Zhovkva is a small Renaissance town near Lviv, the former residence of the King of Poland Jan Sobieski III. Jakub Sobieski, his father, is buried here in the Church of St. Lawrence. Therefore, many tourists from Poland come to the town. The entire central part of the town has the status of historical and cultural reserve of national importance.
In 2015 project Shtetl Routes did 3D reconstruction of Zholkva. Despite some inaccuracies, video gives a clear overview of its former greatness.
Zhovkva is very convenient for tourists, as all architectural sights are located around the central Veche Square. The main focus, of course, is on the Renaissance castle built from 1594 to 1606 by Stanisław Żółkiewski, founder of Zhovkva. Unfortunately, 75% of the castle is not in good condition. Only frontal wing was restored and serves as a visit card of the town. The remaining parts are currently under construction. There is a museum inside.
In late 2013, the castle has received a grant of 1.5 million euros, which will be spent on the restoration.
Behind the castle Żółkiewski and his wife planted a garden and organized a zoo with bisons, deer, gazelles and other animals. But neither the park, nor the zoo have survived. The park is neglected, but at least the name of "Zvirynets" (Zoo) was saved.
Żółkiewski died in 1620 in a battle with the Turks in Romania, and his son Ivan was captured. The Turks took the head of Stanisław and drove with it across the country, using it as a war trophy. They demanded a ransom of three million zlotys for the return of both home. At that time, such sum of money was enough to build several towns like Zhovkva. To collect such amount, a mint was opened in Zhovkva and minting of money began. The requested sum had been collected, but the son died several years after his return.
After the death of Żółkiewski, the castle passed to his wife Regina, daughter Sophia and, finally, to Theophile - granddaughter and mother of King Jan Sobieski III. Jan made his residence in the castle and significantly restored it in the late 17th century. The entire town at that time looked very colorful.
It was the heyday, when the town had 5 monasteries, a printing press, a school of painting and wood carvers, and even a Jewish cultural center. The synagogue in Zhovkva is unique. It is named in honor of the Christian Sobieski, who contributed to its construction. The synagogue was burned by the Germans during the war, but the building itself survived and renovation works have been recently started.
All urban development was carried out strictly according to the European principle. Town walls were not preserved, but some parts you can find on the Veche Square where two gates and a large defense tower still remain.
Glinsky gate was destroyed in 1964 by the military just because they couldn't find the pass for large military equipment. The current gate is a reconstruction based on old drawings.
In 1648, the army of Bogdan Khmelnytsky came to the castle. But after a ransom was received, they went away. By the way, there is an opinion that the great hetman was born here. It is based on the fact that his father Michael served in the army of Stanisław Żółkiewski.
In 1655, the Cossacks, nevertheless, captured the town. During the Great Northern War (1706-1707) Peter I, the Russian emperor, made his residence in the castle and was preparing there for a war against the Swedes. In Soviet times, both the military and the civilians lived in the castle and this continued until the early 21st century.
Around the square you will find many other interesting sites:
Town Hall (1932). Its predecessor used to stand in the middle of the square, but was demolished in 1832.
Church of St. Lawrence (1606-1618). This is where the ashes of Żółkiewski, his wife Regina and their children are buried, as well as the family of King Jan Sobieski III. Inside there are unique sculptures of Żółkiewski, his son Ivan, daughter Sophia and his wife Regina, made of marble. The head, ransomed from the Turks, was immured in the wall. Another interesting exhibit is a slab on which the names of the cities conquered by the Poles are inscribed, some of them are even Moscow, Pskov and Smolensk. Here you can also find the coat of arms of Sobieski, precious stones from which were stolen in Soviet times.
There are large rocks around the church. This is all that remains of the monument to Sobieski. In 1961, Nikita Khrushchev (USSR leader) was passing through the town and ordered to destroy the monument.
Be sure to stop in the gift shop, which is located on the castle wall. There are many books in Polish and English there. The shop manager is a very educated guy and can tell a lot of interesting things not only about Zhovkva, but also about Lviv and even Kyiv.
We also liked the two streets behind the Zvirynets gate (the one where is the gift shop). It was very surprising to see so many pretty houses.
In 1931, the future inventor Lubomyr Romankiv was born in one of these houses. In March 2012, he was included to the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame as one of ten inventors (including Steve Jobs). He migrated to the U.S. and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after which up to now (2013) he works for IBM. Author and co-author of 65 patents. Thanks to his invention of magnetoresistive heads for recording information, IBM managed to create a hard disk.