PIDHIRTSI CASTLE

Pidhirtsi Castle, spectacular and impressive, is rightly considered to be one of the most beautiful in Ukraine, and it is fairly referred to as «Ukrainian Versailles». Restoration works have been underway for several years there; when they are over, a branch of Lviv Art Gallery is to be open here. The castle is situated on the edge of the plateau of one of the hills of the Podolian Upland, which slopes down from the castle to a broad valley. It has a beautiful view of the valley for many kilometers.

The history of the present-day castle dates back to 1633 when the owner of Pidhirtsi was the Hetman of the Crown Stanislaw Konietspolskiy, one of the greatest generals of his time. The fortified palace in Pidhirtsi was constructed in 1635 – 1640, probably on the foundations of the castle of Pidgoretskiy family. The palace design is attributed to the Italian architect Andrea del Aqua, and fortifications are considered to be planned by the famous military engineer Guillaume de Boplan. In accordance with the plan, the castle is a square with the sides of about 75 meters lonq each. The square is formed by curtains with casemates, fortified by bastions in the corners, which served as walkinq terraces during peacetime. Inside there was a closed yard with a well. The castle was encircled by a moat, with a drawbridge to connect it with a gate. The gate of the palace is the arch, installed in the thick of the curtain and richly decorated on either side. The palace is constructed in the line of the north curtain. Originally, if was a two-storied building, with palace rooms located only in the second floor, while the first floor was occupied by household premises. Near the palace, there stand three-storied square towers, with a high roofs and spires. Another tower was situated exactly in the center of the building, above the entrance.

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Behind the palace, there was a splendid Italian park, arranged in three terraces. The park was designed by a specially invited Italian artist; he made the park struck the contemporaries with the harmonious blend of terrain, vegetation, architecture and sculptural decorations.

Pidhirtsi Castle was twice attacked by Cossacks in 1648 and in 1651, respectively. In 1656, Oleksandr Konietspolskiy repaired the castle, and died here in 1659 at the age of 30. Until 1682, Pidhirtsi belonged to his son Stanislaw. Dying childless, Stanislaw Konietspolskiy transferred its possessions to King Jan III Sobieskiy. The King with his family and numerous retinue stayed at Pidhirtsi Castle in 1687. After the death of the king, Pidhirtsi Castle was inherited by his son Kostiantyn Wladyslaw as well as Olesko Castle. At the beginning of the Northern War (1701) the castle was visited by the Russian emperor Petro I. The Russian tsar admired the beauty of the castle and took to St Petersburg two park sculptures – the busts of Jan III Sobieskiy and his wife Maria Kasimira. Now they stand in the park of Peterhof.

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In 1728, after the death of his father, Vazlav Petro Rzhevuskiy, the Hetman of Crown and Krakow castellan, inherited Pidhirtsi Castle. He made Pidhirtsi not only his main residence but also the most luxurious palace complex in the lands of the present-day western Ukraine. During his reign, the place received its third floor, which leveled the building with central tower.

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Vazlav Petro redecorated the halls of the palace, creating a special design and special atmosphere in each room. The moat in front of the palace gates was filled with earth and a French park was arranged on the site, the central axis of which became the linden alley leading to the gate. At the other end of the alley, a church of the Ascension of St Joseph was constructed in 1788, in an imitation of the Italian Basilica di Superga in Turin.

The next owner of Pidhirtsi Castle was Vaclav Rzhevuskiy, who surpassed his ancestors in terms of eccentricity. Inspired by culture of the East, he spent several years in Arab countries, where he deserved the title of emir Tajal-Fakhr, which means «crowned with glory». In his yard Rzhevuskiy organized a Cossack kish (detachment) of 220 Cossacks, who called him hetman Re-vukha. In 1831, during the Polish rebellion, Vazlav Rzhevuskiy disappeared without trace, which gave rise to many legends about his fate.

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In 1867, the castle became subject to extensive and expensive restoration, after which in Pidhirtsi Castle a museum opened, was attended by tens of thousands of people from many countries. The museum existed until 1939, when the palace was taken from its owners by the Soviet government.

After World War II, a tuberculosis sanatorium was established in the palace. Its activity caused great damage to the architectural monument. Since 1998, the restoration works have begun on the palace; as soon as they are over it is planned to rearrange the museum here and return to Pidhirtsi all the exhibits that have been preserved up to now.