Kyiv

Between legend and fact

Richard’s Castle

15 Andreyesky Spusk St.

There is a myth in Kyiv that the city’s “medieval castle” once played host to English King Richard the Lionheart, who apparently visited the castle during the 12th century, either on his way to or way back from the Crusades. Alas, we are here to blow that rather lovely but utterly ludicrous myth apart.
The facts, you see, do not support the myth. In fact Richard’s Castle first appeared on Andreyesky Spusk Street only in 1902-1904, when the plot was owned by Kyiv contractor Dmitriy Orlov. It was he who ordered a construction engineer known as Krauss to build a house in English neo-Gothic style. Krauss’s design was astonishing, and the resulting house, a veritable castle with its pointed spires and embattlements, covered arcade-staircase and amazingly romantic courtyard, would have suited even the most pretentious English medieval king.

In fact, the castle was originally designed to be an apartment house. At the beginning of the 20th century Kiev witnessed a construction boom: wooden, primarily single-storey houses were demolished and substituted by high-rise buildings and roomy apartments, which were available for rent; Orlov wanted a piece of this lucrative business. Fate, however, intervened. Orlov, who had various business interests in the Far East, was shot in 1911, and the castle sold shortly after. At once rumours began of the castle harbouring terrible secrets and – far worse – ghosts and ghouls. Tenants complained of dreadful noises from the chimneys and ventilation ducts that accompanied every wind, and before long the house’s notoriety spread throughout the city.

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