The Cradle of the Polish King
Olesko Castle is raised over a boggy plain nearby the highway Kiev–Lviv. Tourists love this place not for nothing, as the castle seems to have emerged from a ballad of brave knights and beautiful princesses. Its walls of an oval shape crown the top of the hill and between the two castle buildings there is a mighty tower with entrance gates. At the foot of the hill there are picturesque lakes and rushed bogs providing excellent protection against enemy attacks. However, all the blood spilled beneath the walls is in the past – a long time ago this impregnable fortress became an elegant palace of arts, as it houses a branch of the Lviv Art Gallery.
The museum exposition features more than fifteen hundred medieval exhibits, among them sophisticated furniture, tapes-tries, sculptures, pictures and icons. In the park surrounding the castle there’s an exhibition of modern sculpture, looking very original on the background of the old castle walls.
Originally, the castle was built by princes of Halych and Volyn Princedom in the 13 century. From the very start it was a powerful fortress, though destroyed several times by Tatar invasions acid internal wars. In the second part of the 15th century such raids became rare, and the fortress gradually became a magnate’s palace. Most of all it is the merit at magnate Ivan Danilovich. He performed a substantial rebuilding of the place supervised by Italian architects. So the castle gained features of the Italian Renaissance, and an Italian park emerged in the valley below the castle.
In Olesko Castle, the famous Polish king Jan the Third Sobesky (1629-1696) was born. He went down in history as a victor: it was under his command that Turks suffered a terrible defeat under Vienna (1683), which stopped Turkish wars of conquest in Europe for good. During his rule, the Polish Kingdom had its Last heyday period as a powerful European state. The main goal of the king was liberation of the Right-Bank Ukraine occupied by Moslems, and his main weapon was Cossacks whom he respected all his life. For that, Polish historians dubbed Jan the Third “the Cossack king”.
From the middle of the 18th century, when the Zhevusky family owned the place, there was a spell of bad luck in the castle s history it survived three fires and was damaged by an earthquake. It also suffered from its owners too: once they found a treasure immured in a wall, and started breaking other walls and floors looking for more treasures. The castle was virtually recovered from ruins in the 20th century by initiative of Boris Voznitsky, director of the Lviv Art Gallery.
Olesko castle on the map