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.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
It happened in 1656. It was love at first sight between this French beauty and Jan III Sobieski (King of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />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?