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The Early Brick Castle in Vilnius is the oldest known brick castle in the territory of present-day Lithuania. The greatest expansion of this castle occurred in the early 14th century (ca 1325–1327), when Lithuania was ruled by Grand Duke Gediminas (1316–1341). It was at this time that an octagonal tower was built on the site of the old defensive tower, while nearby the castle’s western gate towers and defensive wall were erected. Archaeological research conducted around the castle revealed that the earliest brick fortifications in Lithuania’s territory on the foot of Castle Hill in the centre of Vilnius were constructed by the predecessors of Grand Duke Gediminas back in the late 13th century.
Within the Early Brick Castle, near the southern defensive wall, a square plan brick building around 11 metres wide and 11.5 metres long was constructed in the beginning of the 14th century (M3). The castle walls were then being built from stones and red clay bricks using the Baltic bond. Researchers have attributed these structures to the pre-Gothic stage of construction. During the course of archaeological research in the vicinity of the brick building (M3), scientists discovered rubble containing bricks without shallow grooves, Gothic bricks with shallow grooves, floor tiles with light green and brownish glazing, trough-shaped roof tiles and fragments of painted plaster. Among the artefacts found in the rubble there was also one nervuric, or ribbed, and six profiled bricks with traces of painted plaster. It may be said that the interior of the building already had a vaulted ceiling and ornate profiled door or window reveals, typical of the Gothic style.
One side of the discovered nervuric brick was painted a dark green colour, while a small fragment of white painted plaster remained on the pointy end of the brick (Ill. 1–6).
Profiled bricks used on reveals were also found. It is likely that plaster was not applied to the bricks immediately after they had been laid, but later, when the building was being reconstructed, plaster was used to hide smaller parts of the reveal profile and any sharper corners were smoothed over. Three differently profiled reveal bricks were found: the side of the first profiled brick (Ill. 7–11) is covered with a layer of grout up to  3–4 mm thick and the profile is painted light grey on one side, while the recessed part of the profile is a dark grey colour, the fascia and the other side are a light grey colour; on the second profiled brick (Ill. 12–16) the header (short side) is painted a whitish colour, while the profile appears to be painted half in brown (or dark red) and half in light brown. Remnants of green-coloured plaster can be seen on the face of the stretcher (long side). On a fragment of another brick featuring this same profile, which has survived less intact, remnants of a red painted plaster were found, its splay (cant) has grey-coloured plaster, while the face of the stretcher has remnants of a whitish plaster (Ill. 17–22); the third profile is represented by three bricks. The colour arrangement on all three of these bricks is the same, suggesting that they came from the same reveal, which was most probably painted in several colours in vertical bands (Ill. 23–35). Part of the recess in this profile has remnants of green near the edge and remnants of a dark red colour closer to the roll – the roll itself is painted whitish, light and dark grey, while the other side of the recess has been painted dark grey or black.
The artefacts reveal several stages of decoration of the building, and allow us to at least in part reconstruct how the colours on the reveal and vaulting would have looked. The layer of rubble also unveiled more fragments of painted plaster, from which we can surmise that the walls inside the building would have also been plastered. After conducting an analysis of these artefacts, it becomes evident that one of the earliest brick buildings in the Vilnius Castle displayed characteristics typical of Gothic architecture.

Material prepared by Gintautas Striška, Ėrika Striškienė, Egidijus Ožalas, Rasa Abramauskienė, Vytautas Abramauskas

Published:: 2023-04-20 16:00 Modified: 2024-04-19 13:04
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