Lutsk is one of the oldest cities (206,500 inhabitants) of Ukraine, center of oblast and region; it is situated on the banks of Styr River. Chronicles mention recorded it as Luchesk (from old Ukrainian meaning "meander") in 1085, which means it already was a major fortified Kyivan Rus center of trading and handicraft. In the mid-14th c, under the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which controlled Volyn, Lutsk became the southern residence of Grand Dukes and last capital of Halych-Volyn Principality. At the suggestion of Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund Lutsk hosted the grandiose convention of European monarchs featuring 1,500 persons in 1429.
The Neogothic Lutheran kirk
They discussed the European defense against emerging Ottoman Empire and union of western (Catholic) and eastern (Orthodox) churches.
The 15th and 16th centuries were marked with continuous rivalry to control the city between Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords and devastating raids of Tatars in 1453,1500, and 1502.
The present architectural ensemble of Lutsk started forming in the 14th-18th c. Its surviving landmarks were incorporated into the historical and cultural preserve "Old Lutsk" in 1985. It is dominated by the Upper Castle, the oldest fortification landmark of Volyn, founded by last Duke of Halych-Volyn Land Lubart in 1340-1384, which was buried here in the underground vault together with his sons. There are three surviving major towers of the castle: Entrance (Lubart's), Styr (Svydryhailo's), and Vladych's; they were connected with 10-meter high and 230-meter long walls. Between the Entrance and Styr towers, on the site of duke's palace, there is the "nobleman's" house (1789) boasting the art gallery. The tower of Vladych contains the museum of bells; in the Entrance tower there is the exhibition of structural clay products, and through the loopholes one can enjoy the views associated with middle ages. The four times bigger Okilny Castle, which included the yards of the duke and his nobility, adjoined on the Upper Castle on the east. Here the monasteries of Jesuits, St. Brigid and charity were founded after the Union of Brest in 1596. The ensemble of Jesuit monastery with collegium and majestic church of Sts. Peter and Paul was created in 1606-1610 according to the design of Italian architect D. Briano. The monastery comprised the town's best high educational establishment, rich library of old and students' theater. The Catholic Church was upped to the level of the Cathedral in the late 18thc.; after the Great Patriotic war was turned into a warehouse; after restorations in 1970-1973 it became a museum of atheism, and only in 1992 it was returned to Catholics with God-pleased interior restored.
Near this Catholic kostel there is the brick house (18th-19thc), where in 1890-1891 the Kosaches lived. There is a monument to writer Lesia Ukrainka, the best known representative of the family, in the Theater Square designed by sculptors A.Nimenko and M.Obeziuk (1977) The monastery of St Brigid replaced the Radziwitt palace in 1624 and survived up to 1845. Then, it became the source of all-town conflagration and was closed down; ever since the premises were used by the district prison. The ensemble of the monastery for charity was in the making from the 18th to 19thc; it consisted of buildings (bishop's palace, hospital, Chancellery, and Ijtin school) of the Old Catholic cathedral of the Holy Trinity. In the late 18thc, the Academy of Sciences emerged here, followed by a hospital under wardship of charity nuns in the 19tnc. Only one, Czartoryski Prince, of eight towers of the Okilny castle and fragments of walls (15th c.) survived.
Between the castle ditch and the river there were quarters of traders and handcrafters, which actually formed the city that was self-ruled and had its one magistrate. There was the oldest-in-Lutsk Dominican monastery, one of later buildings of which (1752) survived.
There was a district in the neighborhood, which the Poles called the Jewish land, there lived Jews and Karaites invited here by Duke Witold to develop crafts and trade (1387-1430). There remained relics of the Main IotLsk Synagogue (1629) of defense type with the tower added to the oratory, whence its popular name of "Small Castle" The old city also boasts separate buildings of the monasteries of Basiliaas (1647) and Trinitarians (1729).
Against the background of catholic architectural dominance in the old town, where even trade marks on curb slabs remind about centuries-old Polish supremacy, the suburban once-and-again rebuilt Christian Orthodox churches of Patronage (15th ?) and Exaltation of the Holy Cross (l6th-19thc.) look like orphans. The authorities closed down the monastery of Bernardines (1752) in 1853 and in 1877-1879 rebuilt its Catholic church for the main Lutsk orthodox Holy Trinity cathedral. One of the showiest buildings for public worship in modern Lutsk is the Neogothic Lutheran kirk with its soaring spire. It was built in 1906-1907 by the kirk society of German colonists; it has been restored recently and is used now by Evangelical Christian Baptists.
Later the downtown moved north to the Volia Avenue. Here typical soviet dwelling houses are mixed with pompous official buildings, like the main building of Volyn National University with the monument to T. Shevchenko in front of it.