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Vilnius

Location: N54° 40` 40.0", E25° 17` 30.0"

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Vilnius is the capital of the Lithuanian Republic. The city became the capital in the 14th century under the management of Duke Gediminas. Vilnius was the political, religious and cultural centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 14th century there were three castles in Vilnius: the Upper, the Lower and the Crooked (the latter did not survive). Located next to each other, they formed a solid fortification complex.

In the centre of the Cathedral Square there is a monument to the founder of Vilnius Duke Gediminas (sculptor V.Kašuba). A legend has it that once he came to hunt and it was too late to return to his castle in Trakai. The Duke set up a camp in the forest and spent the night there. In his dream he heard an iron wolf howling on the hill. This strange dream was interpreted by the priest Lizdeika. He said that in this place the Duke would found a city, and the sound of it would spread around the world. Gediminas built a castle and soon the city of Vilnius was settled near it. Today it is called the Upper, otherwise Gediminas’ Castle (5 Arsenalas St) Tel. +370 5 261 7453, working hours: Mon. – Sun. 10 a.m - 7 p.m. (May-September); Tue. – Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (October-April)

Other historical objects near the castle also remind the time of the Lithuanian Duchy:

1. The Cathedral Square. The Lower castle was accessible through the gated watched by the guards. One of the gates was the main and representative, the castle gate. In the Cathedral Square and its outskirts pink granite slabs can be seen. They mark the former defensive wall and two round defensive towers. The square hosted markets, student marches, public performances, processions and military parades.

2. The Bell Tower (Cathedral Square). It is the oldest surviving Lower Castle defensive structure - square tower, built in the first half of the 14th century, then used as the cathedral bell tower. The tower has 4 floors and is equipped with wooden stairs. At the beginning of 19th century a clock was built-in. Even ten brass bells hang there. In 2002 Archbishop of Cologne presented Vilnius with another six bells, one of which was named after Joachim.

3. St. Stanislaus and St. Vladislav Cathedral (1 Cathedral Square). It was reconstructed by Lithuanian architect Laurynas Gucevičius in the 18th century. The Cathedral pediment is decorated with three monumental sculptures: St. Helen, St. Stanislaus on the left and St. Casimir the right. St. Casimir Chapel is one of the most artistic monuments of Vilnius early Baroque. The chapel walls are decorated with two frescoes of Italian painter Michelangelo Palloni. The relics of the Prince St. Casimir are in the Chapel. Lithuanian rulers are buried in the Royal mausoleum.

4. New Arsenal (1 Arsenal St) Tel. +370 5 262 7774, working hours: Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. (May-September); Wed. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (October-April). New Arsenal was built on the remains of the defensive wall of the Lower Castle of the 14th century. The northern block of the museum is built over the demolished remains of a square tower, known as the "lamp" (it had to light to the ships in the Neris). At present, there is an exposure of Lithuanian National Museum of History and Ethnography. In front of the museum building, a monument was unveiled to the only Lithuanian king Mindaugas (1253-1263) who united Lithuania (Sculptor R.Midvikis).

5. The foundation of St. Anne and St. Barbara’s Church (next to 3 Arsenal st.) The old St. Anne's church was demolished about 1551. Sigismund Augustus decided to build a new place of St. Anne and St. Barbara with a royal family mausoleum. After the death of the king the work stopped.

6. Castellan House (near 3 Arsenal St). The Castellan House (now the office of the National Museum of Lithuania), built in the first half of the 16th century, stands at the southern slope of the mountain and one of its walls is built to hold the slope.

7. The Old Arsenal (3A Arsenal St) Tel. +370 5 262 8080, working hours: Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. (May-September); Wed. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (October-April). The storage centre of state gun and ammunition. Cannon, mortars, shells, grenades, rifles, gunpowder, ammunition, carriages and other artillery was reserved there. Museum of Applied Art is currently housing in the renewed eastern arsenal, where sacral Lithuanian folk art (17th -19th c.) and professional Lithuanian sacral art is exhibited.

8. The Royal Palace (3 Cathedral Sq.) was the residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, which was moved from the Upper Castle of Vilnius in the junction of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 16th and in the middle of the 17th centuries the old Lithuanian political and cultural life was concentrated in palace. There were the first theatre performances in Lithuania and the first opera came from there.

9. The Hill of Three Crosses. On the top of the Hill, formerly known as the Bald Hill, the Crooked Castle stood in the 14th century. In 1390 the Crusaders occupied and burned it. According to a legend, some time ago there were three wooden crosses for once murdered Franciscans. In 1916 massive concrete crosses were built according to the project of the architect A.Vivulskis. Unfortunately, The Soviet authorities blew them up in 1950. Three Crosses (architect H. Šilgalis) were again restored in 1989.