Cfstle's Yard. Photo by Oleg Shuplyak
It was 350 years ago: France during the time of the musketeers and Cardinal Richelieu. Young Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d’Arquien, daughter of the captain of the royal guard and of the King’s governess, journeyed east to a remote country. She had no idea that Zolochiv castle (located in the current-day Lviv region) would be her refuge for many years, a castle proudly boasting modern Ukraine’s only Chinese Palace
| The Story of Royal Love|
Engraving on the Castle wall
The girl was a lady-in-waiting for the French princess Ludwika Maria Gonzaga de Nevers, the bride of Polish King Wladislaw IV Vasa. Marie - or “Marysenka” (as she was known in Polish) did not expect that in time Poland’s throne would be hers along with a bevy of legends and stories surrounding the most romantic love-story in central Europe.
It happened in 1656. It was love at first sight between this French beauty and Jan III Sobieski (King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1674 to 1696). At the time Jan was 27 and Maria was 15. This flame of love continued into their old age. Jan III Sobieski and Marie Сasimire married in 1665. The future would bring 30 years together, 13 children out of which only 4 survived, wars against Turkey, Jan’s coronation and his triumph in 1863 near Vienna, when his troops stopped the advance of the Ottoman Empire in Europe.
Malicious tongues would whisper, “Maria rules Jan, and Jan rules Poland”. They did not like the queen. She was a foreigner, not noble enough, and she drained the royal treasury. Even the fact that Louis the XIVth was her son Jacob’s godfather did not improve her situation. The proud queen needed some sense of safety. For her retreat she chose one of their summer residences – a castle in Zolochiv which was the patrimony of Jan’s father – Jacob Sobieski.
The castle had its secrets. The owner and his wife had separate rooms. Windows of the apartments faced the outer side of the fortress where there was a guard. One side had a back door that led to the treasury. There was also said to be an underground tunnel connecting the castle to the surrounding world.
The special pride of Zolochiv Castle were… its washrooms. Yes, common toilets, which were a great rarity at the time. And those of Zolochiv were made so skillfully that they have been studied even by modern specialists!
In the 1690s, Marie often vacationed in Zolochiv. This was when a Chinese palace appeared in the castle, something quite unusual for this region. Though researchers can not find actual features of Chinese architecture in this building, the imagination of the local craftsmen who had never visited China in their lives created a true architectural masterpiece.
This was yet another version of the fairy tale of Cinderella-Marie.
And the castle itself has become considerably more beautiful within recent years due to the efforts of the Lviv Art Gallery Director Mr. Boris Voznytskyi. In 2004, an exhibition of eastern art was opened here and now tea ceremonies and knights’ tournaments are also held.
Near the castle gates there are several 10 tonnes giant stones brought from another castle in the Lviv region that was destroyed in the 16th century. Several lines in an unknown language are carved into the grey background, and above those lines there are two separate woven wreaths – thorn and poppy. Between the wreaths there is a small hole. They say that if you have a secret wish, you should put your finger into the hole and twist it quickly. If the wish is material, twist towards the thorn wreath. If you want a romantic adventure, twist towards the blooming wreath. If the wish does not come true, then sorry! it was not the right finger. All you can do is return to Zolochiv Castle one more time and try again...
They say that the ghost of Marie Сasimire Sobieska roams the vaults of Zolochiv Castle. And recently a new guest from the afterworld has been reported: a Black Knight disturbs the castle’s peace searching for something or someone in the Chinese Palace. Is it King Jan looking for his beloved Marie?
| Useful Information|
Museum-reserve “Zolochiv Castle” is open daily except Mondays, from 10:00 to 16:30. The ticket costs UAH3.
Address: 3 Zamkova Str., Zolochiv, Lviv region, tel.: +38 03265 33 385.
Excursions to Zolochiv Castle are organised by “Galintur” agency:
Lviv, tel.: +38 0322 97 0821, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
UIA offers daily flights from Kyiv to Lviv (twice a day). Also, there are direct UIA flights to Lviv from Barcelona and Frankfurt, as well as Vienna-Lviv daily direct flights. Buy tickets online at www.flyUIA.com. For more information, call us in Kyiv at +380 44 461 5050.
From Lviv bus station #6 (154, Lychakivska Str.) buses leave every 20 minutes to Zolochiv (70 km). It takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to get from Lviv to Zolochiv.
© Panorama Magazine
| The Other Places of Interest|
Zolochiv is cosy and very... Hm, let;s say - very western-ukrainian town. The breath of old Austria-Hungary empire is still here. You can feel it among stone graves with sculptures of the saints in the town's cemetary, among blocks of old willas in the old parts of the town- or in the ancient churches.
For examp;e, St. Nicolas church which is located in the centre of Zolochiv, was built in the XIV century! This church was rebuilded in 1765. The other church - of Resurrection of the Christ - was built in 1624-1627. A bell tower which is near the temple belongs to XIX century. After the the big fire in 1691 the church was rebuilt in 1693.
One of the most beautiful buildings of the town is big Baroque Roman-Catholic church with a tall bell-tower and facade decorated by statues. It was erected by piar monks in 1731-1763. The restavration took place in 1878 and in 1907.
The oldest building of the town is old arsenal or 'dvir' (XV century) with thick stone walls and small windows.