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a boyar-magnate family, and from the 17th century a princely family, of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita); from the 18th to 20th centuries, a princely family of the Russian Empire and Austria-Hungary.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Sapiehas held many of the highest offices in Lithuania; they were considered second in importance only to the Radziwiłłs. The Sapiehas were originally boyars in the Smolensk area, their ancestral home. In the 16th and 17th centuries they owned latifundia in various parts of Byelorussia and Lithuania.
Semen Sapieha, a high chancery official of Grand Prince Casimir IV Jagiełłończyk, is the first Sapieha mentioned in a historical source. Ivan Semenovich Sapieha (1450–1517), who converted to Catholicism in 1514, began the family’s rise to eminence. Lew Sapieha (1557–1633) played an important role in Russo-Polish relations in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He supported the First False Dmitrii and actively helped plan and carry out the Polish intervention in Russia. During the reign of the Second False Dmitrii, he acted through his brother Jan Piotr Sapieha. He took part in the conclusion of the Deu-lino Truce of 1618 and directed the compilation of the Lithuanian Statute of 1588.
In August 1608, with the knowledge and approval of Sigis-mund III and Lew Sapieha, Jan Piotr Sapieha (1569–1611) brought a 7,000-man army to join the Second False Dmitrii in Tushino. In September 1608 he commanded the army besieging the St. Sergius Trinity Monastery and the detachments attempting to take the various towns of the Zamoskovnyi Krai. From early 1609 he led the struggle against the Russian people’s movement for national liberation. In January 1610 he was forced to abandon the siege of the St. Sergius Trinity Monastery. After the Tushino forces disbanded, he supported the impostor until the latter approached Moscow for the second time. Sapieha then aided the Polish garrison in Moscow, which was besieged by the first people’s militia. Jan Piotr Sapieha died in Moscow.
Kazimierz Lew Sapieha (1609–56) helped negotiate the Peace of Polianovka of 1634 and fought in the Russo-Polish War of 1654–67. He was vice-chancellor of Lithuania and founded the chair of law at the Vilnius Academy.
Paweł Sapieha (died 1665) took an active part in the wars against Russia and against the national liberation movement of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian peoples in the period 1648–67.
REFERENCESWolff, J. Senatorowie i dygnitarze Wielkiego Ksiȩstwa Litewskiego 1386–1795. Kraków, 1885.
Dunin-Borkowski, J. S. Genealogie żyjących utytułowanych rodów polskich. L’vov, 1895.
Sapiehowie: Materjały historyczno-genealogiczne i majątkowe, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1890–91.