalized many of the inhabitants of the area, representing many ethnic, social, and religious groups, and ultimately murdered the entire Jewish population of the town.

Present-day Kamianiec honors its history through monuments and buildings: First, to the founder Vladimir Vasilkovich, erected in 1990, standing alongside a bison, the emblem of Belarus. The Kamianiec Tower still stands as a unique example of the defensive architecture of the Thirteenth Century. The Church of Saint-Simieon (1914) and other stone buildings in the town recall the past. The once-vibrant Jewish community of the town has completely disappeared and is remembered only in memoirs of the town's descendants, including the noted author Yekheskl Kotik.

Kamianiec is now a farming center and hosts a number of local small industries.

Thanks to Henry Neugass
for the assistance in translating this material

Literature:
Vołha Kniazieva. Padarožža pa Biełarusi. Harady i haradskija pasiołki. Minsk, "Biełaruś", 2005
A.Citoŭ. Simvały niezaležnasci. // Hieraldyka biełaruskich miestaŭ. Miensk, 1998
Zbor pomnikaŭ historyi i kultury Biełarusi. Bresckaja vobłasć.
Minsk, Biełaruskaja Encykłapiedyja, 1984

Notes:
[1] http://www.brest-belarus.com/Kamenets.shtml

[2] Vladimir Vasilkovich (or Vladimir Vasilevich, or Uladzmir) was the ruler of ancient Volhynia (Valyn' or Valynsk), an area stretching from present-day Western Ukraine northward. Although records of Jewish residents of the region in this time are rare, it is recorded that the death of Vladimir Vasilkovich was widely mourned by the Jewish population.
More about Volhynia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volyn
http://www.bartleby.com/65/vo/Volhynia.html
Map of Volhynia:
http://www.rollintl.com/roll/volhynia.htm

[3] The modern town of Drahiczyn or Drahicyn is located about 60 km west of Kamianiec. During the 13th century, the princes of Drahiczyn and Volhynia were rivals for control of Kamianiec. (Another modern town of similar name is located about 100 km south-east of Kamianiec, but it was not involved in this rivalry.)

[4] Present-day Belarus was between about 1300 to almost 1800 part of the large and powerful Grand Duchy of Lithuania (or Litva, or Litviny), not to be confused with the modern Baltic state of Lithuania. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duchy_of_Lithuania

[5] Kop = the Lithuanian unit of currency at that time

[6] The trade rights of the medieval city of Magdeburg became a prototype for self-government laws in cities in the area modern Germany, Poland, and Belarus. The overall effect of these rights was to improve conditions for trade, especially via innovations in urban planning for facilities to support trade. One effect was to give advantages to the native tradespeople over merchants arriving at the city for trade purposes. Under these laws, Jewish residents were considered not part of the native population and were thus placed at a disadvantage with their non-Jewish competitors. There is no evidence that this particular measure was enforced in Kamianiec.

[7] Rzecz Pospolita = a 16th-18th century political union of the Grand Duchy of LItva and the Polish Kingdom intended to counterbalance growing Russian power.

Kamianiec. : Places of interest | selected photos

Kamianiec. : Lost heritage | Photo

Kamianiec.  Catholic church of St. Peter and St. Paul

Kamianiec. Catholic church of St. Peter and St. Paul (1723) Old catholic church in Kamianiec. Main facade Photo ©

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