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Ėrika Striškienė. Archaeological Finds at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

The territory of Vilnius Lower Castle, which includes the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, is not a random site, but one with a continuous chronology going back to the first historical mention of Lithuania’s name (1009) and extending throughout the period of Lithuanian statehood. Until the end of the 14th century, the Vilnius castle complex consisted of three castles: the Upper (Aukštutinė), the Lower (Žemutinė) and the Crooked (Kreivoji). The most important state and church institutions were inside the walled Lower Castle. Over time, the Lower Castle became the main residence of the grand dukes of Lithuania and the kings of Poland.

Archaeological investigations in the territory of the Lower Castle began at the start of the 20th century. In 1900, Cathedral Square was excavated and, in 1908, the territory of the Old Arsenal. During the eff ort to save the Cathedral aft er the flood of 1931, the remains of two of Sigismund Augustus’ wives – Elisabeth of Austria (or Habsburg) and Barbara Radziwiłł – and those of Alexander Jagiellon, together with their burial insignias were found in the Cathedral cellars. With long breaks, excavations continued in Cathedral Square: 1938–1941, 1959–1963, 1993, 1998–2000; and in the territory of the Old Arsenal: 1955–1959, 1972–1987. In 1964 and 1985, the ruins of the west wing and inner courtyard of the Palace of the Grand Dukes were studied. The findings of all these archaeological digs are kept at the Lithuanian National Museum and the Lithuanian Art Museum.

A proposal was made in 1983 to house the new National Gallery of Art in the Soviet-era House of Pioneers, which was formerly the home of the merchant Abraham Schlossberg, and before that the eastern wing of the Palace of the Grand Dukes. Thanks to this building, we still have what remains of a floor from that eastern wing, which was used for official (ministerial) functions. Other proposals were made during 1984–1986 to establish a Museum of the Friendship of Nations there.

Due to these proposals, preliminary excavations in the territory of the palace were made in 1987 by the Design and Restoration Institute (Projektavimo ir restauravimo institutas). When in 1988 the national revival began and the idea to restore the palace was once again raised, very careful and detailed research (archaeological, architectural, historical, art history) plans were made to gather as much information as possible to restore the palace. Research was conducted by the Lithuanian History Institute’s Castle Research Group – Vytautas Urbanavičius, Napaleonas Kitkauskas, Adolfas Tautavičius, Albinas Kuncevičius. In 1993, they were re-organized as a non-profit institution serving the public interest – the Castle Research Center Lietuvos pilys.

Together with the archaeological excavations there was a very active public education program. The first exhibition of archaeological finds was organized in the so-called Schlossberg House, which stood in the territory formerly occupied by the east wing of the palace. An exhibition of ceramic stove tiles excavated in 1992–1993 was organized in Duisburg and Regensburg, Germany. A catalog of the exhibition was published in German. Aft er the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania passed a law in 2000 that paved the way for restoration of the palace, the Lithuanian National UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Commission provided financial support for the program “Living History in Vilnius Castles”, organized by the Castle Research Center Lietuvos pilys. The primary purpose of the cultural and historical programs was to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the palace. During 2000–2001, more than twenty performances and concerts took place among the ruins of the palace, including a theatricalized concert of ancient music ensembles “If all Together” (Jeigu visi kartu); a new production of Juozas Grušas’ drama, “Barbara Radziwiłł” (Barbora Radvilaitė), the 17th-century Italian opera “The Liberation of Ruggiero from the Island of Alcina” (Rudžiero išlaisvinimas iš Alčinos salos).

When in 2002 the work of restoring the palace began, archaeological investigations intensified. After 20-plus years of excavation (1987–2009), over 300,000 artifacts have been found. Some of them, especially the latest ones, have been on display at the Applied Art Museum (Arsenalo g. 3A) since 2004 in an exhibition Finds from the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, which was organized by the Castle Research Center Lietuvos pilys and the Lithuanian Art Museum. During 2006–2007 over 100 different kinds of artifacts from different periods were part of a traveling exhibit to Poland – Warsaw, Wrocław, Szczecin, Biskupin, and Krakow – entitled The Past Opens up to the Future – the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in Vilnius. An exhibition guide and catalog accompanied the exhibition. When the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was founded on January 1, 2009, artifacts held in temporary storage by the Castle Research Center Lietuvos pilys started to be transferred to the new museum. Since 1988, coins and other related numismatic materials were given to the Lithuanian National Museum for safekeeping with the expectation that they would be returned and displayed in the reconstructed palace.

In this first album devoted to the cultural heritage and history of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, to the reconstruction of their royal residence and the formation of new collections, we will present the most impressive finds from the archaeological excavations of 1987–2009 and those which best illustrate the development of Vilnius Lower Castle. They will be presented in chronological order and organized into the four major periods reflected in the architecture of the palace – pre-Gothic, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The illustrations published in this album are taken from the 1988–2009 scholarly investigations of the following researchers of the Castle Research Center Lietuvos pilys: Povilas Blaževičius, Albinas Kuncevičius, Egidijus Ožalas, Dr. Gintautas Rackevičius, Dr. Daiva Steponavičienė, Gintautas Striška, Ėrika Striškienė, Adolfas Tautavičius, Vytautas Urbanavičius, Evaldas Vailionis.

Architectural elements – ornamental stone fragments, ceramics, and metalwork – make up the bulk of the archaeological finds.

Ornamental stone fragments – cornices, window and door surrounds, fireplace parts, floor tiles – were made of conglomerate; greenish grey sandstone; reddish, white, and black marble as well as limestone. The greenish grey sandstone used in the construction of the palace was brought from the Island of Gotland in Sweden. Black and dark red karlimestone came from the Netherlands; black marble with whitish and green veins – from the Netherlands and Belgium.

The earliest architectural elements of stone are from the reigns of Sigismund the Old (1506–1548) and Sigismund Augustus (1548–1572). But the greater part of the ornamental stone architectural elements date from the last period of the palace’s life – the reign of the Swedish Vasa dynasty (from the late 16th to the mid-17th centuries). Some of the dressed limestone fragments are decorated with the Vasa coat of arms. One fragment from a limestone pediment or fronton is decorated not only with the Vasa coat of arms, the wheat garb of the House of Vasa, but that wheat garb is also encircled by the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Two of the dressed limestone fragments bear the names “Stephanus” and “Stanislaus” - perhaps the stonemasons. We do not yet know who these people really were. The names of the carpenters, architects, and construction managers most oft en mentioned in 17th century historical sources are those of Peter Nonhart, Wilhelm Pohl, and Costante and Jacopo Tencalla.

Ornamental stone fragments from a fireplace similar to the one in Wawel Castle’s audience hall, the Bird Room (Pod Ptakami), were found during the excavations: volutes (scroll-like ornaments), drapery fragments, hemispheres, and pieces from the shaft of a column. There were letters on several of the fragments, so some of the fireplaces and portals may have been decorated with sayings (maxims). Th at was typical for Wawel and other common residences of Lithuania’s and Poland’s rulers. Half-column bases with hollow concave moldings (scotia) indicate that elegant and ornate Ionic and Corinthian orders were used. Such elegantly decorated fireplaces were important features or accent marks in a palace’s architectural and artistic composition.

Another large group of architectural finds consists of ceramic materials used in construction. Dressed bricks were oft en used during the Gothic period for cornices, portals, reveals, and vault ribbing. They were found in both the 14th–15th c. as well as the16th c. layers. Some of them still had reddish, greenish, and gray colored plaster attached to them. Because only small pieces of plaster have been found and because we lack analogues, it is hard to say what artistic subject matter may have been depicted on the walls of the palace. Nevertheless, on one rather large fragment found, there was a drawing of a hand. These findings show that the palace interiors – walls, vault ribs (nervures), reveals – during the Gothic period were decorated with wall paintings – frescoes. Bricks with relieved ornamental work were also found. One was decorated with a four-legged creature with a human head; another depicted the crucified Christ, the Holy Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist. The latter brick was covered with green glaze.

Floor tiles with many different colored glazes, from various periods, and of various shapes – square, triangular, kotrapezoidal, and rhomboidal – make up a large part of the ceramic artifacts used for architectural decoration. Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque period floors have been recreated in the palace based on both the authentic artifacts found (around 10,000) and analogues. Some of the 15th century floor tiles were decorated with plant and geometric ornaments in relief, coats of arms, allegories, and biblical scenes. A scene depicted on one of the tiles is from the life of the prophet Jonah, who lived in the kingdom of Israel about the 8th century BC. It shows the whale (or large fish) swallowing Jonah after he was tossed into the sea. On the top part of the drawing there is a barely visible inscription in Gothic letters. In Christian teaching, Jonah’s restoration after three days in the large fish is an allegory of Christ’s death and resurrection after three days. The 16th century Renaissance period palace floors were paved with trapezoid tiles, which were covered with violet, green and blue glazes, as well as with square tiles covered with white, green, yellow or blue glaze.

Stove tiles make up the largest group of architectural ceramics. Based on iconography and analogues, the ceramic tile stoves, which replaced damped clay stoves during the 14th–15th centuries, were constructed in the form of a cupola, square prism, or truncated cone. The earliest tiles were in the form of elongated clay pots, some of whose interiors were covered with yellow or green glaze. During the 15th-16th centuries, the clay pot interiors were decorated with concentric circles or flower blossom rosettes.

Flat ceramic tile stoves were used to heat the living quarters in the Vilnius Lower Castle starting in the 15th century. Those kinds of stoves stood alone and were very decorative interior elements. Their bottom part, where the wood was burned, was usually made from flat square tiles. The upper part of the stove, usually in the form of a rectangular prism, was made from rectangular or niche tiles (with relief drawings in the niches). The tops were decorated with crowns.

During the archaeological digs, over 20 different kinds of 15th century tiles with coats of arms were found. Several of them were decorated with the coat of arms of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy – the mounted knight Vytis. A tile fragment with the columns of the Gediminas family dynasty in the escutcheon and the raised arm of a knight with a sword is another example of heraldic tiles representing the Lithuanian Grand Duchy and its dynastic families. Another, nearly whole tile, with the image of a mounted knight with a spear might be the coat of arms of the Duchy of Vilnius, or just a scene from a jousting tournament. Most of the heraldic tiles found in the palace are analogous to 15th-century tiles found in Poland. On some, the escutcheon takes up the whole tile, while on others it is small and tilted at a 45-degree angle. Above the escutcheons were arrangements of palm leafs, rue sprigs, and a knight’s helmet with ostrich feathers. The most frequently found heraldic tiles – Sulima, Wąż, Leliwa, Drya – were those that Lithuanian noblemen received from the Poles aft er the signing of the Act of Horodło in 1413. Erasmus Vitelius Ciolek (Erazmas Vitelijus Ciolekas), the secretary and trusted adviser to the Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander Jagiellon, had the Sulima coat of arms. A speech by Erasmus Vitelius to Pope Alexander VI, which was published in Rome in 1501, contained a drawing of this coat of arms. Some tiles were found with the coat of arms of a still to-be-determined bishop.

Other 15th century tiles were decorated with allegorical – mythological or Biblical – subjects, such as a pelican feeding its blood to its young, two rampant lions, a mansphynx, the Three Kings, and others. Stoves with such tiles may have stood in the palace or the residence of the Bishop of Vilnius, which was also in the territory of the Lower Castle.

The largest number of tiles found during the archaeological digs were multi-colored (polychromatic) tiles from the Renaissance period. Their subject matter repeats scenes from the engravings of such noted German artists and engravers as Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Dürer’s colleague George Pencz (circa 1500–1550), and Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550). One of the more interesting and complete works is a series of cornice tiles depicting hares entitled The World Upside Down (Mundus Inversus): a hunter with dogs blowing a horn, armed hares and dogs, hares roasting the hunter on a spit, a hare blowing the bellows and a fox stealing a rooster, hares dragging a tied-up dog to the kettle, hares with a ladle near the kettle, and a deer being attacked by hounds.

About twenty different kinds of niche tiles were found with figure drawings in relief in the niches depicting: Adam and Eve, the Virgin Mary and Christ with St. Ann, the Madonna with Child on her arm (according to the engraving “Madonna with the Pear” (1520) by H. S. Beham), St. George (mounted on a horse with sword, a princess and bird to his right), and St. Veronica (an angel holding the veil with Christ’s image). Adam and Eve are shown standing on either side of the Tree of Knowledge – a scene oft en depicted in European art since the 13th century. Similar 14th–15th century tiles have been found in Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic – Central European countries that are geographically, historically, and culturally close to Lithuania.

The rectangular tiles found in the Palace of the Grand Dukes in Vilnius Lower Castle were mostly decorated with allegorical scenes: a woman holding a flaming heart in one hand and a shield on which is depicted a grass snake with a crown at her feet, a woman with a mirror, and a man with a sword. The crown tiles on top of the stoves were decorated with images of either a man or a woman holding a shield with a coat of arms, some with the monogram of Sigismund the Old and the Polish Eagle.

Cornice tiles were also decorated with heraldic insignia. Some were decorated with the four-field joint coat of arms: the mounted knight (Vytis) in the center of the escutcheon, and in the other fields the Radziwiłł eagle with the three entwined bugle horns on a shield on its chest (Trąby), another set of horns (Trąby), a buff alo’s head pierced with a sword (Pomian), and a crescent moon with a six-sided star (mullet) on top (Leliwa). The shield is held by stylized male and female figures – similar to those in the tapestries as well as book illustrations and bindings of that period. Some of these excavated shields were once used to decorate the corners of the stoves. A shield with the Sforza family coat of arms, the swaying snake, and floral ornaments decorated one of the corner cornice tiles.

In the second half of the 16th century, the construction of the stoves changed. The heating channels were oriented to the upper part of the stove and that is why the niche tiles with short necks were changed to flat tiles with long necks. Corner niche tiles appear in the 17th c. and relief tiles without borders become more widely used. The ornamentation on these relief tiles continues from one tile to another, resembling the ornamentation on Persian and Turkish rugs. Such multi-colored (polychromatic) as well as single or double color glazed tiles were found in the territory of the palace. The palace’s collection of 15th–17th c. stove tiles is one of the largest and most important in all of Europe.

After the Union of Lublin treaty (1569) created a joint Lithuanian and Polish state – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – a ceremonial coat of arms with five fields representing this new state was also created. In this coat of arms the Polish White Eagle and the Lithuanian Mounted Knight alternate in four of the fields. In the center is a smaller escutcheon with the coat of arms of the elected ruler of the Commonwealth. During the rule of the Vasa dynasty, for example, it was the House of Vasa crest with the wheat garb in the center. Many such tiles from the first half of the 17th century were found. Quite a large number of tiles were found with the coat of arms of the Grand Chancellor and Grand Hetman of Lithuania Lew Sapieha (Leonas Sapieha, 1557–1633) and bearing the date 1616. After the fire of 1610, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Ladislaus Vasa (1632–1648) thanked the Chancellor for restoring the queen’s apartments. It is possible that the Chancellor himself may have had an apartment in the palace.

During the archaeological digs various kinds of materials used for interior decoration were found: door and window hinges as well as ornamental elements which oft en surround doors and windows (chambranle), grilles, chains, iron latches for windows, hooks for hanging lanterns or chandeliers, lead window frames, various sizes of cylindrical and triangular padlocks, as well as fairly complex door locks. Among the finds in the Vilnius Lower Castle and the palace territory, and now preserved for future generations, are large wood constructions: 15th c. building doors, a 16th c. sewage manifold and fragments of water pipe as well as 15th and 17th-century wells.

Many of the architectural elements which were found became the basis for reconstructing the exteriors and the interiors of the palace: window surrounds, portals, frontons (pediments), floors, stoves, fireplaces, doors with metal reinforcements, grilles, stained-glass windows, Gothic reveals, vault ribs, and others.

Objects from everyday life, especially ceramic pieces, make up the second largest group of archaeological finds and museum artifacts (after the architectural elements). There are various kinds of dishes associated with the transportation, storage, and the presentation of food – cups, pitchers, platters, frying pans, tall three-legged vessels, baking tiles, baking molds, plates, flasks, goblets, drug jars, and even chamber pots. Some of the dishes and utensils were made locally, others imported. They were made of white, yellowish, and reddish clay, with matte or clear glaze finishes, and variously decorated. There is some information that the thin-walled dishes of white clay were imported in the second half of the 16th c. from workshops in Iłża, Poland (near Radom).

In the 14th–15th c. layers a considerable number of wooden dishes were found. Many of the wooden plates, platters, and smaller dishes were made using a lathe. In those same layers dish fragments made in Western Europe of clear glass with a ruddy or rosy tinge as well as clear glass fragments decorated with a blue scallop edging from the Middle East (dated 12th–14th c.) were also found. According to archaeological findings, glass dishes began to be used more often from the 16th century. Beautifully decorated goblets and other dish fragments from this period were found. Most of the collection of imported end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th c. glass was found in the cellars of the southern and western wings of the palace and in the latrines: a milky white glass goblet with cobalt decoration, a distilling vessel, various bottles with multi-colored floral decorations, an image of a woman’s face and white glass threads – the work of Venetian craftsmen. In terms of ornamentation and craftsmanship, a cylindrical goblet fragment decorated with gold and hand-painted birds stands out the most.

During the archaeological digs many serving knives were found. The knife was one of the basic table implements. Men and women carried them in decorative sheaths attached to their belts. The handles of the knives were made of wood, bone, or horn and were variously decorated. Some of the knives have a maker’s mark on their blades. One of the knives was made of steel and the maker’s mark was a nonferrous (colored-metal) encrustation. The wooden handle was decorated with zoomorphic ornaments.

The third largest group of finds (after architectural elements and everyday objects) from Vilnius Lower Castle and the palace were associated with clothing and jewelry. In the peaty 14th–15th c. layers, in the 16th–17th c. latrines, as well as the 17th c. wells, over ten thousand leather fragments were found : footwear (soles, heels, shoe tops), gloves, wallets, knife sheaths, and belts. A very valuable collection of 14th–17th c. shoes was collected. They were of different kinds: sandals made from a single piece of leather and tied with leather laces (naginės), low shoes, womens’ top boots, and others. The soles of the shoes were made from local conifers as well as imported cork. Boots sewn from different kinds and color of leather were also found.

Another interesting find in the 14th–15th c. layers was leather pouches. During the Middle Ages not only money was kept in such pouches but other things as well. Some of the pouches were closed with drawstrings and others with clasps. Small pieces of wool, silk, and velvet cloth were found as well as clothes fragments. Some of the more interesting pieces were a velvet cuff, a piece of silk cloth with floral decoration, and a felt hat. The reason that some of these objects made from organic materials were preserved in the palace territory was due to a combination of peaty soil and high ground water level. This is why few European historical residences can claim such an abundance and variety of these kinds of objects.

Quite a few non-ferrous metal objects were found – mostly jewelry and pieces of costume - such as rings, earrings, medallions, pendants, clasps, bindings, amulets, bracelets, hooks, small chains, and belt fragments, made by local craft smen and imported. Tools for making jewelry were also found in the 14th–15th c. layers: vessels made of fire-proof materials, moulds, matrices for bronze fasteners (hooks), and blanks. This means that much of the jewelry was made in the palace territory.

Various manufacturing techniques were used: casting, stretching, hammering, polishing, soldering, engraving, glass cutting, encrusting, wire wrapping, twisting, winding as well as techniques for filigreeing and granulation. Various metal alloys, such as tin, lead, and copper were used. Rings and earrings made of gold and silver as well as jewelry made from glass and bone were also found. About twenty 14th–17th c. signet rings were found. Some of them were gold-plated silver. The seals have not yet been identified. Some especially beautiful gold rings from the 15th– 17th c. were found. Several 15th c. rings were adorned with floral ornaments. One has a maker’s mark inscribed on the inside. Another is decorated with white enamel flowers on a green enamel background. In the 16th c. layer a gold ring was found with possibly a Maltese cross on a black background in the setting. The 16th-17th century layer revealed one gold ring with a red rectangular gemstone in the setting and another gold ring with possibly a sharp cut diamond in the setting. These and other pieces of jewelry will be displayed in a special exhibition of the treasures of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

Most of the metal artifacts relate to warfare: a collection of arrowheads from straight bows and crossbows from the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries; wooden crossbow arrows, which are very rare finds not only in Lithuania but in all of Central and Eastern Europe; battle axes and halberds from the 14th and 15th centuries; and armor plates of various sizes and shapes - narrow and long rectangles, wide squares, and rounded squares, which were usually sewn in a fish scale pattern onto leather or some other heavy material and then bent in order to soft en blows. The armor plates also date from the late 14th to the mid-15th centuries. Among the other finds was a single-edged sword from the turn of the 15th century, a sampling of ammunition (round metal cannon balls and bullets) and armor parts from the 16th –17th centuries, spurs and spur fragments (14th–17th c.), fragments of court swords (17th c.), and combs for grooming horses (14th–17th c.).

Some of the artifacts reveal how inhabitants living in the territory of the Lower Castle and the Palace may have spent their leisure time. Various sizes of turned or carved chess pieces (pawns, bishops, a queen) and checkers pieces as well as dice, boards for various board games, and equipment for outdoor team games, such as balls of various sizes, cattle phalanges filled with lead, and others were found. They date from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Three of the game boards were made from limestone tiles. When their surfaces were divided into squares, these architectural elements became game boards. On one of the game boards you can see 41 carefully-drawn squares and on the other 22. On another tile the backgammon playing field is drawn. Layers where stone boards were found date from the second half of 17th century, but the objects themselves could go back earlier, to the end of the functioning Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in the mid-17th century.

Historical sources mention that the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Ulrich von Jungingen, sent musical instruments to Ona (Anne) the wife of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas in 1408. They were a clavichord (a precursor of the piano) and a small portable organ. Musical instruments Vawere also found during the digs in the Vilnius Lower Castle territory. They included mouth harps (dambrelis, Jew’s harp), whistles, and a fragment of a wooden flute from the 15th century, made from ash and with three holes.

Another large archaeological find in the palace territory was a collection of 600 clay pipes. They vary in size and are made of red or white clay mass as well as porcelain. They range in date from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Smoking tobacco in Europe started in the second half of the 16th century. The long white clay pipes are called Dutch pipes. During the 17th century, Dutch merchants plied the Baltic and North Seas and sold their pipes throughout Europe. During the 18th century, many European countries and cities began making their own Dutch-style pipes.

During the reign of Sigismund Augustus (1529/ 1544–1572), a large library of about four thousand books was amassed in the palace. In his last will and testament, dated May 6, 1571, Sigismund Augustus allotted that library to the Vilnius Jesuit College. A number of book bindings and fastenings from the 15th to the 17th centuries were found in the palace territory. On one of the fasteners, engraved in capital letters is the word BARBARA. Could it have belonged to Barbara Radziwiłł, the wife of King Sigismund Augustus? A small (13.3 x 7.3 cm.) book cover made of calf leather and decorated with figures in relief was found in a latrine in the south wing of the palace. On one side of the cover is the figure of Christ making the sign of benediction with his right hand, while his left hand holds a globe surmounted by a cross (signifying the Savior of the World). On the other side is the image of the Virgin Mary with Christ in her arms.

A very valuable numismatic collection, which is now being stored at the Lithuanian National Museum, was also found. The earliest coin found in the Lower Castle territory was a Roman sestertius (one quarter of a denarius) from the 2nd century BC.

Coins began to be minted in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania when the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila became King of Poland (1386). The face of the coin had a portrait of the ruler with his crown and an inscription around the circle. On the reverse there was a rampant lion and an image based on the flag of the Crimean Tartars (the Tamga). During the reign of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas (1392–1430), anonymous coins with the inscription PEČAT (seal or stamp) in capital letters on one side and a spear point and cross on the other were minted. This is the largest collection (about 400) of early Lithuanian coins found during archaeological digs in Lithuania.

The Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander Jagiellon (1492–1506) instituted monetary reforms in 1495 and a Lithuanian mint was established. The first head of the mint was a German from Krakow, Poland, by the name of Henry Schlacher. Coins were begun to be minted according to Western European technologies on tin plate blanks. The Lithuanian Mounted Knight appears on the face and the Polish Eagle on the reverse.

The year a particular coin was minted was stamped on the coin beginning in 1508, during the reign of Sigismund the Old (1506–1548). On the smallest coin, the grašis, even the month was stamped. The most denominations of coins were minted during the reign of Sigismund Augustus, including Lithuanian gold coins – ducats (dukatai). More realistic portraits of the rulers appeared on the coins as well as marks of the mint directors – Gabriel Tarło (1562–1564) and Stanisław Myszkowski (1565–1568). The majority of the coins found were from the 17th century. Of those, most were copper shillings (šilingai) from the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1440–1492).

In addition to coins, coin dies were also found during the archaeological digs. Several of the coin dies were from the reign of Alexander Jagiellon, others were used to strike the coins of Gotthard von Kettler (1517–1587), the Master of the Livonian Order.

The archaeological artifact collection found in the Vilnius Lower Castle and Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania territory is distinguished by its size and variety and by the rareness and uniqueness of some of the finds. It has already been an invaluable source of information for the reconstruction of the palace and in the future will be the most important source of materials for the planned didactic exhibitions concerning the historical and architectural development of the palace in the broader context of Lithuanian history. These artifacts greatly broadened the knowledge of Lithuanian architecture and art history as well as the general understanding of cultural development from the 13th to the 17th centuries. They changed or corrected long held views concerning the beginnings of brick architecture; the creative powers and achievements of the Gothic, Renaissance, and early Baroque periods; how European traditions and customs were adopted in Lithuania; how new ideas spread in the country; and the influence that the rulers’ residence had on the generation of these innovations.

List of the institutional owners of the art works and photographs published in this album

LDKVR – Nacionalinis muziejus Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės valdovų rūmai (National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania)
LDM – Lietuvos dailės muziejus (Lithuanian Art Museum)
PTC – Pilių tyrimo centras „Lietuvos pilys“ (Castle Research Center "Lietuvos pilys")


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Published:: 2023-01-18 12:08 Modified: 2023-02-01 10:21
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