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Kernavė

Location: N54° 53` 9.60", E24° 50` 49.2" | Website: kernave.org

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The foundations of our statehood were laid in Kernavė. The Duke Traidenis was the most significant person in Kernavė. During his ruling period, the state gained stability; active trade relations with neighbouring countries were run. Lithuania gained power heredity principle. Later Gediminas, Manvydas, Algirdas, Vygandas ruled Kernavė. Vygandas was the last ruler of Kernavė. It is considered to be as the first capital of Lithuania because many rulers chose to rule one of the most ruling prominent centres. 

The Archaeological and Historical Museum is located together with the Cultural Reserve management. The museum stores archaeological, historical, ethnographic, documentary collections, photographs and books. It is situated on 4 Kernius street, Kernavė tel. + 370-382-47385 http://www.kernave.org. http://www.muziejai.lt.

At the end of Kernius street the statue of Moze greets everybody, holding stone tablets with Ten Commandments of God. The sculpture stands in front of the Kernavė church. On the right there is a sculpture of Iron wolf.  

The Blessed Virgin Mary Church of Kernavė (6 Kernius street) was built in 1920. It is built of stone in Neo-Gothic style with three naves. There is a rectory next to the church. In the yard of the rectory there is a monument of Grand Duke Vytautas the Great, St. Virgin Mary statue, The Little Jerusalem, a pool shaped in a form of Lithuania. The Lithuanian "map" is best seen from a bird’s flight or from the roof of the rectory. There are two chapels made of wood and stone which stand next to the church and the rectory. Next to them you can see the ruins of the foundations of the old church. A Cross is built in the place of former altar. Behind the wooden chapel, the museum of the church relics hides among the trees, founded in 1995. 

Kernavė mounds and Pajauta valley viewpoint is equipped near the wooden chapel. The path leads towards the mounds and invites to climb them up. Hills are only a part of the hidden secrets in Kernavė location. A unique complex of archaeological, historical and natural monuments, covering 196.2 hectares, was declared as Archaeological and Historical Reserve and included into UNESCO world heritage list. The reserve covers Pajuota valley, five hills and a part of the upper Neris terrace. The reserve currently has 36 archaeological, historical and cultural monuments. 111.5 ha of the territory have been declared as a reserve.

Kernavė mounds are the heritage from the times when ice declined in Lithuania and human work. Mounds, as the ancient Lithuanian settlement, existed from the Bronze Age to the end of the fifteenth century. Altar Hill is the oldest central mound inhabited in the first millennium BC. In the 13th and 14th centuries all the mounds formed a united defensive complex.

Altar, Castle, Mindaugas’ Throne, Kriveikiškiai, Lizdeika are romantic names of the mounds and each has its different history and legend. 

Altar Hill is often called Baščiakalniu as plenty of sorrels grow there. Altar Hill was baptized by romantic writers. According to the legend, there was a pagan temple, and when the temple of Thunder was destroyed in Vilnius, Lizdeika, the eldest priest of the Balts, nursed the fire, interpreted dreams and described future there until the end of his life. In the Middle Ages Duke’s Residential Castle was on this hill. It is believed that the ditch, surrounding the mound, which was 3 meters deep, was filled with water in order to be stronger in defence.

According to the legends, in the Castle Hill there were underground doors leading to Trakai and Vilnius. In Kernavė the doors were iron, they were silver in Trakai and gold in Vilnius. In the middle and the second half of the first century, Castle Hill was not reinforced by the settlement and the residents sedentary lived there in the end of the first and the beginning of the second millennium. In the 13th and 14th centuries the mounds were craftsmen and merchants' settlements. People lived quite densely (the largest mound covers 2 ha). Mindaugas Throne hill is connected with Mindaugas coronation place by romantics. In the 13th and 14th centuries a defensive castle stood there. It guarded the Altar Hill and Duke's residence. 

Lizdeika and Kriveikiškiai mounds are best seen from the Altar Hill. Lizdeika and defence mounds protected the access to the Altar Hill. Not far away from all mounds there is Kriveikiškiai hill built for reconnaissance purposes and was used to defend Kernavė castles in the fourteenth century. Archaeologists found the remains of fortifications there. 

Among the mounds and the Neris River bed lies Pajauta Valley which is an ancient Lithuanian settlement, "the lower town”. It was settled from the 9th and 8th millennium BC. Pajuota Valley covered a dozen hectares of the territory. Lithuanian origin from the Romans legend is associated with the name of Kernavė. Three sons were born for Rome Duke Palemonas. One of them was named Kunas, the founder of Kaunas. His son Kernius came by accident to the future lands of Kernavė. Pajauta was a beauty, the only daughter of Kernius, after whose name the ancient settlement Valley was named.