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this castle has definitely had its share of troubled history.
It has not been established who designed the complex, that, most probably, was planned by Italian architect Andrea del Aqua, who also designed the fortress in nearby Brody for bellicose Koniecpolski. Hetman Koniecpolski wrote in his memoirs that he wanted to own a place for relaxation, but the castle location made it impossible. In 1648 it was attacked by Ukrainian Cossacks during Khmelnytskyi Uprising, although they could not capture the complex, what proved its fortress characteristics. Three years later the Cossacks returned and failed again. After this event, Koniecpolski’s son Aleksander repaired damages and strengthened the fortification improving security credited to resisting numerous Tatar and Turkish inroads that took place in a period of second half of 17th century.
In 1682, Stanisław Koniecpolski, grandson of the original builder and owner, decided to devise the castle with surrounding estates to Jakub Ludwik Sobieski. Five years later, Jakub Sobieski coming back from the campaign against the Ottoman Turks at Kamieniec Podolski hosted his parents, King Jan III Sobieski and his French wife Marie Casimire Louise, in the castle. A description of the Podhorce complex made by one of Sobieski’s courtiers, François d’Aleyrac, has been preserved: “This castle is undoubtedly the most beautiful in Poland, and in other countries, it would also be regarded unique.”
In 1725 Konstanty Sobieski, younger brother of Jakub, sold the castle to the Great Crown Hetman Stanislaw Rzewuski. After hetman Rzewuski’s death, the complex was inherited by his son, Wacław, who also was the owner of the nearby Olesko Castle. Wacław Rzewuski made Podhorce his permanent residence. He ordered that a third floor to be added as well as a church (1788); he opened a theater.
Wacław Rzewuski was vividly interested in all things connected to King Jan III Sobieski. He purchased such items as Sobieski’s sword used in the Battle of Vienna, booty taken by the king after the battle as well as a marble table on which, according to the legend, Sobieski was baptized. In 1767 Rzewuski went to Warsaw to participate in the debates of the Sejm. Arrested by the Russians and sent to Kaluga, he never returned to Podhorce. After the Partition of Poland, 1772, the castle became part of Austria remaining in the ownership of Rzewuski family ( Seweryn Rzewuski and his descendants), although precious collections were partially auctioned by the Austrian-imposed administrator, and the grand interior damaged when Wacław was imprisoned by Russians.
Until 1869 the complex still belonged to the Rzewuski family, here they hosted emperor Franz Josef I, and here Euzebiusz Slowacki, the father of Juliusz Slowacki was born. Last male descendant of hetman Wacław Rzewuski, count Leon Rzewuski, being childless, devised the castle to prince Wladyslaw Sanguszko.
During World War I, the castle was captured by the Russians, who did not destroy it, but looted most of the precious items from it. In the summer of 1915 Pidhirsti became headquarters of the Fifth Austrian-Hungarian Corps. As it was located on the front line, threat of destruction by Russian artillery was real. Fortunately, General Aleksei Brusilov decided to spare the complex, however it was ransacked again by the Russians. Russian soldiers destroyed its interior: walls, tiles and floors. In the Polish-Soviet War the castle was damaged again, and after the conflict, it became part of the Tarnopol Voivodeship (Second Polish Republic), belonging to prince Roman Sanguszko, who was the last Polish owner of the castle.
In the Polish September Campaign of 1939, following Nazi and Soviet aggression on Poland, anticipating loss of property, Prince Sanguszko packed most of the valuables, took them to Romania, and later to São Paulo in Brazil, where he created a fund. After World War II, Soviet authorities opened in the complex a Tuberculosis sanitarium. In February 1956 the castle almost completely burned down, including valuable paintings; the fire lasted for three weeks, leaving behind only walls and $12 million in damages. In 1997 it was purchased by the Lviv Gallery of Painting, which turned it into a museum.
The castle, despite all the damages rendered during the Communist rule, always was an interesting and attractive architectural object. Several movies were made in Pidhirtsi, including shots of Potop.
When Ukraine regained independence from the Soviet Union, the castle was planned to be revamped and made into a presidential residence. This never came to be true, and eventually it was placed under the jurisdiction of the Lviv Arts Gallery. Currently, part of the Rzewuski family collection is kept in the Lviv Historical Museum and Lviv Art Gallery.Some artifacts are also kept in museums in Tarnów and Kraków. The Lviv Gallery of Arts is trying to restore the castle to its historical look, however lack of funds has delayed most restoration work, and progress is only being made slowly.