The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

2009 is a very important year for Lithuania as it is a honorable anniversary for Lithuanian statehood as in 1009 name of Lithuania was first mentioned in a German manuscript, the Quedlinburg Chronicle. In addition to this, 2009 is the year when the Capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, is dedicated to be the European Capital of Culture. In order to mention these significant occasions, many projects and events were planned to be implemented. One of the most important projects was the restoration of Palace of the Grand Dukes which proudly stands straight in the heart of Vilnius – the Cathedral square.

The history of the Palace of the Grand Dukes began already in the 4th century when the fortified wooden constructions appeared in the place where now the Palace stands.  13th century was the period when the constructions changed into a castle – the Low Vilnius castle. The castle was used by such historical figures like Mindaugas, Gediminas, Vytautas. Many important personal and national events of dukes, monarchs and other rulers were held in this castle like marriage ceremonies, residing,  considerations and discussing affairs of state.

As the Grand Dukes of Lithuania had their residences at both – the Upper and the Lower castles. Since the 15th century the Grand Duke Alexander Jagiellon moved to the Lower Castle and then the fast development of the castle began. The renaissance construction of the castle was once finished just before the fire in 1530, but after this disaster, Bona Sforza, wife of Sigismund the Old, influenced the further development of the building and really succeeded in changing it into a modern European palace. Professional and famous Italian and polish architects works hard on the project and the result was fascinating. During the ruling of commonwealth of Lithuania and Poland, Dukes attempted to compete with Moscow and Sweden, so after the fire in 1610, the Palace was rebuilt in style of Northern Mannerist. In 1620th the castle formed into building of early Italian baroque. 16th-17th centuries are called “golden times” for the Palace as many important historical events like swearing allegiance to the Grand duke, executions of policies, signing of privileges and treaties, amending Lithuanian statutes and other  took place there. By the time of Sigismund Augusts, the palace boasted large library, collection of weapons, armor, paintings, hunting trophies. However, the golden period ended as soon as Russian government came to Lithuania. The palace was demolished and the treasures snapped up.

Full archeological research of the palace started in 1987 only. Since then approximately 300.000 different relicts were excavated. As soon as Lithuanian government agreed to restore the Palace of the Grand Dukes in 2001, it was rebuilt in 2009 and nowadays it is a symbol of Lithuanian sovereignty. The entrance for excursions is closed so far as the full equipment was not finished because of financial problems, but hopefully, the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania will open its door for everyone in 2010 July.