Vytautas' the Great Church of the Assumption of The Holy Virgin Mary (Vytauto Didžiojo bažnyčia) is one of the oldest churches in Kaunas. The church was built on the north bank of the Neman River around 1400 for Franciscan monks and foreign merchants. It was ordered and funded by Vytautas the Great as a commendation to the Blessed Virgin Mary for saving his life after a major defeat in the Battle of the Vorskla River.
Being quite close to the river the church has suffered many times from spring floods. In 1812 it was burned by French troops. The Franciscan monastery was closed by Russian administration after the November Uprising. In 1845 the Catholic Church was closed and later was rebuilt and reopened as an Orthodox church. From 1903 it served as military barracks. In 1915 Germans organised a warehouse here. The building returned to the Catholic Church in 1919 and underwent major renovation works in 1931–1938, and again in 1978–1982.
The church was constructed in Gothic style and is an example of the Lithuanian Brick Gothic architecture. The church layout of the Latin cross is unique in the Lithuanian Gothic. Over the years the ground level around the church has been raised significantly and the façades became lower; to compensate for this, the windows were shortened and the side portals were removed. The bell tower was added later and has probably been used to guide ships navigating the Neman River.
Lithuanian writer Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas (1869–1933) is buried in the crypt of the church.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.