Vilnius Castle Complex
The Vilnius Castle Complex , is a group of cultural, and historic structures on the left bank of the Neris
Neris is a river rising in Belarus, flowing through Vilnius and becoming a tributary of the Neman River at Kaunas...
River, near its confluence with the Vilnia River
Vilnia is a river in Lithuania. Its source is near the village of Vindžiūnai, 5 km south of Šumskas, at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border. The Vilnia is 79.6 km long and its basin covers 624 sq. km...
, in Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...
, Lithuania. The buildings, which evolved between the 10th and 18th centuries, were one of Lithuania's major defensive structures.
The complex consisted of three castles: the Upper, the Lower, and the Crooked . The Crooked Castle was burned down by the Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...
in 1390 and was never rebuilt. The Vilnius Castles were attacked several times by the Teutonic Order after 1390, but they did not succeed in taking the entire complex. Its complete capture occurred for the first time during the 1655 Battle of Vilnius
Battle of Vilnius (1655)
The Battle of Vilnius, battle of Wilno, or battle of Vilna was the invasion by Russian and Cossack forces of Vilnius , the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, that occurred between the 7th and 9th of August 1655...
. Soon afterwards, the severely damaged castles lost their importance, and many buildings were abandoned. During the Tsarist
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...
annexation, several historic buildings were demolished; many more were damaged during the fortress construction in the 19th century.
Today, the remaining Gediminas Tower is a major symbol of the city of Vilnius and of the nation itself. Annually, on January 1, the Lithuanian tricolor
Flag of Lithuania
The flag of Lithuania consists of a horizontal tricolor of yellow, green and red. It was adopted on March 20, 1989, almost two years before the reestablishment of Lithuania's independence following the end of the Soviet Union. Before its readoption, the flag had been used from 1918 until 1940 when...
is hosted on Gediminas Tower to commemorate Flag Day. The complex is part of the National Museum of Lithuania
National Museum of Lithuania
The National Museum of Lithuania , established in 1952, is a state-sponsored historical museum that encompasses several significant structures and a wide collection of written materials and artifacts. It also organizes archeological digs in Lithuania....
, one of the largest museums in the country.
History of the Upper CastleOne part of the castle complex, which was built on a hilltop, is known as the Upper Castle. The hill on which it is built is known as Gediminas Hill, about 40 meters (43.7 yards) in height and around 160 meters (175 yards) in length.
Archaeological data shows that the site has been occupied since Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...
times. The hill was strengthened with defensive wooden walls that were fortified with stone in the 9th century. Around the 10th century a wooden castle was built, and since about the 13th century the hilltop has been surrounded by stone walls with towers. During the rule of Gediminas Vilnius was designated the capital city; in 1323, the castle was improved and expanded.
Pagan Lithuania waged war with the Christian Orders
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Christian kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea...
for more than two centuries. The Orders were seeking to conquer Lithuania, stating that their motivation was the conversion of pagan Lithuanians to Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....
. As Vilnius evolved into one of the most important cities in the state, it became a primary military target. The Castle Complex was attacked by the Teutonic Order in 1365, 1375, 1377, 1383, 1390, 1392, 1394 and 1402, but was never completely taken. The most damaging assaults were led by the Teutonic Order marshals Engelhard Rabe von Wildstein and Konrad von Wallenrode
Konrad von Wallenrode
Konrad von Wallenrode was the 24th Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, serving from 1391 to 1393. Modern sources are friendly towards Konrad, although they claim he was hot-blooded, proud, and had tendencies to be cruel....
in 1390 during the Lithuanian Civil War (1389–1392)
Lithuanian Civil War (1389–1392)
The Lithuanian Civil War of 1389–1392 was the second civil conflict between Jogaila, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and his cousin Vytautas the Great. At issue was control of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, then the largest state in Europe. Jogaila had been crowned King of Poland in...
between Vytautas the Great
Vytautas the Great
Vytautas ; styled "the Great" from the 15th century onwards; c. 1350 October 27, 1430) was one of the most famous rulers of medieval Lithuania. Vytautas was the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which chiefly encompassed the Lithuanians and Ruthenians...
and his cousin Jogaila
Jogaila, later 'He is known under a number of names: ; ; . See also: Jogaila : names and titles. was Grand Duke of Lithuania , king consort of Kingdom of Poland , and sole King of Poland . He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis...
. Many noblemen from Western Europe participated in this military campaign, including Henry, Duke of Derby, the future king Henry IV of England
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...
, with 300 knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....
s, and the Livonian Knights
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435–1561. After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen , the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights...
, commanded by their Grand Master. At times during the civil war, Vytautas supported the Orders' attacks on the castles, having struck an alliance with them in his quest for the title of Grand Duke of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...
At the time of the 1390 attack, the Complex consisted of three sections - the Upper, Lower and Crooked Castles. The Teutonic Knights managed to take and destroy the Crooked Castle, situated on Bleak Hill , but failed to capture the others. During the 1394 attack, the Vilnius Castles were besieged for over three weeks, and one of its defense towers was damaged and fell into the Neris River.
The civil war between Vytautas and Jogaila was resolved by the 1392 Astrava Agreement and Vytautas assumed the title of Grand Duke. During his reign the Upper Castle underwent its most notable redevelopment. After a major fire in 1419, Vytautas initiated a reconstruction of the Upper Castle, along with the fortification of other buildings in the complex. The present-day remains of the Upper Castle date from this era. Vytautas had spent about four years with the Teutonic Order during the civil war. He had the opportunity to study the architecture of the castles of the Teutonic Order and adopt some of their elements in his residence in Vilnius.
The Upper Castle was reconstructed in Gothic
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....
style with glazed green tiling on its roof. The Upper Castle keep
A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the...
hall, on the second floor, was the largest hall (10 x 30 m) within the complex; it was a little smaller than the hall of the Grand Master's
Grand Master (order)
Grand Master is the typical title of the supreme head of various orders of knighthood, including various military orders, religious orders and civil orders such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Orange Order...
Palace (15 x 30 m) in Marienburg
-The historical German names of these places:*Ordensburg Marienburg , the large brick castle built by the Teutonic Knights**Malbork, Poland, site of the Ordensburg Marienburg, formerly Marienburg in Westpreußen and during World War II, Nazi Stalag XX-B for enlisted men*Alūksne, Latvia*Feldioara,...
, and much larger than the hall at the Duke's Palace in Trakai Island Castle
Trakai Island Castle
Trakai Island Castle is an island castle located in Trakai, Lithuania on an island in Lake Galvė. The castle is sometimes referred to as "Little Marienburg". The construction of the stone castle was begun in the 14th century by Kęstutis, and around 1409 major works were completed by his son...
(10 x 21 m). Reconstruction of the castle ended in 1422. The state had made plans to host the coronation of the proclaimed king Vytautas the Great in the castle, which were disrupted by his untimely death.
After the 16th century, the Upper Castle was not maintained, and it suffered from neglect. Until the early 17th century, a prison for noblemen was located in the Upper Castle. It was used as a fortress for the last time during the invasion of the Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....
in 1655, when for the first time in Lithuanian history
History of Lithuania
The history of Lithuania dates back to at least 1009, the first recorded written use of the term. Lithuanians, a branch of the Baltic peoples, later conquered neighboring lands, establishing the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the 13th century the short-lived Kingdom of Lithuania. The Grand Duchy...
, a foreign army captured the entire complex. Six years later, the Polish-Lithuanian
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...
army managed to recapture Vilnius and the castles. Afterwards the Upper Castle stood abandoned and was not reconstructed.
The complex suffered major damage during the World Wars. At this time, only the western tower, known as Gediminas Tower
Gediminas' Tower is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle in Vilnius, Lithuania.The first fortifications were built of wood by Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Gediminas. Later the first brick castle was completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas...
, remains standing. It is a symbol of Vilnius and of Lithuania. Only a few remnants of the castle's keep and other towers survived.
History of the Lower CastleThe Castle Complex has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Prior to the 13th century, its structures were built from wood. In the 13–14th centuries defensive walls, towers and gateways were built from stone; these were reorganized and expanded several times. The only freestanding structures that remain intact are those at the Lower Castle.
The two principal buildings of the Lower Castle are the Royal Palace and Vilnius Cathedral.
The Royal Palace in the Lower Castle evolved over the years and prospered during the 16th and mid-17th centuries. For four centuries the Palace was the political, administrative and cultural center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
In the 13th and 14th centuries there were stone
Masonry is the building of structures from individual units laid in and bound together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, stone, marble, granite, travertine, limestone; concrete block, glass block, stucco, and...
structures within the palace site; some archeologists believe that a wooden palace stood there as well. The stone Royal Palace was built in the 15th century, apparently after the major fire in 1419. The existing stone buildings and defensive structures of the Lower Castle, which blocked the construction, were demolished. The Royal Palace was built in Gothic style. The Keep of the Upper Castle, as well as the Royal Palace, were meant to host the coronation
A coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...
of Vytautas the Great. The Gothic palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...
had three wings; research suggests that it was a two-story building with a basement.
The Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander
Alexander of the House of Jagiellon was the Grand Duke of Lithuania and later also King of Poland. He was the fourth son of Casimir IV Jagiellon...
, who later became King of Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...
, moved his residence to the Royal Palace, where he met with ambassadors. He ordered the renovation of the palace. After his marriage to a daughter of Moscow's Grand Duke
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The Grand Duchy of Moscow or Grand Principality of Moscow, also known in English simply as Muscovy , was a late medieval Rus' principality centered on Moscow, and the predecessor state of the early modern Tsardom of Russia....
Ivan III, the royal couple lived and died in the palace.
Sigismund I the Old
Sigismund I the Old
Sigismund I of Poland , of the Jagiellon dynasty, reigned as King of Poland and also as the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1506 until 1548...
, after his ascension to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, conducted his affairs in the Royal Palace as well as in Vilnius Cathedral. During the rule of Sigismund I the palace was greatly expanded, to meet new needs of the Grand Duke – another wing was added, as well as a third floor; the gardens were also extended. By contemporary accounts the palace was worth 100,000 ducat
The ducat is a gold coin that was used as a trade coin throughout Europe before World War I. Its weight is 3.4909 grams of .986 gold, which is 0.1107 troy ounce, actual gold weight...
s. The palace reconstruction plan was probably prepared by Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...
Bartolomeo Berrecci da Pontassieve, who also designed several other projects in the Kingdom of Poland
Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569)
The Kingdom of Poland of the Jagiellons was the Polish state created by the accession of Jogaila , Grand Duke of Lithuania, to the Polish throne in 1386. The Union of Krewo or Krėva Act, united Poland and Lithuania under the rule of a single monarch...
. In this palace Sigismund the Old welcomed an emissary from the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...
, who introduced Sigismund to Bona Sforza
Bona Sforza was a member of the powerful Milanese House of Sforza. In 1518, she became the second wife of Sigismund I the Old, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and became the Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania.She was the third child of Gian Galeazzo Sforza and his wife...
, his second wife, in 1517.
Sigismund's son Sigismund II Augustus
Sigismund II Augustus
Sigismund II Augustus I was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, the only son of Sigismund I the Old, whom Sigismund II succeeded in 1548...
was crowned Grand Duke of Lithuania in the Royal Palace. Augustus carried on with palace development and lived there with his first wife Elisabeth of Austria, daughter of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...
. She was buried in Vilnius Cathedral. Sigismund II's second wife, Barbara Radziwill
Barbara Radziwiłł was Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania, and consort to King Sigismund II Augustus.- Biography :Barbara was the daughter of a powerful magnate of the Radziwiłł family, castellan, voivode and hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Jerzy Radziwiłł, and Barbara...
, also lived in the palace. According to contemporary accounts of the Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...
's emissary, the Royal Palace at that time contained more treasures than the Vatican. Sigismund II also assembled one of the largest collection of books in Europe.
The palace was remodeled in the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...
style in the 16th century. The plan was prepared by several Italian architects, including Giovanni Cini da Siena, Bernardino de Gianotis Zanobi, and others. The palace was visited by Ippolito Aldobrandini, who later became Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII , born Ippolito Aldobrandini, was Pope from 30 January 1592 to 3 March 1605.-Cardinal:...
. Another major development took place during the reign of the Vasa family
House of Vasa
The House of Vasa was the Royal House of Sweden 1523-1654 and of Poland 1587-1668. It originated from a noble family in Uppland of which several members had high offices during the 15th century....
. The Royal Palace was refurbished in early Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...
style during the rule of Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, a monarch of the united Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1587 to 1632, and King of Sweden from 1592 until he was deposed in 1599...
. Matteo Castello, Giacopo Tencalla, and other artists participated in the 17th century renovation.
During the rule of Vasas, several notable ceremonies took place in the palace, including the wedding of Duke John, who later became King John III of Sweden
John III of Sweden
-Family:John married his first wife, Catherine Jagellonica of Poland , house of Jagiello, in Vilnius on 4 October 1562. In Sweden, she is known as Katarina Jagellonica. She was the sister of king Sigismund II Augustus of Poland...
, and Sigismund Augustus' sister Catherine. The first opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
in Lithuania was staged in the palace in 1634. Marco Scacchi and Virgilio Puccitelli were the opera's impresarios.
After the Russian invasion in 1655, the state began weakening, with negative effects on the Royal Palace. The palace was greatly damaged by war, and its treasures were plundered. After the recapture of the city of Vilnius in 1660-1661, the palace was no longer a suitable state residence, and stood abandoned for about 150 years. In the late 18th century, after the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, several families lived in parts of the ruined palace. Soon after the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was incorporated into Tsarist Russia, Tsarist officials ordered the demolition of the remaining sections of the Royal Palace. The Palace was almost completely demolished by the early 19th century. The site had been sold in 1799 to a merchant from Kremenchug.
The Seimas is the unicameral Lithuanian parliament. It has 141 members that are elected for a four-year term. About half of the members of this legislative body are elected in individual constituencies , and the other half are elected by nationwide vote according to proportional representation...
(Lithuanian Parliament) passed a law in 2000 resolving that the Royal Palace be rebuilt for ceremonies commemorating the millennium
A millennium is a period of time equal to one thousand years —from the Latin phrase , thousand, and , year—often but not necessarily related numerically to a particular dating system....
since the first mention of the name of Lithuania
Name of Lithuania
The first known record of the name of Lithuania is in a 9 March 1009 story of Saint Bruno recorded in the Quedlinburg Chronicle . The Chronicle recorded a Latinized Slavic form of the name Lietuva: Litua pronounced [litvā]...
The Royal Palace and Vilnius Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...
formed a complex and stood side by side during the centuries, but the two buildings have different histories.
There is evidence that in pre-Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...
times, the pagan god Perkūnas
Perkūnas was the common Baltic god of thunder, one of the most important deities in the Baltic pantheon. In both Lithuanian and Latvian mythology, he is documented as the god of thunder, rain, mountains, oak trees and the sky.-Etymology:...
was worshipped at this location. It has been proposed that King of Lithuania, Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...
, built the original cathedral in 1251 as the site of his baptism into the Christian rite. After Mindaugas' death in 1263, the cathedral reverted to the worship of pagan gods
Lithuanian mythology is an example of Baltic mythology, developed by Lithuanians throughout the centuries.-History of scholarship:Surviving information about Baltic paganism in general is very sketchy and incomplete. As with most ancient Indo-European cultures Lithuanian mythology is an example of...
In 1387, the year that Lithuania formally converted to Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...
, a second Gothic cathedral with five chapels was built. In 1419 the cathedral burned down. In its place Vytautas built a larger Gothic cathedral. In 1522, the cathedral was renovated, and written sources mentioned a bell tower
A bell tower is a tower which contains one or more bells, or which is designed to hold bells, even if it has none. In the European tradition, such a tower most commonly serves as part of a church and contains church bells. When attached to a city hall or other civic building, especially in...
for the first time. The bell tower was built on the site of a defensive tower of the Lower Castle around the 15th century. After a fire in 1530, the cathedral was rebuilt again, and from 1534 to 1557 more chapel
A chapel is a building used by Christians as a place of fellowship and worship. It may be part of a larger structure or complex, such as a church, college, hospital, palace, prison or funeral home, located on board a military or commercial ship, or it may be an entirely free-standing building,...
s and crypt
In architecture, a crypt is a stone chamber or vault beneath the floor of a burial vault possibly containing sarcophagi, coffins or relics....
s were added. During this period the cathedral acquired architectural features associated with the Renaissance. After a fire in 1610, it was rebuilt once again, and the two front towers were added. It was renovated and decorated several more times.
In 1783, the cathedral was reconstructed according to a design by Laurynas Gucevičius
Laurynas Gucevičius was an 18th century architect born in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and most of his designs were built there....
in the neoclassical
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...
style, and the church acquired its strict quadrangular shape. This design has survived to the present day. Between 1786 and 1792 three sculptures were placed on the roof - Saint Casimir on the south side, Saint Stanislaus on the north, and Saint Helena
Helena of Constantinople
Saint Helena also known as Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople was the consort of Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine I...
in the center. These sculptures were removed in 1950 and restored in 1997.
Several notable historic figures are entombed in the cathedral's crypts, including Vytautas the Great (1430), his brother Sigismund (1440), his cousin Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila Švitrigaila Švitrigaila (ca 1370 – 10 February 1452; was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1430 to 1432. He spent most of his life in largely unsuccessful dynastic struggles against his cousins Vytautas and Sigismund Kęstutaitis.-Struggle against Vytautas:...
(1452), Saint Casimir (1484), Alexander (1506), and two of Sigismund August's wives: Elisabeth of Habsburg (1545) and Barbara Radziwiłł (1551).
The cathedral was converted to secular uses during the 1950s. Its re-dedication as a church in the late 1980s was celebrated as a turning point in modern Lithuanian history.
The Vilnius Castle Complex had two arsenals – the so-called New and Old - during its history.
The Old Arsenal was established in the 15th century, during the rule of Vytautas the Great. It was expanded during the reign of Sigismund the Old and this work was continued by his son Sigismund II Augustus. During a 16th-century reconstruction a new wing was built; in the mid-16th century and at the beginning of the 17th century, two more wings were built. According to contemporary accounts, the Old Arsenal at that time housed about 180 heavy cannons.
The New Arsenal was established in one of the oldest castle buildings in the 18th century, by order of the Grand Hetman of Lithuania, Casimir Oginski. The building, which was used to house soldiers, is well-preserved. Its outer wall was part of the defensive wall system. During the 16th century its tower guided ships in the Neris river. The arsenal also occasionally contained castle administrative offices.
During Tzarist rule, both arsenals housed soldiers and military materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....
. The buildings suffered major damage during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
; some sections were restored after World War II and in 1987 and 1997. The arsenals now house the Museum of Applied Art
Lithuanian Art Museum
The Lithuanian Art Museum was initially established in Vilnius in 1933 as the Vilnius City Museum. It houses Lithuania's largest art collection.-History:...
and the National Museum of Lithuania.
Modern developmentsGediminas Tower is a dominant and distinctive object in the skyline of the old city. An observation platform at its summit affords a panoramic view of Vilnius. In 2003, as part of the celebrations surrounding the 750th anniversary of the coronation of Mindaugas, the tower was made more accessible
Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the "ability to access" and benefit from some system or entity...
by the construction of a lift. It ascends about 70 meters during the 30-second ride, and holds sixteen passengers. Atop the tower, on January 1, 1919, the Lithuanian tricolor was hoisted for the first time. To commemorate this event, January 1 is now Flag Day, and the Lithuanian flag is ceremonially raised at the tower, as well as elsewhere in Lithuania. On October 7, 1988, during Lithuania's drive to re-establish its independence
Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania
The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 was an independence declaration by the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted on March 11, 1990...
, 100,000 people gathered at the Castle Complex as the flag was re-hoisted. The tower and the hill, with the flag raised at its summit, are symbols of Lithuania's statehood and its struggle for independence, echoing a long tradition whereby sovereignty over the city was demonstrated by the flag flown there.
After preservation work was completed at the Gediminas Tower in 1968, it became a branch of the National Museum of Lithuania. The first floor of the tower exhibits photographs taken in Vilnius during the 19th and 20th centuries and models of historic Vilnius and the Castle Complex. The second floor exhibits flags that were used by Vytautas the Great's army during the Battle of Grunwald
Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald or 1st Battle of Tannenberg was fought on 15 July 1410, during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led respectively by King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas , decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights, led...
, along with authentic weaponry used from the 13th through the 18th centuries.
Other surviving buildings at the Castle Complex house offices of the National Museum of Lithuania and its archeology and numismatics
Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the...
departments, as well as the Museum of Applied Art. The museum contains about one million artifacts, covering a wide historic spectrum. Its collection includes pieces from Lithuania's prehistoric era, coins used throughout Lithuania's history, and a wide variety of artifacts dating from the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...
and later. About 250,000 tourists visit the museum annually.
- Cathedral Square in VilniusCathedral Square in VilniusThe Cathedral Square in Vilnius is the main square of the city's downtown, right in front of the neo-classical Vilnius Cathedral. It is a key location in city's public life, situated as it is at the crossing of the city's main streets and reflecting the city's diversity...
- List of castles in Lithuania
- Pilies Street
- Vilnius DungeonsVilnius DungeonsThe Vilnius Dungeons are medieval dungeons under parts of the downtown of Vilnius. Their real size and extent, as well as purpose and age, are arguable; there are some urban legends and various theories about these dungeons. In the dungeons, there are about 4000 dead bodies...