In the territory of the Vesele village, Beryslav district, near the dam of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, there is an interesting historical building, the so-called "Vytautas Tower". Carefully hidden and abandoned since the times of the USSR, the ancient tower has surprisingly survived all natural and social disasters and still amazes with its majesty. We will talk about it in this article.
The history of Vytautas Tower
At the end of the 14th century, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas built a series of fortresses in the South and East, spreading the borders of his principality to the Black Sea. He formed a network of fortifications and castles, which he personally controlled. They covered all the main cities and borders of the country.
Lithuanian archaeologist Gintautas Zabiela counts more than 3500 Lithuanian fortresses in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia.
It is believed that the Beryslav tower (another name of Vytautas tower) did not arise without reason. Long before the Lithuanians, the South of Ukraine and the lower reaches of the Dnieper were controlled by the Genoese who built their cities with customs offices:
- Khadjibey (Odessa);
- Dashev (Ochakiv);
- Protovche (Khortytsia);
- Tighina (Bendery).
The customs office was established at one of the river crossing sites. It was protected by an armed unit to levy a tribute from the transported goods that was sent to Kyiv. According to experts, the Vytautas Tower is not an independent building, but it was part of a significant medieval architectural complex (castle or fortress) built at the Tavan crossing.
Another tower of similar architecture, The White Tower building, is located in Kamyenyets in the Brest region (it is a symbol of Belarus).The White Tower, together with the Vytautas Tower and the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, form a single unit, created in the distinguished Lithuanian style. In Ukraine, buildings from the time of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were preserved in Lutsk, Medzhybizh, and Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi.
At the end of the 19th century, the tower was a part of the Prince Trubetskyi estate in Kozatske and was reconstructed by him into a water and observation tower. It was rebuilt and decorated with windows in the Gothic style with a balcony overlooking the Dnieper. An internal metal spiral staircase led to the balcony; its construction is partially preserved to this day. It had a tent roof and a pumping station was attached to the southern façade to supply water. Additionally, a riveted iron tank was installed in the center of the tower at the level of second tier.
The tower was captured in many photographs and paintings during the construction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. During the Soviet period, the water supply was transferred to the territory of the winery, so there was no water function at the tower anymore.
In the early 70s of the last century, the roof burned down, and in the 90s, all available metal structures were cut short.
The ownerless tower served as a shelter for birds and snakes and quietly lived its seventh century until it found itself again at the epicentre of events. Inin the plans for the construction of the Hydro Power Plant-2 canal, it was erased from the maps like ruins.
Externally the Vytautas Tower has the following characteristics: 20 m in height, 11.7 m diameter at the level of the lower tier, and 1.7 m thickness of the lower tier walls.
The bricking of the tower is made by hewn limestone from the region. The tower has four tiers and stands on a solid monolithic foundation, which is set on the bedrock of the right bank.
Currently it is safe to say that the Vytautas Tower near the village of Vesele is a significant historical monument. However, problems remain with its detailed study, including archaeological ones. In the national “Code of History and Culture of Ukraine” there is no mention of this landmark. In Lithuanian encyclopedias and other Lithuanian scientific literature, the Vytautas Tower is recorded as a component of Lithuanian historical heritage.
On January 25, 2018, by the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the Vytautas Tower received status as the monument of national importance and was included in the sovereign Register of Cultural Heritage of Ukraine. The arrangement of technical documents and registration for this success took two years through the efforts of the public and activists. In June 2019, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine approved a project to complete conservation zones and boundaries around the monument.
Vytautas Tower is the only medieval building in the South of Ukraine that has preserved its majesty and mystery until now. Here you can:
- touch the eternity and feel the energy of the stones;
- imagine the historical events that took place here over the centuries;
- take part in festivals and performances organized by the “Ukraine – Lithuania” cultural center;
- relax in the shade of trees on the shore of the reservoir;
- have a photo shoot or a picnic.
This place attracts with its mysteries, history, and eternity.
How to get there
From Kherson you can get to the village of Kozatske by bus or minibus, and then walk by foot. Near the tower there are other interesting tourist sites, including the Prince Trubetskyi Chateau with a winery and picturesque ruins of the castle and a stunning natural phenomenon of unique waterfalls in the Kherson steppes.