Kaunas Castle

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Pilies str. 17, Kaunas
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The oldest stone castle in Lithuania is also the oldest building in Kaunas. Kaunas Castle was first mentioned in written sources in 1361 in a letter written by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, Vinrichas fon Kniprodė (Winrich von Kniprode), in which he asks about the thickness of its walls in preparation for an assault on it. The age of the city also dates from 1361.

The first stone castle was fenced and had no towers. The castle that emerged in a strategic location at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers played an important role in the battles between the Lithuanians and the German crusaders. The enemies’ plans, mentioned in aforementioned letter, became reality in 1362 when the castle and its inhabitants, led by Vaidotas, the son of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Kęstutis, were surrounded. After three weeks of onslaught, the castle was destroyed. The second castle arose on its foundations a few years later. Four towers were built at its corners, one of which survives to this day. The castle courtyard was protected by a ditch and a wall up to 12 metres high and 3.5 metres thick.

The castle changed owners several times due to its geographical location and came back into the possession of the Lithuanians in 1404. Over the next couple of hundred years, the castle didn’t suffer any major onslaughts. For a while it became the residency of Vytautas, and later of a city elder. During this period the settlement close to the castle began developing and growing. There was also a prison known for its relatively poor living conditions.

During the 16th century, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Žygimantas Augustas (Sigismund Augustus), gifted the castle and Kaunas City to Barbora Radvilaitė (Barbara Radziwiłł). One of the many legends says that Sigismund Augustus’s mother, Bona Sforca (Bona Sforza), kept an army in the castle which remains ready to defend Kaunas to this day. However, during the wars that took place in later centuries, the castle was severely damaged. It was particularly damaged in 1870 when its stones were used to pave the streets and build a highway. Soon after the restoration of the statehood of Lithuania at the end of the First World War the issue of managing the ruins was raised. The castle was explored, its environment cleared out, and the conservation of its stonework began. This work continued until after the Second World War.

Since 1965, the castle has belonged to the Kaunas History Museum. In 2011, after the Tourist Information Centre that operated here moved out, a branch of the Kaunas City Museum was established inside the partially restored castle. The history of the castle is presented in a permanent exhibition. Visitors of all ages can choose from a variety of educational programmes. In the reconstructed castle tower, displays of contemporary artists’ works including paintings, graphic art and photographs are often on show.

Kaunas Castle

Pilies str. 17, Kaunas

The oldest stone castle in Lithuania is also the oldest building in Kaunas. Kaunas Castle was first mentioned in written sources in 1361 in a letter written by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, Vinrichas fon Kniprodė (Winrich von Kniprode), in which he asks about the thickness of its walls in preparation for an assault on it. The age of the city also dates from 1361.

The first stone castle was fenced and had no towers. The castle that emerged in a strategic location at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers played an important role in the battles between the Lithuanians and the German crusaders. The enemies’ plans, mentioned in aforementioned letter, became reality in 1362 when the castle and its inhabitants, led by Vaidotas, the son of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Kęstutis, were surrounded. After three weeks of onslaught, the castle was destroyed. The second castle arose on its foundations a few years later. Four towers were built at its corners, one of which survives to this day. The castle courtyard was protected by a ditch and a wall up to 12 metres high and 3.5 metres thick.

The castle changed owners several times due to its geographical location and came back into the possession of the Lithuanians in 1404. Over the next couple of hundred years, the castle didn’t suffer any major onslaughts. For a while it became the residency of Vytautas, and later of a city elder. During this period the settlement close to the castle began developing and growing. There was also a prison known for its relatively poor living conditions.

During the 16th century, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Žygimantas Augustas (Sigismund Augustus), gifted the castle and Kaunas City to Barbora Radvilaitė (Barbara Radziwiłł). One of the many legends says that Sigismund Augustus’s mother, Bona Sforca (Bona Sforza), kept an army in the castle which remains ready to defend Kaunas to this day. However, during the wars that took place in later centuries, the castle was severely damaged. It was particularly damaged in 1870 when its stones were used to pave the streets and build a highway. Soon after the restoration of the statehood of Lithuania at the end of the First World War the issue of managing the ruins was raised. The castle was explored, its environment cleared out, and the conservation of its stonework began. This work continued until after the Second World War.

Since 1965, the castle has belonged to the Kaunas History Museum. In 2011, after the Tourist Information Centre that operated here moved out, a branch of the Kaunas City Museum was established inside the partially restored castle. The history of the castle is presented in a permanent exhibition. Visitors of all ages can choose from a variety of educational programmes. In the reconstructed castle tower, displays of contemporary artists’ works including paintings, graphic art and photographs are often on show.

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