Castles and fortifications in 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

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 t ...
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 import ...
Founded: c. 1360 | 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle Rushen

Castle Rushen is located in the Isle of Man"s historic capital, Castletown. The castle is amongst the best examples of medieval castles in the British Isles, and is still in use as a court house, museum and educational centre.

The exact date of castle is unknown, although construction is thought to have taken place during the reigns of the late 12th century and early 13th century rulers of the Isle of Man – the Kings of Mann and the Isles. The original Castle Rushen consisted of a central square stone tower, or keep. The site was also fortified to guard the entrance to the Silver Burn. From its early beginnings, the castle was continually developed by successive rulers of Mann between the 13th and 16th century. The limestone walls dominated much of the surrounding landscape, serving as a point of dominance for the various rulers of the Isle of Man. By 1313, the original keep had been reinforced with towers to the west and south. In the 14th century, an east tower, gatehouses, and curtain wall were added.

After several more changes of hands the English and their supporters eventually prevailed. The English king Edward I Longshanks claimed that the island had belonged to the Kings of England for generations and he was merely reasserting their rightful claim to the Isle of Man.

The 18th century saw the castle in steady decay. By the end of the century it was converted into a prison. Even though the castle was in continuous use as a prison, the decline continued until the turn of the 20th century, when it was restored under the oversight of the Lieutenant Governor, George Somerset, 3rd Baron Raglan. Following the restoration work, and the completion of the purpose-built Victoria Road Prison in 1891, the castle was transferred from the British Crown to the Isle of Man Government in 1929.

Today it is run as a museum by Manx National Heritage, depicting the history of the Kings and Lords of Mann. Most rooms are open to the public during the opening season (March to October), and all open rooms have signs telling their stories. The exhibitions include a working medieval kitchen where authentic period food is prepared on special occasions and re-enactments of various aspects of medieval life are held on a regular basis, with particular emphasis on educating the local children about their history. Archaeological finds made during excavations in the 1980s are displayed and used as learning tools for visitors.