Trakai Peninsula Castle

Trakai, Lithuania

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.

The castle had seven towers connected by a 10 m high wall. The three largest towers, measuring 15 m × 15 m, protected the most vulnerable southwestern flank. A 12–14 m wide moat separated the structure from the town. The castle was attacked in 1382 and 1383 (during the civil war of 1381–1384) and in 1390 (during the civil war of 1389–1392). After the 1422 Treaty of Melno, the castle lost its significance as a defensive structure. It is known that Grand Dukes used it as a residence. Sigismund Kęstutaitis was murdered in the castle on 20 March 1440.

In the 16th century the castle was used as a prison. It was destroyed during the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667) and never rebuilt. The territory was granted to a Dominican cloister in 1678 by Marcjan Aleksander Ogiński, Voivode of Trakai. It was not until the 1770s that the monks eventually built their monastery and church; these buildings are also part of the castle ensemble.

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Founded: 1350–1377
Category: Castles and fortifications in Lithuania

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Ananuri Castle

Ananuri was a castle and seat of the eristavis (Dukes) of Aragvi, a feudal dynasty which ruled the area from the 13th century. The castle was the scene of numerous battles. The current ensemble dates from the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1739, Ananuri was attacked by forces from a rival duchy, commanded by Shanshe of Ksani and was set on fire. The Aragvi clan was massacred. However, four years later, the local peasants revolted against rule by the Shamshe, killing the usurpers and inviting King Teimuraz II to rule directly over them. However, in 1746, King Teimuraz was forced to suppress another peasant uprising, with the help of King Erekle II of Kakheti. The fortress remained in use until the beginning of the 19th century. In 2007, the complex has been on the tentative list for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage Site program.

Architecture

The fortifications consist of two castles joined by a crenellated curtain wall. The upper fortification with a large square tower, known as Sheupovari, is well preserved and is the location of the last defense of the Aragvi against the Shamshe. The lower fortification, with a round tower, is mostly in ruins.

Within the complex, amongst other buildings, are two churches. The older Church of the Virgin, which abuts a tall square tower, has the graves of some of the Dukes of Aragvi. It dates from the first half of the 17th century, and was built of brick. The interior is no longer decorated, but of interest is a stone baldaquin erected by the widow of the Duke Edishera, who died in 1674.

The larger Church of the Mother of God (Ghvtismshobeli), built in 1689 for the son of Duke Bardzem. It is a central dome style structure with richly decorated façades, including a carved north entrance and a carved grapevine crosson the south façade. It also contains the remains of a number of frescoes, most of which were destroyed by the fire in the 18th century.