In 1771 the process began to divide Poland, and its neighbour Lithuania, up and distribute large parts of the countries to their neighbours. By 1795, Poland ceased to exist as a state, and it remained like that for the next 123 years. This Partitioning, combined with two World Wars in the 20thcentury saw nearly every historical and cultural building in Poland destroyed. Wilanów Palace just outside Warsaw however is one building that survived tumultuous period, so much so that today it serves as a reminder of the culture of the Polish state pre 18thcentury.
Wilanów Palace was built by the Polish King John III Sobieski towards the end of the 17thcentury. Subsequent owners have each enlarged the palace to create a building that fuses many central European elements with distinctively Polish building traditions. The original palace was designed by Augustyn Wincenty Locci, the King’s Court Architect, and included many different elements of the period, from a Polish noble mansion, an Italian garden villa and a French palace, in the style of Louis XIV.
Each owner not only changed the interior of the palace, they also enlarged the gardens and grounds according to the needs and fashions of the time.
In 1805 the building was owned by Stanisław Kostka Potocki and turned part of the palace into a museum. The museum has a wonderful collection of European and Oriental art, with the focal point being a commemoration to the Polish King John III Sobieski and the glorious Polish past. Although the building was damaged by the German forces in WWII, it was not, unlike most buildings in and around Warsaw, demolished after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
When the war was over, the palace was renovated with most, not all, of the collection stolen by Germany returned. By 1962, its repairs were complete and the building was opened to the public.
The White Hall
Designed by J. Z. Deybl, it was built between 1730-33 for the King August II. The White Hall is the most sumptuous room in the palace, optically enlarged by great mirrors facing its windows. The walls are decorated with portraits of August II and August III which were painted by Louis de Silvestre.
The chapel was built between 1852-61 to commemorate the John III Sobieski who died in Wilanów. Its highlights include its figure of the Virgen Mary by Gaiassi, the bronze doors which were cast in Warsaw in 1853, the wonderful stucco ceiling by Jósef Klimczak and the four bas-reliefs of gospel scenes by J. B. Lavastre from 1853.
The Kings Library
Originally built to be a refuge for John III Sobieski where he could read and work in solitude. The highlights of the room include it’s wonderful, and original, marble floor along with its incredible ceiling. The ceiling is painted depicting allegories of philosophy and theology surrounded by medallion portraits of eminent scholars and artists. The walls a decorated with several paintings by French, Flemish, Dutch and German artists and is still exactly how it was in the time of John III.
The garden has been an integral part of the palace since its beginning in 1677. The original one was of a baroque Italian design in semi-circular fashion surrounding the palace. Later, it was redesigned to incorporate many French elements, such as sculptures and statues, which were inspired by André Le Nôtre, the designer of the gardens at Versailles outside Paris. Another re-design in 1784 saw several elements of Chinese garden added, such as waterfalls and rich vegetation. Today the garden is a wonderful experience and a must for any visitor