Medieval castles 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

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

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

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

Klaipeda Castle Ruins

Klaipėda Castle, also known as Memelburg or Memel Castle, is an archeological site and museum housed in a castle built by the Teutonic Knights. The castle was first mentioned in written sources in 1252, and underwent numerous destructions and reconstructions in the centuries that followed. The Christian Teutonic Order had been waging an ongoing war against the Prussians during the 13th century; in order to entrench ...
Founded: 1253 | Location: Klaipėda, Lithuania

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy"s most lavish country retreat: during Spain"s Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer"s house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King"s Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince"s Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King"s Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince"s Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI"s old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette"s gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.