Sapieha [Sapjeha] (Sapiha, Sopiha). A Belarusian-Lithuanian family line of magnates that owned large estates in Podlachia, around Brest, and on the Buh River. They were the second most wealthy and influential family in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania after the Radziwiłł family. The line probably originated among the Smolensk boyars; it was formally established by Semen Sapieha, the scribe to Casimir IV Jagiellończyk. The Sapiehas held high governmental and military positions through the 16th to 18th centuries in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire. Initially they were all Orthodox, but in the late 16th and early 17th centuries they converted to Catholicism. Several members of the family line played a role in Ukrainian history.
Ivan Sapieha (b ca 1450, 1517) served as scribe and then marshal of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and as voivode of Vitsebsk (1511–14) and Podlachia (from 1514); he founded the town of Koden (1511) and was the first of the family to convert to Catholicism (1514). Lev Sapieha (b 1557, d 1633) was Lithuanian chancellor (from 1589) and voivode of Vilnius (1623–33); as grand hetman of Lithuania (from 1625) he oversaw the preparation of the third Lithuanian Statute and opposed the church union (see Church Union of Berestia) and Yosafat Kuntsevych's policies. Andrii Sapieha (ca b 1560, d 1621) held various military posts in Lithuania and was briefly voivode of Kyiv (1605–9). Kazymyr Lev Sapieha (1609–56) owned estates in the Chornobyl region, served as deputy chancellor of Lithuania (from 1645), fought against Bohdan Khmelnytsky, halting the Cossack advance on Lithuania in 1649 and in the Battle of Berestechko (1651), and briefly captured Kyiv with Janusz Radziwiłł's forces (1651). Paweł Jan Sapieha (ca b 1610, d 1665) was grand hetman of Lithuania; he fought against the Cossacks at the Battle of Zboriv (1649), the Battle of Berestechko (1651), the Battle of Suceava (1653) and elsewhere in Galicia, Volhynia, and Polisia. Lev (Leon) Sapieha (1803–78) initially served the Russian Empire; he then participated in the Polish Insurrection of 1830–1 and had to emigrate to Galicia, where he was a political and economic leader (marshal of the Galician provincial Diet, 1861–75) and advocated the abolition of serfdom in Galicia. Adam Sapieha (1828–1903), a Galician Polish politician, advocated Galician autonomy in the 1860s.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]