Wilanów - a Royal Residence in Warsaw

Although it was a Royal residence, Wilanów was actually designed as a private retreat for King Jan III Sobieski, who valued family life above material splendor. The original property, known as Villa Nova, was purchased in 1677 and within two years had been rebuilt into a mansion, designed by royal architect Augustyn Locci. Subsequently, two wings, towers, and a first-floor banqueting hall were added, with the interiors decorated by some of Europe's finest craftsmen.

Wilanów Palace survived the time of partitions and wars and preserved its authentic historical qualities. It typifies a type of baroque suburban residence, the entre cour et jardin (between the court and garden). Its architecture is a merger of European art with Old-Polish building tradition.The palace interior glorifies the Sobieski family, especially military triumphs of the king.

After the death of Jan III Sobieski in 1696, the palace was owned by his sons and later (1720) - by famous magnate families: Sieniawscy, Czartoryscy, Lubomirscy, Potoccy and Braniccy.

Wilanow with blooming cherry trees

The Boat House

Between 1730 and 1733 it was a residence of August II the Strong, also a king of Poland. Every owner changed the interiors of the palace, as well as the gardens and surrounding, according to the current fashion and needs.

In 1805, Stanislaw Kostka Potocki, created a museum (one of the first public museums in Poland) in a part of the palace. After the war, the palace was renovated and in 1962 reopened. Most of the collection was "repatriated". The palace and park are also hosts cultural events and concerts, including Summer Royal Concerts in the Rose Garden and the International Summer Old Music Academy.

The lake

A small bridge on the lake

Wilanów gets its name from the Warsaw borough in which it is located. First mentioned in the 13th century as Milanów, the then tiny village changed hands several times before being bought in the 17th century by the family of Stanislaw Leszczyński. Leszczyński began building a Palace here, but the project was halted by the Swedish Deluge. In 1676 the abandoned Milanów was bought by King Jan III Sobieski, who ordered a new Palace to be built. Originally called Villa Nova (New Village), the name was soon polonised to the one it's known by today. Thanks to the proximity of both the kings' summer residence and the city of Warsaw, Wilanów has for ages been a suburb of Warsaw and a popular holiday spot for Polish magnates. It was also the final point on the historical Royal Road. The area became one of the most important providers of food for ever-growing Warsaw and in 1890 a horse-drawn railway was opened for transport of grain and passengers. The line linking Wilanów with Warsaw's Plac Unii Lubelskiej proved to be a major success and in 1892 the line was extended and started to run steam-drawn trains. Also, new railway stations were built on both ends of the line.

Chinese Summer House

Chinese Summer House - Interior

Today visitors wander through room upon room of delights including some superb examples of traditional Polish coffin portraits, suits of armor, Etruscan vases, a room featuring magnificent frescoes uncovered during restoration work after the war, residential rooms, an exceedingly rare 18th-century glass grandfather clock and even a private chapel.

Wilanów is a district of the city of Warsaw, Poland. It is home to historic Wilanów Palace, the "Polish Versailles." Currently, the surrounding area is home to many expatriates living in Warsaw, as this area is home to many international schools. However, in 2000, the American School of Warsaw moved about 6 km out, to the suburb of Konstancin.

Written and photographs by Holly (Chris)
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Please, read more about Polish history and about Warsaw. Read also another article written by Holly and related to the history of Warsaw and Poland: The Radicalism of the May 3rd Constitution .

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