Olesko Castle

I learned a bit more about Poland and Polish history today, and the topic of this post is not even located in Poland. The Olesko Castle is in what is today Ukraine, a country just to the east of present day Poland. But it has many ties to Poland and Polish history.

One of most famous people in Polish history is King Jan Sobieski III. This king of Poland was born at the Olesko Castle near Lwow in 1629. As a young man, he studied in Krakow and at the Jagiellonian University there, and then travelled all around Europe. During his travels, he met many famous figures. Returning to Poland, he joined the army and quickly excelled. Later he became an ambassador to Turkey and learned alot of Turkish military tactics–something which would soon prove invaluable.  Time and again, Sobieski fought for Poland and the king and eventually (in 1668) became the Grand Hetman of the Crown, the commander-in-chief of the Polish army.  Eventually he was elected king and crowned King of Poland in 1676. At that time, Poland was the largest and one of the most populous states in Europe, but also one often besieged by enemies. King Jan Sobieski III’s greatest achievement was in 1683 when he commanded a joint army of Polish, Austrian, and German troops facing the invading Turks near Vienna. Some historians call this a turning point in European history. Had the Turks pervailed, Europe would be a very different place today. But Sobieski was brilliant and his army defeated the Turks. The Pope and others called him the “Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization.”

King Jan Sobieski spent many of his “off” times at the Olesko Castle, it was a favorite place for him. He died in 1696 and is interred, with his wife, in the Wawel Cathedral. I saw his tomb when I was there at Wawel.

I am hopeful that next summer, when I visit Poland, I will also have a chance to see this historic place, the Olesko Castle. I am grateful for my good friend Chris Kulinski who told me about it and got me interested enough to do some research. It sounds like a very historically moving place. And now you know a bit more about Polish history, and how Poland saved Europe from the Ottoman Empire in 1683, nearly 425 years ago.

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