Olesko Castle in Lviv region, first mention of which existence dates back to 1327, is an outstanding monument of history and architecture of Ukraine of XІІІ-XVIII centuries. This castle can be proud that it is one of the few fortifications in Ukraine, which has been fully restored from ruins, and joined the Lvov National Art Gallery. Today, museum exhibits and samples of medieval art are presented in Olesko castle.
The basis of fortification was the height at which Olesko Castle was built. The hill had two shafts – one with a fence, the second with a water moat. Further – a plain on the hill, on top of which oval wall, which perimeter is 130 meters, was built. Lithuania and Poland carried constant struggle for the castle for centuries. Olesko Castle constantly passed from the Hungarians to the Lithuanians, from the Poles to the princes of Galich. Olesko Castle entered into the history of Poland also due to the fact that here, in the XVII century, the future king of Polish-Lithuanian-Russian state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Jan III Sobieski was born. This place was often visited by King with his wife Maria Casimire, who in 1684 was in charge of the restoration works at the castle and the park.
Building up of Olesko Castle took several centuries. At the earliest stage, fortification was built, then, in 15th-16th centuries, building-up behind walls took place (a two-storey building in the eastern part of the castle, Gothic doorways and window framing is preserved to this day), towers, and chapels. First stage (17th century) – completion of two two-storeyed complexes of Olesko castle, building of new towers. It is known that in 18th-19th centuries main works were focused on interior decoration, which gave palace nature. Scientists found that decoration of the walls of Olesko castle was made by invited French sculptor LeBlanc, who added to the interior decoration stoves, fireplaces, moldings, and murals. At the same time each room was given its name (Portrait, European, Mirror...)
Unique architecture of the castle is worthy being noted. Olesko Castle in background is oval, with strong buttresses, and a cosy patio. This form is rare even among rich castles and fortresses of Western Europe.
Miracle of Olesko Castle is 42 meters inner well, inside of which, they say, right on its walls, is depicted an awful devil. But who needed it, and how it was done is unknown. In 1838, after a powerful earthquake, part of the well collapsed, and now it is cleared only meters from the top.
Olesko Castle, like most castles, is surrounded by legends and fairy tales.
The legend of Olesko castle is about unhappy love
According to the stories of guides, in 1615 in Olesko castle witnessed a tragedy. Son of Hetman of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth fell in love with Marianna, the daughter of the castle owner Ivan Danylovych. The girl did not care whom to marry, but her father wanted his daughter a richer suitor. The guy begged her father to agree to the marriage, but, when he did not obtain his consent, the guy plunged a knife into his heart, right in front of all those present. As suiciders cannot be buried at a cemetery, his body was thrown into the marsh. His shadow is wandering the outskirts of Olesko, still trying to find his bride. According to another version, Marianne also committed suicide because of such attitude of her father.
The Legend of Casper, the Monk
Locals say that there sometimes appears a ghost – the shadow of monk John Kasper, who was either immured alive in the walls for visiting prostitutes, or voluntarily drowned himself, hoping for a miraculous cure... Whatever the case, but according to the legend and assurances of the locals, his soul has not found its time of rest by now. This monk belonged to located in front of Olesko castle Capuchin monastery, who were known as talented pharmacists, and prepared for the first time in the world coffee, which had the colour of their robes – cappuccino coffee.
Actually, during centuries the castle attracted various disasters. Olesko castle was destroyed for several times, suffered from numerous fires, severe earthquake of 1838, and fire of 1951 which happened because of a lightning. Walls with the paintings, fireplaces and floors of the castle not less suffered from treasure hunters after when one day by chance in one wall walled up treasure was found.
Up until 1969 there were only ruins. Modern castle looks as if it is just evoke after a complete renovation, resurrected from utter ruin. Andrei Shuliar, honoured architect of Ukraine, renovated and restored Olesko castle. Restoration works started in 1961, and museum expositions were created in 1972-1975. The castle gained its look of 17th century. Idea of creating a museum in the restored castle belongs to the Hero of Ukraine, director of the Lviv National Art Gallery, academic Boris Voznytsky. Today the castle is a branch of the Lviv National Art Gallery. This fact explains rich collection exhibited in it. Funds of Olesko castle museum hold numerous exhibits, including antique furniture, sculptures, tiles, icons, portraits, a marble bust of Queen of the Renaissance, tomb portraits, and tapestries Olesko museum, probably, has the greatest collection in Europe of wood sculpture of 11th-19th centuries. The museum has hundreds of paintings and crafts of 10th-18th century and sculptures, which depict difficult times of development of art of Western Ukrainian lands. Archaeological finds represent the most ancient art. Landscape park of Olesko castle was also restored. It took about four thousand trees and shrubs to be planted! Even the river of Libercia, which ran around Olesko castle was put into its old bed. Park avenues are decorated with antique sculptures, as well as works by contemporary sculptors that stayed here in 1996 after the plain-air.
After restoration Olesko castle is often used for film shooting. For a long time the territory of the castle was occupied by shooting o numerous films with participation of cinema studious of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Poland. The latest example is shooting the final scene of the Polish film by Jerzy Hoffmann “Ognіem i mіeczem” (With Fire and Sword).
Often, the castle is used for holidays, concerts, festivals, contests of folk craftsmen, and even jousting.
Annually in late August, ethnic festival “Olesko Castle” takes place there.
Restaurant “Gridnitsa” welcomes you in the castle. According to its owners, Gridnitsa is a place where one can here sounds of medieval music, which helps to immerse in the era of chivalry and romance. This is the place for those who appreciate sincerity and cosy atmosphere, and to whom you want to impress by true Ukrainian cuisine. Phone of the restaurant “Gridnitsa”: +38 067 6711303.
Also, when visiting Olesko, you should look at gravestones at the local cemetery. Special attention should be paid to the Gothic church, founded in 1481 near the round tower, representing strong defensive tower and remains of defensive walls that once surrounded the town.
Address of Olesko castle: Lviv province, Busk district, town Olesko, 34 Zamkovaia Str. Phone +38 (03264) 2-52-80, 2-51-93. Opened for visiting: from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed on Monday). Cost on entrance ticket is 10 UAH.
How to get to Olesko castle: distance from Olesko to Lviv is 68 km. You should drive your own car on M 06 highway in the direction of Rivne. Also, you can use shuttle bus from the car station in Lviv.
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