Palace of Grand Dukes

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1-      Introduction

The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės valdovų rūmai Vilniaus žemutinėje pilyje) is a palace in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was originally constructed in the 15th century for the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the future Kings of Poland. The palace, located in the lower castle of Vilnius, evolved over the years and prospered during the 16th and mid-17th centuries. For four centuries the palace was the political, administrative and cultural centre of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was demolished in 1801. Work on a new palace started in 2002 on the site of the original building and it took 16 years to complete it in 2018.

The reconstructed residential palace of the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania houses exhibitions on its own historical development and architecture, as well as late Gothic, Renaissance and early Baroque interiors. To help understand the significance of the historical treasure exhibited at the Palace of the Grand Dukes, there is a 3D virtual reality tour that takes visitors to the hundred-year past and gives them the opportunity to see and feel history change with their own eyes.

 

 

On July 7th, 2013 the Palace of the Grand Dukes (Valdovų rūmai) has been opened to the general public in Vilnius Old Town. This is the reconstruction of the original Renaissance palace of 1520 which stood at the same location near Vilnius Cathedral and housed the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The original palace has been damaged by the Russian invasion in 1655 and completely torn down in 1801 under the Russian Imperial occupation.

Rebuilt palace is now a museum. Ruined basements are authentic while the newly-built interiors are supposed to represent different eras. However, the only difference between the rooms is ceilings and furnaces with all the walls plain white. Exhibits are a mixed stock of mostly authentic archeological finds and mostly replica furniture. Plaques provide Lithuanian and English history of the Grand Duchy.

 

 

 

Palace of the Grand Dukes with Grand Duke Gediminas statue nearby. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

 

The Palace project has been highly controversial and suffered time and cost overruns. The construction, first envisioned in 1988, started in 2002 and was planned to be completed by 2009 when the nation celebrated a millennium since the word "Lithuania" has been mentioned for the first time in a surviving written record.

However even today the Palace is only partly completed as a second wing will have to be built for additional 75 million Litas. The true costs of the construction have been higher 3,6 times than planned at first, leading to fruitless criminal investigations.

Other points of criticism for the Palace have been its doubtful authenticity, lack of unified vision for its purpose and the fact that a 19th-century merchant's house had to be demolished to free the construction site.

 

 

The Baroque throne room has a replica throne and an authentic chest of drawers (right), but its plain walls are far from baroque opulence. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

 

2-      Stracture of Vilnius Castle Complex in 1740

 

 

 

 

Upper Castle

1

Western tower

2

Southern tower (foundations remaining)

3

Palace (ruins remaining)

Lower Castle

4

Gates and bridge to the city (Pilies Street)

5

Road and bridge to a Tilto street

6

Cathedral

7

Palace of Supreme Tribunal

8

Palace of bishops

9

Royal Palace

10

Palace garden

11

Palace building

Arsenal since the late 18th century

Currently museum

12

North-eastern tower and gates of arsenal

13

Yard of arsenal

 

 

 

The Palace of the Grand Dukes (marked as number 6) in Vilnius Lower Castle in the late 16th century.

 

 

The ruins of the palace, drawn between 1785 and 1786.

 

 

Palace's site by the summer of 2002

 

 

Rimas Grigas' winning design in 2004

 

 

Litas golden coin dedicated to the palace

 

 

3-      Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013

During Lithuania's presidency of the Council of the European Union, the palace was used as one of the main venues for the meetings of heads of European countries. On 28 November 2013, during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, a dinner was held in the palace with many guests, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel; British Prime Minister David Cameron; French President François Hollande; Polish President Bronisław Komorowski; European Union President Herman Van Rompuy; European Commission President José Manuel Barroso; European Parliament President Martin Schulz; European Commission Vice-President and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton; Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle; Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht; the presidents of Latvia, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia; the Prime Ministers of Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Hungary and Spain; as well as other high-ranking officials. Countries participating in the Eastern Partnership programme was represented at the summit by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leancă, and Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.

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