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The Vilnius Club’s gift to the capital – a monument reminding us of the letters of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas sent out to the world

On the birthday of Vilnius, in the Grand Courtyard of the Palace of the Grand Dukes, a momument will be unveiled that will henceforth remind every passer-by of the beginnings of the capital city’s existence, when 700 years ago Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas sent a message to the world about Vilnius. This sign of remembrance was presented at a press conference held at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania by the Vilnius Club, the gifter of the monument to Lithuania’s capital. The patrons are Ina and Darius Zubas. Sculptor Martynas Gaubas is the author of the monument titled The Oaths of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas to Vilnius and Lithuania.
 
The idea of memorialising the oaths of Gediminas linking the past and the future was inspired by the Vilnius Club’s tradition of commemorating the city’s birthday each year by reading a letter written and dedicated to the capital and its inhabitants by prominent figures. “May there be no deed too small nor too great that I may not accomplish for the good of Lithuania’s capital” – these are the words from the oath sworn by the Vilnius Club, which unite its members, well-known residents of Vilnius, to work for the benefit of the city in which they live. The members of the Vilnius Club are symbolically continuing the work started by Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas on January 25, 1323: in his letters to the world, the ruler invited merchants, craftspeople, farmers, knights and monks to come to Vilnius. According to the initiators of the monument, in all times the greatest wealth of a state has always been and will continue to be its people, while Gediminas’ letters declared “we open our land to each person of good will”. The members of the Vilnius Club invite us not to forget the values listed in the oaths of Grand Duke Gediminas.
“As no original of any of the letters exists, and we have no copy in Lithuania, we want for them all to be remembered and memorialised, so that each passer-by could touch Gediminas’ letters, so to speak, which have become part of the city’s history and architecture. Ruling in the 14th century, Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas was a very progressive leader, while Vilnius was a free and liberal city. This is what we want not only Lithuania to remember, but also the world, and to memorialise this in the monument gifted by the Vilnius Club”, – say the monument’s patrons Ina and Darius Zubas.
 
Gaubas’ monument is located in a symbolic place – on the western foot of Castle Hill where, in the late 13th century, Gediminas’ forerunners built the first and at that time only brick castle in Lithuania, while Grand Duke Gediminas saw to its reconstruction and fortification, adding a mighty residential donjon, which is actually the real Gediminas’ Tower. It was precisely in this castle in   1323–1324 that Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas dictated his famous letters to Pope John XXII, the Hansa cities and Franciscan and Dominican monkhoods. When examining the territory of the Palace of the Grand Dukes, archaeologists unearthed the foundations and one of the levels of the tower where the ruler resided. These findings are on display at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The monument gifted by the Vilnius Club was purposefully situated near the granite wall that covers part of the extant Tower of Gediminas.
 
 On the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Vilnius, the permanent exposition of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was supplemented with a virtual narrative about the history of the Lithuanian grand dukes’ castle and palace from the early 14th to the 15th centuries, and the daily life of the rulers and the court from the times of Gediminas to Sigismund Augustus. Viewers will have the opportunity to travel back in virtual time to late 13th-century Vilnius, when the Gediminids had ascended the throne and thanks to the innovative rulers, the Round Tower of the Early Brick Castle, the only one of its kind in Lithuania at the time, “grew up” in the territory of the future Lower Castle. The public will be able to experience how, as Vilnius became the capital of Lithuania, the Round Tower was rebuilt into the still “pre-Gothic” residential-representative Octagonal Tower. It was here in this structure that Gediminas could have dictated his famous letters, while later it was where Vytautas and Casimir Jagiellon resided. Experiencing a journey through time from the Early Brick to the Gothic and right up to the Renaissance and Early Baroque periods, viewers will have the opportunity to see how the site of the former tower was transformed into the palace kitchen in the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, and what fate befell the palace in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
 
On January 25, the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania will host the reading of the newly translated letters of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas to the world, recently published by the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore. In addition, next to the surviving foundations of Gediminas’ Tower, an exhibition will be opening where visitors will learn about “Vilnius before it was Vilnius” – archaeologists and restorers at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania are unveiling this hitherto little-known period in history and the context of the birth of Vilnius, familiarising the public with the most unique, extant artefacts and even a wooden house built back in the late 13th century!
 
Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas (born ca 1275, reigned 1316–1341) is often called the “king of the Lithuanians and many of the Ruthenians” in sources. Continuing the policy of joining Ruthenian lands and inviting people from Central and Western Europe to Lithuania, he became the creator of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – a European superstate, or, “an unproclaimed empire”. Gediminas’ Lithuania became home to people of various nations and faiths, where both the Byzantine Eastern and Latin Western cultural traditions flourished. It was in Gediminas’ time of reign that Lithuania became an actor in European policy.
 
 The new ruling dynasty in Lithuania was named after Gediminas – the Gediminids. Its representatives (the Jagiellons) later came to rule not only Lithuania, but also the kingdoms of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. Vilnius became the place of origin of Gediminas and his dynasty, while the castle in Lithuania’s capital became the most important, native residence of the Gediminid-Jagiellon dynasty from which its representatives ascended European royal thrones. 

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Published:: 2023-01-26 10:28 Modified: 2023-08-08 13:03
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