Kernavė was a medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and today is a tourist attraction and an archeological site. In 2004 Kernavė Archaeological Site was included into UNESCO world heritage list. The area of Kernavė was sparingly inhabited at the end of the Paleolithic era, with the number of settlements significantly increasing in the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras. It is believed, that first inhabitants settled in Kernavė territory in 9-8 millennium BC, but only in the first centuries AD they started to form bigger settlements in the Pajauta valley (Kernavė territory). Settlements were protected by five fortified mounds, which still remain.
The town was first mentioned in 1279, when, as the capital of the Grand Duke Traidenis, it was besieged by the Teutonic Knights. In 1390, during the Lithuanian Civil War (1389–1392), the knights burned the town and its buildings in the Pajauta valley, including the castle. After this raid, the town wasn't rebuilt, and the remaining residents moved to the top of the hill instead of staying in the valley.
In later years, the remains of city were covered with an alluvial earth layer, that formed wet peat. It preserved most of the relics intact, and it is a treasure trove for archaeologists, leading some to call Kernavė the 'Troy of Lithuania'. For example, Kernavė has the oldest known medgrinda, a secret underwater road paved with wood. The road was used for defense and dates from the 4–7th centuries.
The site became the subject of wider interest again in the middle of 19th century, when a romantic writer, Feliks Bernatowicz, depicted the area in his novel Pojata, córka Lizdejki in 1826. The hillforts were soon excavated by the Tyszkiewicz brothers and then by Władysław Syrokomla (1859). After World War II, the excavation works were restarted by Vilnius University in 1979, and then again by the Lithuanian Institute of History between 1980–1983.References:
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.
Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.
In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.
The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.
In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.
After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.
In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.
Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.
In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.
In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.