Castles and fortifications in Lithuania

Gediminas' Tower

Gediminas' Tower is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle in Vilnius. The first fortifications were built of wood by Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Gediminas. Later the first brick castle was completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas. Some remnants of the old castle have been restored, guided by archeological research. It is possible to climb to the top of the hill on foot or by taking a funicular. The tower ...
Founded: c. 1409 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Trakai Island Castle

Trakai Island Castle on an island in Lake Galvė. The castle is sometimes referred to as 'Little Marienburg'. The construction of the stone castle was begun in the 14th century by Kęstutis, and around 1409 major works were completed by his son Vytautas the Great, who died in this castle in 1430. Trakai was one of the main centres of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the castle held great strategic importance. Trakai Isla ...
Founded: c. 1360 | Location: Trakai, Lithuania

Kaunas Castle

The precise construction date of the first Kaunas Castle is unknown. Archeological data suggests that a stone castle was built on the site during the middle of the 14th century. Situated on an elevated bank near the river junction it served as a strategic outpost and guarded nearby cities as well as trade routes. A written account states that in 1361, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights Winrich von Kniprode issued an ...
Founded: c. 1350 | Location: Kaunas, Lithuania

Bastion of Vilnius City Wall

The bastion is a Renaissance-style fortification and surviving part of the Vilnius Defensive Wall. It consists of a tower merged in the city defence wall, underground gun ports and a connecting corridor, which turns into a 48-metre long tunnel. The bastion was built in the first half of the 17th century by the German military engineer Friedrich Getkant. The Bastion was severely damaged during the wars with Moscow in the m ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Trakai Peninsula Castle

Trakai Peninsula Castle is one of the castles in Trakai. Built around 1350–1377 by Kęstutis, Duke of Trakai, it was an important defensive structure protecting Trakai and Vilnius, capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, against attacks of the Teutonic Knights. Much of the castle was destroyed in the 17th century. Remaining walls and towers are preserved and protected by the Trakai Historical National Park. Th ...
Founded: 1350–1377 | Location: Trakai, Lithuania

Kaunas Fortress

The Kaunas Fortress was a military project implemented by Russian government. In 1879 Russian Emperor Alexander II accepted a suggestion to build military fortress in Kaunas in order to defense the western border of Russian Empire from German invasion. In the general plan of fortifications there were many objects intended to be built like a surround of 7 fortresses and 9 interjacent artillery batteries, defensive centers ...
Founded: 1879 | Location: Kaunas, Lithuania

Raudone Castle

Raudonė Castle construction works started in late 16th century, during the reign of King Sigismund II August. A new renaissance castle was built on the ruins of the old one by a German knight, Hieronymus Krispin-Kirschenstein. The castle has since been rebuilt many times. The 18th century Polish owners of the Raudone estate, the family Olędzki (Olendzki) h. Rawicz commissioned Wawrzyniec Gucewicz with a renovati ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Graužėnai, Lithuania

Raudondvaris Castle

Raudondvaris Castle is a Gothic-Renaissance gentry residence, located in the eponymous town of Raudondvaris. First mentioned as a pagan keep by Teutonic chroniclers in 1392. When Samogitia was handed over to the Order, the Teutons built a small castle of Koenigsburg on the site, housing 80 knights and 400 soldiers. The castle was further strengthened and enlarged following the Battle of Grunwald. Since then it was the per ...
Founded: 1653-1664 | Location: Raudondvaris, Lithuania

Norviliskes Castle

Norviliškės Castle (a former monastery, also called Norviliškės Manor) is a Renaissance style castle. It was first mentioned in 1586. In 1617 the owners donated part of the real estate land to Franciscans. Around 1745 they built a monastery and a church in Renaissance style. The monastery was reconstructed at the end of the 18th century by Kazimieras Kaminskis. After the November Uprising of 1831, ...
Founded: 1586 | Location: Norviliškės, Lithuania

Medininkai Castle

Medininkai Castle was built in the late 13th century or the first quarter of the 14th century. The defensive perimeter of the castle was 6.5 hectares; it is the largest enclosure type castle in Lithuania. The castle was built on plain ground and was designed for flank defence. The rectangular castle"s yard covered approximately 1.8 hectares and was protected by walls 15 metres high and 2 metres thick. The castle had ...
Founded: 1392 | Location: Medininkai, Lithuania

Siesikai Castle

Siesikai Castle is the residential castle built by Gabrielius Daumantas-Siesickis in the 16th century in the Renaissance style. His heirs were known as Daumantai, also called Siesicki, had given their family name to the nearby town. The masonry palace was reconstructed in the Neoclassical style after 1820 by Dominik Dowgiałło. Only 2 towers remain from the former castle, which had four of them in every corner of ...
Founded: c. 1517 | Location: Sarosčiai, Lithuania

Senieji Trakai Castle

The first enclosure-type brick castle in Senieji Trakai was built by Grand Duke Gediminas, who transferred the capital of Lithuania from Kernavė to Trakai (today"s Senieji Trakai) before 1321. The wedding of Grand Duke Kęstutis and Birutė was held there and it was the birthplace of the Grand Duke Vytautas in 1350. The castle in Senieji Trakai was destroyed by the Teutonic Order in 1391, subsequently a ...
Founded: before 1321 | Location: Senieji Trakai, Lithuania

Panemune Castle

The initial hillfort of the Teutonic Knights in Panemunė (erected 1343) was replaced by a present castle built in 1604-1610. It was built by Hungarian nobleman Eperjesh who bought the surrounding lands from Lithuanian local inhabitants. It is a typical 17th century feudal castle with a defensive tackle, living quarters and farm buildings. The castle stands in a park on a high hill and is girdled by five cascading pon ...
Founded: 1604-1610 | Location: Vytėnai, Lithuania

Birzai Castle

Biržai Castle is an earth bastion-type castle. The construction started in 1586 by the order of Krzysztof Mikołaj Radziwiłł. In 1575, preparing for this construction, a dam was built on the Agluona and Apaščia rivers at their confluence, and the artificial Lake Širvėna, covering about 40 km², was created. Major castle building works were finished in 1589. Since the second half ...
Founded: 1586-1589 | Location: Biržai, Lithuania

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Luxembourg Palace

The famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie's project. When she became regent, she was able to give special attention to the construction of an imposing modern residence that would be reminiscent of the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, where she grew up. The development of the 25-hectare park, which was to serve as a jewel-case for the palace, began immediately.

The architect, Salomon de Brosse, began the work in 1615. Only 16 years later was the palace was completed. Palace of Luxembourg affords a transition between the Renaissance and the Classical period.

In 1750, the Director of the King's Buildings installed in the wing the first public art-gallery in France, in which French and foreign canvases of the royal collections are shown. The Count of Provence and future Louis XVIII, who was living in Petit Luxembourg, had this gallery closed in 1780: leaving to emigrate, he fled from the palace in June 1791.

During the French Revolution the palace was first abandoned and then moved as a national prison. After that it was the seat of the French Directory, and in 1799, the home of the Sénat conservateur and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic. The old apartments of Maria di Medici were altered. The floor, which the 80 senators only occupied in 1804, was built in the middle of the present Conference Hall.

Beginning in 1835 the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.

The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences, which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.

During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital. Since 1958 the Luxembourg palace has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.