ZOLOCHIV CASTLE

Zolochiv Castle is an original historical and architectural monument, which has several features unigue for Ukrainian castles. Among them, there is a system of earthen bastions of the Dutch type with a ravelin that has miraculously survived to the present day, the Kytaiskiy (Chinese) palace that is the only one of the kind, and the sewer system, which was a rear luxury for a castle of the Renaissance period.

The first written mention of Zolochiv Castle dates to 1532, but the buildings that have survived to this day, were constructed only a century later, in 1634, when the owner of Zolochiv was the Krakow castellan Jakub Sobieskiy, who was a high-ranking Polish official. Under his supervision, they built a two-storied palace, protected from all sides by high and wide ramparts, fortified by stone retaining walls. In the corners of the ramparts there are protruding pentagonal bastions, with watchtowers bearing initials of Jakub Sobieskiy. In the times when artillery was developing, such fortification was the most effective as cannon ball plunged into the soil and did not cause any damage to the castle, while broad ramparts could be used to place and remove many cannons to bombard the enemy. If the attackers managed to come close to the ramparts and attack them, they would have to suffer losses from effective fire of corner bastions that protruded over the rampart line. The castle gate in the gate tower and the drawbridge over the moat were protected additionally by a ravelin, a low earthen bastion, from which it was easy to bombard the approaching enemy. If the enemy managed to capture the ravelin, it did not give him any advantage, as the ravelin could be easily shelled from the nearest bastion because of its low height.

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Construction of the castle was continued by the son of Jakub, the Polish king Jan III Sobieskiy. During his reign, the castle became a royal residence. Spending his life in military campaigns and affairs of state, Jan Sobieskiy seldom stopped in Zolochiv. On the contrary, his wife, the beautiful Maria Kazi-mira, often honored the place by her presence, as she liked Zolochiv Castle.

The love story of King Jan Sobieskiy and Maria Kasimira was one of the most romantic love stories of European royal families. Still being a little French girl of a humble birth, Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d Arquien arrived from Paris to Warsaw as a member of the retinue of Maria Louise Neverska, the bride of the Polish king Wladyslaw IV. Certainly nobody could ever imagine that one day that French maid of honor will come to the Polish throne. Soon she met a young nobleman Jan Sobieskiy, and the meeting impressed them both. Nevertheless, in those days court marriages were rarely concluded by the calling of human heart, and soon the 16-year-old beauty Maria Kazimira was married to a noble voivode Jan Zamoyskiy, who was a brave warrior, but at the same time a confirmed drunkard and a playboy. The beloved did not resign themselves to fate and used every opportunity to be together, in secret from anyone else. Seven years later, right after the death of Zamoyskiy, they got the chance to be united. While being a member of the Polish court, Maria Kazimira did not waste her time; during her alliance with Zamoyskiy she managed to establish the relationships that were of great help for her lover Jan Sobieskiy to ascend the Polish throne.

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After becoming the king, Jan III often went on military campaigns, from where he wrote affectionate letters to his gueen, whom he lovingly called Mary-senka, and received her answers, as touching as his letters. More than 3,000 letters have been preserved up to now. While her husband was away, Maria Kazimira enjoyed every luxury she could afford, arousing the criticism of the noble. However, they used any excuse to express their dissatisfaction with the queen, as they understood how large her influence on the king was. The traditional rumor of the court was that «Marysia rules Jan, and only then Jan rules Poland». Maria Kasimira used to hide from cdurt gossips in Zolochiv where everything was arranged for her comfort.

The main innovation that appeared in Zolochiv Palace specially for Maria Kazimira was the Kytaiskiy (Chinese) palace. It was a spectacular and elegant building, the architecture and decor of which reflected the contemporary European idea of what the distant and mysterious East might be like. The oriental specificity palace is reflected in its present-day role: it houses the exposition of Zolochiv museum meant to represent the history of oriental art.

In the halls of the great palace, there are also many things worth seeing: collections of antique furniture, paintings and sculptures. In addition, the palace hall interiors still preserve elements of the original decoration.

After the death of Jan Sobieskiy, Maria Kazimira left Poland, spending the rest of her life abroad. The next owners of Zolochiv Castle were not interested in it, and the beautiful palace complex gradually fell into decay. In 1840, the castle became state property and housed barracks, later remade into a prison. In 1939, after the Western Ukraine was adjoined to the Soviet Union, Zolochiv Castle was turned into an NKVD prison where many Ukrainian political prisoners were executed. During World War II the German Gestapo came to replace the NKVD. After the war, the former royal apartments housed a vocational school, and only in 1986, that remarkable monument of history and architecture has been finally restored and turned into a museum.