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The History of Voruta

The vision of Voruta. Painter V. Kavaliauskas

       1. Voruta, the castle of Mindaugas
       In Lithuanian history the name of Voruta is the one of a particular importance, because the castle of Voruta was the only known castle of Mindaugas, the King of Lithuania (1238–1263). In 1251 Mindaugas was baptised and a support of the Livonian Order was provided to him. On July 17, 1251 the Pope Innocent IV ordered to crown Mindaugas as a King of Lithuania. Meanwhile Mindaugas shut himself at the castle of Voruta, repulsed attacks of enemies and in 1253 crowned himself as a King of Lithuania. [Full text - in Lithuanian]
       2. The remains of Mindaugas’ Voruta
       The archaeological research of Seimyniskeliai hillfort in 1990–2001 confirmed the idea that it is bound up with Voruta. Today it is the most widely investigated hillfort of Lithuania. The area of 1821 sq. m of the hillfort has been investigated, more than 190 single artefacts, 1800 potsherds were collected, 56 post-holes, 7 ovens as well as remains of burned out wooden fortifications were obtained. The materials are related to two different periods of use of the hillfort: the middle – the second half of the 13th century and the late 14th – the early 15th centuries. The cultural layers of the castle related to Mindaugas’ time were considerably damaged on later reconstruction works, so there only stray finds were obtained. The castle itself was built in the locality that was uninhabited earlier, on the cape of the hill between two rivulets; the name of the bigger rivulet was Varelis. The name of the castle descends from the name of this rivulet. There are two ditches across the cape and at the edges of them ramparts are formed of the dug out earth. 2 fortified bailies, an unfortified foot settlement, a cemetery, and roads present the environs of the castle. [Full text - in Lithuanian]
       3. The environs of Voruta in the 14th – 15th centuries
       In the 14th century the battles of Lithuanians against the Order moved to the border with Prussia, the menace of Livonia became a problem of less importance, so the castle of Voruta was abandoned for a certain period. Most probably, it was rebuilt only in the late 14th century on a preparation for the decisive battle with the Teutonic Order. In the first half of the 15th century the manor of the sovereign was moved from the castle to Anyksciai manor, which is mentioned since 1440. [Full text - in Lithuanian]
       4. Everyday life of the inhabitants of the castle
       Within the second period of its existence, the image of the hillfort became similar to the modern one. The castle was divided into several sectors. The yard of the castle was built on with wooden buildings. It seems that a partition divided the yard into two parts – one part was used for housekeeping, the second – for representation. [Full text - in Lithuanian]
       5. After the abandonment of the castle
       When Anyksciai manor took the place of Voruta, only a village of the slaves attending the hillfort (so called seimyniskiai) remained in its environs. The village was named Seimyniskeliai. Its inhabitants were buried in the cemetery dated to the period of existence of the castle up to 18th century. Jonas Basanavicius, the famous creator of a modern Lithuanian State (1851–1927) in 1910 investigated 26 graves dated to the 15th – 17th centuries in Seimyniskeliai ancient cemetery. In 1923 the village of Seimyniskeliai was divided into farmsteads and an intensive ploughing of the hillfort started; it resulted a considerable damage of its cultural layer and fortifications. [Full text - in Lithuanian]
       6. The discovery of Voruta
       A search of the location of the castle of Voruta was carried out at least in 16 places of modern Lithuania and Belarus from the late 19th century up today. The search was not successful, because most frequently only very superficial resemblance of toponyms was taken as a basis. The hypothesis that Voruta should be looked for in Anyksciai Region, proposed in 1909 by philologists Eduardas Volteris (1856–1941) and Kazimieras Buga (1879–1924), was irreproachable from the standpoint of linguistics. The pulse for a specific localisation of Voruta was provided by the writer Antanas Vienuolis-Zukauskas (1882–1957), who knew the Seimyniskeliai hillfort – Varute Hill – from the childhood. Eduardas Volteris in 1935 examined it and confirmed it to be Voruta. The discovery aroused a great interest in the society. [Full text - in Lithuanian]
       7. The project of construction of the wooden castle
       The new wave of interest in Voruta rose in 1988, when Sajudis organised voluntary works on putting the hillfort in order. In 1990 the archaeological research started. In 1997 the Mayor of Anyksciai Region proposed the idea on a construction of wooden castle on the Seimyniskeliai hillfort, and it caused a considerable attention of the society. On a preparation, it was decided to investigate the total site of the hillfort. On February 26, 1999, in the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Lithuania the Declaration concerning the construction of the wooden castle on Seimyniskeliai hillfort, which will be a tourism object, was signed. In October 2000 works of construction of a bridge across Varelis rivulet were started. On July 6, 2001, the bridge was opened. The bridge to Voruta will also become a symbolic bridge to the future of the state, where the honourable past of Lithuania will take its proper place. [Full text - in Lithuanian]

       Tomas Baranauskas, Gintautas Zabiela

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