“Who built this Fortress?” asked Ottoman Sultan Osman II after unsuccessful trial to capture Kamyanets Podilsky in 1621. Someone answered “The God himself.” And Sultan said «Then let the God himself capture the city!” This is what the legend relays about the powerful and impregnable citadel.
Little light still has been shed on the question about who built the castle on this spot initially. Archeological version suggests there was a ground fortress nearby in the times of Kievan Rus. It is also proved that wooden fortifications were built on the place of the fortress as early as the end of the 12th century. The first written evidence of the castle dates to the end of the 14th century when Kamenets was a property of Lithuanian Prince Yuriy Koryatovich.
This unique stronghold towers atop a high hill with the Smotrych River skirting around and carving a perfect natural moat. Narrow neck of the bridge over the river was the only entrance to the Castle. The Castle has been gradually fortified during the 15-16th centuries to become a fortress with armor of limestone and brick, secure thick walls topped with high stone towers. Thus the name Kamenets, referring to Slavic word stone. New constructions met needs of the major fortification of the Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth Eastern Frontier and successfully repelled Cossack, Ottoman and Tatar attacks. By the end of the 16th century the Castle has mostly gained its nowadays look. In result of numerous fortification and reconstruction works there has appeared a New Castle portion of the Fortress to rebuff artillery attacks. The Old Castle was designed mostly to protect direct enemy ground assaults. Unapproachable stronghold was defeated only once – by Ottomans supported by Cossacks and Tatars in the end of the 17th century when Osman rule was established in Podil for 27 years. The Kamenets Castle served as a fortress till the very beginning of the 18th century when it has lost its defensive role and became a military prison. National folk hero Ustym Karmaliuk was imprisoned in here many times and each time managed to escape successfully. Probably he knew some secret underground tunnels so often mentioned in the numerous Castle legends.
Nowadays the Castle is a part of the National Historical reserve Kamenets, place for festivals and historical reconstruction role playing. Medieval architects, engineers and military commanders admired the Kamenets citadel. It is very likely you would be charmed too when you visit the Kamyanets-Poldilsky Castle.
Just a quick note to say that all the arrangements you made in Kiev and in the Crimea worked without a hitch. Your two drivers were most helpful and made our arrival in a strange country much easier. Thank you for your help – without it I doubt if we would have made the trip.