Important dates

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4th to 8th centuries

A fortified wooden settlement existed on the site of the Grand Dukes’ Palace in the Lower Castle Late 13th to early 14th century Part of the settlement was converted into a castle, and the first early brick buildings were built, during the reigns of either King Mindaugas, Grand Duke Vytenis or Grand Duke Gediminas

1323

Grand Duke Gediminas signed treaties and wrote letters probably from the Upper Castle 14th century The Lower Castle was surrounded by brick fortifications with towers 1386 and 1387 Jogaila, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, lived in the castle for a period of time while he oversaw Lithuania’s conversion to Christianity, the setting up of the Diocese of Vilnius, and the building of the Cathedral

1390

The Teutonic Order attacked Vilnius and destroyed the nearby Crooked Castle. Participating in the attack was Henry Bolingbroke, the Earl of Derby, who was later to become King Henry IV of England, and Grand Duke Vytautas, the pretender to the throne of Lithuania

1402

The Teutonic Order lay its last unsuccessful siege to the castles in Vilnius. Jogaila’s brother Švitrigaila also participated in the siege

1413

Grand Duke Vytautas is known to have resided in the Lower Castle 1413–1414 A Flemish knight called Ghillebert de Lannoy, an envoy of John, the Duke of Burgundy, visited the Vilnius castles and described them

1430

With the support of Sigismund von Luxemburg, the future Holy Roman Emperor, Vytautas planned to be crowned King of Lithuania in Vilnius

1432

Sigismund, the son of Kęstutis and the brother of Vytautas the Great, became Grand Duke of Lithuania

1440

Casimir Jagiellon, the son of Jogaila, became Grand Duke of Lithuania

1455–1468

Casimir Jagiellon and his wife Elisabeth of Austria (known as the “Mother of Kings”), who was the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Albert II, King of Bohemia and King of Hungary, often visited and resided in the Vilnius castles

1492

Alexander Jagiellon, Casimir Jagiellon’s son, became Grand Duke of Lithuania

1494

A legation from Moscow visited Vilnius to negotiate the marriage of the daughter of the Grand Duke of Moscow to Alexander Jagiellon

1495

The marriage took place between Alexander Jagiellon and Helena, the daughter of Ivan III, the Grand Duke of Moscow

Late 15th to early 16th century

Alexander Jagiellon moved his residence from the Upper Castle to the Lower Castle, and built a palace in the late Gothic style

1502

Sigismund Zanthay, an envoy from Alexander Jagiellon’s brother Ladislaus, the King of Hungary and King of Bohemia, was received in the palace

1506

Alexander Jagiellon died in the palace in the Lower Castle (his remains are buried in the Cathedral). He was succeeded by his youngest brother Sigismund the Old

1513

A fire destroyed the Lower Castle and the rulers’ palace

1517

Sigismund Herberstein, the envoy of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, visited the castle to negotiate the marriage of Sigismund the Old to Bona Sforza, a daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, the Duke of Milan

1520–1530

After a fire in 1520 and before another fire in 1530, Sigismund the Old rebuilt and extended the palace in the Lower Castle in modern Renaissance style

1528

Sigismund the Old received Cornelius Schepper, the envoy of his son-in-law the King of Hungary Janos Szapolyan and of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain

1529

The young Sigismund Augustus became Grand Duke of Lithuania

1535

Modenino, the envoy of Ercole II d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara, was received in the palace

1539

At Bona Sforza’s request, a staircase was built near her apartments, mention is made of a garden being planned for the palace

After 1544

After becoming ruler of Lithuania, Sigismund Augustus continued extending the Grand Dukes’ Palace, and built what came to be called the “New Palace”

1544–1545

Sigismund Augustus’ first wife Elisabeth Habsburg, the daughter of Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman Emperor, lived and died in the palace (she is buried in Vilnius Cathedral)

1545, 1546, 1551

Albrecht of Hohenzollern, the Duke of Prussia and a cousin of Sigismund Augustus, visited the palace. He later sent his cousin paintings, weapons, wines and horses

1548

Barbara Radziwiłł was installed in the palace as Grand Duchess of Lithuania

1551

Barbara Radziwiłł died in Krakow and her body was brought back to Vilnius and laid to rest in Vilnius Cathedral. Sigismund Augustus began to rebuild the Church of St Anne in the Lower Castle to serve as a family mausoleum

1554–1559

Catherine Habsburg, the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand I and widow of Francesco III, the Duke of Mantua, and sister of Sigismund’s first wife, became Sigismund’s third wife. She frequently visited the palace, and expressed very positive opinions about life in Vilnius

1555

Luigi Lippomano, the Bishop of Verona and first papal nuncio, was received in the palace

1560

Bishop Bernardo Bongiovanni, the envoy of Pope Pius IV, was received in the palace. He was greatly impressed on being shown the palace treasury

1562

The marriage took place between Catherine Jagiellon and John III Vasa, the future King of Sweden

From 1569

After the signing of the Lublin Union, the palace became the residence of the common rulers of Lithuania and Poland, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and hosted sittings of the Convocation of Vilnius

1580

In the presence of Giovanni Andrea Caligari, the nuncio of Pope Gregory XIII, Merkelis Giedraitis, the Bishop of Samogitia, presented to Stephen Bathory the Pope’s gift of a specially blessed ceremonial sword and a pearl-encrusted hat. This ceremony was viewed in Lithuania as marking Stephen Bathory’s elevation to the position of grand duke
The envoy Achmed from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was received in the palace

1584

The Third Statute of Lithuania was drawn up in the palace, and later (in 1636) a special room was set aside for editing and updating it

Circa 1585

Stephen Bathory received in the palace Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini, the papal nuncio, who later became Pope Clement VIII and proclaimed the canonization of Prince Casimir

1589

Annibale di Capua, the papal nuncio of Pope Sixtus V, was received in the Vilnius palace

1601–1602

An envoy of the Grand Duke of Moscow visited the palace

1609

The Marquis Luigi Bevilacqua, an envoy of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, visited the palace

1610

After a fire, Sigismund Vasa had the palace rebuilt and remodelled in the style of Northern European Mannerism

1611

Anne Vasa, a Swedish princess and the sister of Sigismund Vasa, the ruler of Poland and Lithuania, lived in the palace

After 1624

Sigismund and Ladislaus Vasa remodelled the palace in the lavish early Italian Baroque style

1633

Wilhelm Kettler, the Duke of Courland, took an oath of allegiance to Ladislaus Vasa, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, in the palace

1636

Juan Croy, Conte di Solre, the envoy of King Philip IV of Spain, was received in the palace
Il Ratto di Helena (The Abduction of Helen), the first opera to be performed in Lithuania (with music by Marco Scacchi and a libretto by Virgilio Puccitelli), was put on in honour of the Spanish ambassador

1639

Jacob Kettler, the Duke of Courland, took an oath of allegiance to Ladislaus Vasa, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, in the palace

1643

Prince Valdemar Christian, the son of King Christian IV of Denmark, was received in the palace

1644

An envoy of the Shah of Iran was received in the palace
The opera Andromeda, based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was performed for the Lithuanian and Polish royal family, who had come to view the palace’s decoration and take part in the end of a carnival
Cecilia Renata Habsburg, the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand II, and first wife of Ladislaus Vasa, died in the palace. She is buried in Krakow Cathedral

1648

The opera Circe delusa, in honour of the formal arrival of Marie Louise Gonzaga de Nevers, a ward of King Louis XIII of France, and Ladislaus Vasa’s second wife, was put on in the palace
Ladislaus Vasa prepared to accept the French Order of the Holy Spirit from King Louis XIV. However, he died in Merkinė before the award could be made (his heart is buried in Vilnius Cathedral)

1655

The Muscovite and Ukrainian Cossack armies, led by Ivan Zolotarenko, occupied Vilnius and looted and destroyed the Grand Dukes’ Palace. Alexei Mikhailovich, the Grand Duke of Moscow, declared himself Grand Duke of Lithuania

1661

After a long siege, the Muscovite army was repulsed from Vilnius, and the castle and the destroyed palace were retaken. The Russian military leader was beheaded

Late 17th and 18th century

The Lithuanian nobility repeatedly demanded at meetings of the local sejmiks that the destroyed palace be rebuilt, and that the ruler of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as Grand Duke of Lithuania, should reside in it every third year

1766

The Parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth decreed that the palace in Vilnius should be used for the needs of society

Late 18th century

Burghers and the nobility of Vilnius were permitted to live in the palace, while a plan was drawn up to adapt the palace for use by state institutions

1799–1801

On the orders of the Imperial Russian administration, the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was destroyed

1831

The site of the former palace was adapted to serve as a barracks for the Russian army, and ditches and ramparts were built

Late 19th century

After the dismantling of the Russian fortifications, the site of the palace was levelled and laid out as a park

Early 20th century

The first archaeological excavations on the site of the Vilnius castles were carried out

1983

A plan was proposed to rebuild the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in the Lower Castle, for it to function as a National Gallery of Art

1987

Systematic excavations of the site of the palace began, and the idea to rebuild the old residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania took hold

2000

The Lithuanian Parliament passed a law authorizing reconstruction of the palace

2001

The Government of Lithuania passed a decree that specified the guidelines for the reconstruction and use of the palace

10 May 2002

The reconstruction work began

6 July 2009

Heads of state or governments from 15 states (Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Iceland, Finland, Georgia, the Vatican, Estonia, Belarus, Germany and Russia) participated in the symbolic opening of the completed, though not fully furnished, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in the Lower Castle


Last update
2012-01-03
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