Olesky (Olesko in other spelling) Castle in the Lviv region…
The place where Polish King Jan III Sobieski spent many years of his life. The king became famous because he managed to stop the advance of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. The old castle, mentioned in written sources for the first time in 1327, has a lot to tell after almost seven centuries of existence. Its history lives on its premises. Just listen to it…
| The Castle of King Jan |
Can you hear the piercing cry of a just-born baby? Even the insurgents can not dampen it. To come into this world during such a storm and while the Tartars attack – what a time you picked for being born, little Jan! The tired mother embraces the son. She is Theophilia, daughter of voivode Ivan Danylovych. The midwife takes the baby in order to swathe him but having put him on the marble table, she shivers because of the incredible thunder. Even the marble did not withstand it and cracked. It was not a random storm: even nature is saying that on this day, August 17, 1629 an unusual person was born. In honor of the birth of the heir, the banquet will be no less notorious than two years ago, in 1627, when Danylovych married Theophilia to the noble Jacob Sobieski.
The future glorious king of Poland grew up in Halicia. He received the best education: studied in Krakow University and then, according to customs of the time, made a trip across Europe. High and mighty Jan Sobieski saw his first battle near Zboriv at 19, and soon, in 1651, fought in the infamous battle near Berestechko, where the troops of Hetman Khmelnytsky were defeated because of the betrayal of their Tartar allies. The courageous future king of Poland was a captive in Crimea and then went to Constantinople as ambassador. All things happen in a lifetime.
Young, ambitious Jan easily made a career. Of course, the inherited treasures helped him. In 1656, he is named coronal ensign, nine years later, he becomes coronal marshal, and, for his courage in the battle near Pidgaitsi he is promoted to coronal Hetman in 1668. Nature predicted truth on the day of Jan’s birth: victory followed victory, his authority grew.
But real fame of warrior Sobieski was spread in 1673, when he lead the Polish army and defeated Turkish troops in the battle near Khotyn. Was it strange that the Polish Seym (parliament) elected Jan King of Poland on May 19, 1674? Only the Lithuanian ambassadors were against it. And Jan’s wife, the French lady Marie Casimire d’Arquien, his beloved Marysia, with whom he lived for 30 happy years, did a lot to facilitate the crowning of her husband.
Jan was a kind and prudent governor. He signed a peace treaty between Poland and Turkey, treaties with France and Sweden, and in 1684, remembering his Ukrainian origin, he legalised the existence of Cossacks on the Right-Bank Ukraine.
Jan III's triumph was his victory over the Turks in the battle near Vienna in 1683. Under his command, 76 thousand troops of the coalition of Christian states defeated a Turkish army twice as strong. Having prevented the Ottoman empire from conquering Europe and reached the summit of his life, Jan returns to his native land. Olesky castle, sold for the debts of son-in-law, Andriy Konetspolskyi, in 1682 was bought for a then-astronomic sum of 400,000 zlotys. His beloved Marysia finished restoring the castle before the return of her hero. The gates were rebuilt, the chapel was painted, the rooms were decorated with paintings and the floors were laid with marble. The room, where Jan III was born, was completely renovated.
In this cozy nest, the royal family liked to vacation at the end of summer. From this base, Jan visited his manors in Zolochiv and Pidhirtsi and went hunting.
Jan and his wife travelled there in 1694 for the last time. But he did not reach Olesko: the Tartars had made themselves at home there. So the king had to stay in Lviv.
After Jan III, the life of Olesky castle fades for many years and revives only in 1974, when the stronghold becomes an annex of the Lviv Art Gallery. The revival of the castle was much facilitated by Hero of Ukraine Boris Voznytskyi. He rebuilt the fortress almost from ruins, as during the 19th and 20th centuries, the castle endured several fires and even withstood an earthquake. Now in the castle chambers, samples of decorative and applied medieval art are exhibited. There are wonderful Brussels tapestries from the 16th century, a collection of wooden sculptures from the 14th – 19th century, the painting by Martino Altamonte “Battle near Vienna” from 1692, icons and other exhibits.
Not only the castle itself, but also the grand park laid around it, are worth compliments. Rare species of trees, a fruit garden, fountains and sculptures on one of the park terraces create an inimitable ensemble.
The castle's was recognised by film makers who used it as a set in “Boris Godunov”, “The Three Musketeers”, “Queen Bona”, “Shepherd Yanko”, “With Fire and Sword”, among others.
| GETTING THERE|
Olesky Castle is open daily from 10:00 to 16:30, except Mondays. Contact tel.: +38 03264 251 93. Tickets: UAH5 (adults) and UAH2 (for children and students).
A stylish restaurant “Grydnytsia” also awaits guests at the castle (tel.: +38 067 671 1303, www.grydnycia.lviv.ua).
The best way to reach the town of Olesko is through Lviv (70 km).
© Panorama Magazine