town Zhovkva, Vecheva Sq. 2
Price: 3 UAH
Working hours: from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Sunday from 12 p.m.; closed on Monday
The four-century-old Zhovkva Castle is the main tourist magnet of the small town Zhovkva, situated in Lviv outskirts. The powerful construction, which used to be a part of the town fortification system and provided reliable protection to it, is now reckoned among the prominent historical and architectural monuments of the Renaissance period in Ukraine.
Town’s founder, Polish military leader and crown Chancellor Stanislaw Zolkiewski, started castle’s construction, 1594. Twelve years later, the building was finished, and an impressive brick and stone house appeared in Zhovkva’s center. Traits of Renaissance and baroque styles peculiarly interwove in its architecture. The castle was probably raised by analogy with Dutch fortifications of that time and was well-fortified: the quadrangle building was crowned by pentagonal towers and surrounded by wide water ditch. Closed galleries with loopholes linked the towers to castle’s two-tier buildings.
The second level was occupied by a prison for captive tatars, who were then used for construction works in Zhovkva. The house, where the city owners lived, stood in the courtyard of the castle complex, the arsenal with smithy and stable, adjacent to the carriage house, were located next to it. A little later, the zoo, where bison, deer and chamois were bred for hunting, was arranged near the castle. It didn’t exist for more than a hundred years, though.
In the late 17th century, the Zhovkva Castle passed to the Polish King Jan III Sobieski, who arranged his summer residence there. It was the period of castle’s greatest prosperity: the king had significantly enriched building’s interiors, having decorated them with trophies brought from his campaigns, enlarged weaponry collection, library and castle’s artistic collection. Under Jan Sobieski, the Zhovkva Castle turned into one of the richest and most beautiful royal residences in Europe, the center of region’s cultural and political life. It is here that the victory of Polish-Austrian-German forces, commanded by Jan III Sobieski, over the Turks was celebrated, in 1683.
However, Zhovkva Castle’s happy period ended in the late 18th century: it was sold on the auction and new owners pulled down a half of its buildings. Some towers and a chapel adjoined to one of them, gala stairs and sculptures of former owners disappeared. During the World War I, the castle was almost totally burned down, and only a part of it was restored.
Restoration works are not finished yet, and the building is not in the best state now. The restored part of the castle houses museum’s exposition, telling about town’s vivid history, Zhovkva Castle’s unconventional fate and its famous owners, for over ten years already. It features fragments of a wooden water pipe, dated to the 17th century, and ancient icons, old photos and engravings, authentic sculptures and samples of weapons.