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Medieval Lithuania

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       Brick castles of Lithuania

Kaunas Trakų Pusiasalis Trakų Sala Senieji Trakai Vilnius Medininkai Miadel Krevo Lida Novogrudok Grodno

The medieval brick castles were concentrated in the centre of the Lithuanian state, and now are divided between Lithuania and Belarus. The brick castles were not numerous, but played an important administrative and defensive role in the Later Middle Ages.


VILNIUS Gediminas castle. In the reign of Gediminas (1316–1341) wooden castle of Vilnius was fortified by some brick walls. In the times of Vytautas (1392–1430) a brick castle was built. Its remains survived until the modern times.

Gediminas Hill in Vilnius. Painter Józef Marszewski, 1861. National Museum of Lithuania.

The castle of SENIEJI TRAKAI (OLD TRAKAI). The castle was constructed during the reign of the Grand Duke Gediminas (1316-1341) and granted to his son Kęstutis (Duke of Trakai 1337-1382). In 1370'ies Kęstutis moved his residence to the New Trakai, where he built Peninsula castle. In 1405 his son Vytautas granted the castle to the Benedictine monks. The monastery still stands in the place of the ancient castle, while the remains of the castle itself survived below the ground level only (photo from the Trakai Historical National Park site).

The Peninsula castle of TRAKAI. Built in 1370‘ies by Kęstutis it was the first castle in the New Trakai. The castle was ruined during internal conflicts of 1382–1383, and rebuilt again by the end of Vytautas’ reign (photo from Lithuanian heritage protection site).

The Island castle of TRAKAI. Finished in 1409 the Island castle of Trakai was the strongest and the most magnificent castle in the Lithuanian State. It became the main residence of Vytautas at once.

The Island castle of Trakai before restauration (1939). Photo from the newspaper of Lithuanian history Voruta.

The castle of KAUNAS. Built in the middle of the 14th century the castle of Kaunas was destroyed in 1362. The remains of the castle rebuilt by Vytautas in the beginning of the 15th century reached our times.

The castle of Kaunas before partial restauration (1954). Photo from: Lietuvos pilys, Vilnius, 1971, between p. 160-161.

The castle of MEDININKAI. The castle was probably constructed during the reign of the Grand Duke Algirdas (1345-1377) and was the largest castle in Lithuania (the area surrounded by its walls is almost 2 hectares). The name of the castle was first mentioned in 1385 as a centre of district devastated by the Teutonic Knights (photo from the Castle Research Center „Lietuvos pilys“ site).

The castle of LIDA. The castle was constructed during the reign of the Grand Duke Gediminas (1316-1341) or his son Algirdas (1345-1377). Lida was first mentioned in the last years of Algirdas' reign, when Algirdas gave it to his favourite Vaidila (photo by Andrey Hacivestnab from the site "Virtual Lida castle").

The castle of Lida before restauration (1990). Photo by V. A. Karbovskij from the  the site "Virtual Lida castle".


The castle of KREVO. The castle was constructed during the reign of the Grand Duke Gediminas (1316-1341) and granted to his son Algirdas. Two events crucial for the Lithuanian history took place here. In 1382 Jogaila captured Kęstutis and his son Vytautas and imprisoned them in the Kreva castle. Kęstutis was murdered here, but Vytautas managed to escape. On August 14, 1385 the Krevo Act was issued here, which laid the foundation to the union of Lithuania and Poland (photo by Vladimir Bogdanov from the site


The castle of HRODNA (GRODNO). The wooden castle on the hillfort was constructed in the 11th century by the Ruthenian dukes. In the 12th century the first brick buildings apeared in the castle. In the 13th century Hrodna was annexed to Lithuania. The castle burned down in 1398 during an accidental fire. It was rebuilt soon as a brick castle by the Grand Duke Vytautas (1392-1430). In 1580 the castle was reconstructed by the King Stephen Bathory. Today a fragment of the castle wall dating to the medieval period is visible (photo from the site "Grodnenskij megaportal").


The castle of NAVAHRUDAK (NOVOGRUDOK). The wooden castle on the hillfort was constructed in the 11th century by the Ruthenian dukes. In the middle of the 13th century it was annexed to Lithuania and ruled by Vaišalgas (Vaišelga), the son of King Mindaugas. Although a lot of Belarusians believe that Navahrudak was the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the place of coronation of Mindaugas (1253), this belief originates from the Chronicle of Maciej Stryjkowski (1582) and have no ground in the contemporaneous sources. The brick castle was constructed during the reign of Vytautas (1392-1430) (photo from the Official site of Novogrudok).


The castle of MIADEL (MIADZEL). Round brick keep tower in the island of the lake Miastro (near New Miadzel, which was first mentioned in 1463) is dated to the 15th century by Mikhas' Tkachev, who investigated its remains in 1981. In the 16th century a royal palace and a wall with bastions were added.


       Tomas Baranauskas

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