The Gediminas Castle
The Gediminas Castle
The funicular is 71m long and will take you 40m high. The angle is said to be 36 degrees. Opening hours 10.00 – 19.00 all year round.
– up and down adults 3Lt, pensioners and school children 2Lt – up OR down adults 2 Lt, pensioners and school children 1Lt
The so called Upper Castle, or Gediminas Castle, was built at the beginning of the 14th century on the site of an earlier wooden one. A century later it was rebuilt and strenghtened. Along with the Lower Castle (now gone) and the defensive wall it formed a powerful defensive system. But slowly itlost its importance and after the damage caused in the war with Russia in 1655, it was left unrebuilt. After the World War II the best surviving tower was restored. It now houses a museum and an observa- tion platform.
The museum is open:
May – Sept 10.00 – 19.00 whole week
Oct – April Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00 to 17.00.
Entrance fee 5Ltl for adults, pensioners and school children 2Ltl. To the east of the tower are the ruins of the ducal palace.
The Gediminas’ Tower is an important historic symbol of the city of Vilnius and of Lithuania. It is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle. The first wooden fortifications were built by Gediminas – the Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
There is historic evidence of a castle being located at the top of Gediminas Hill since the early 14th century. The original castle was made of wood and there is uncertaintainty around when exactly the stone castle was built. Originally the castle was built to protect the city of Vilnius from invaders and gave a great vantage point ove the city and surrounding countryside. Over the centuries the city of Vilnius was attacked five times but the castle was never successfully taken. It was only in the 17th century, during the war with Moscow, did the castle finally succumb to foreign invasion when it was nearly completely destroyed. Recently, parts of the castle have been restored, but access to the interior of the castle is still not possible for visitors.
Fairly easy walk (assuming you’re wearing good walking shoes) up Gedeminas Hill allows for wonderful views of Vilnius. The orange-red roofs of old town spread out below, while taller modern buildings can be seen in the distance, a reminder that Vilnius is both a historical site and modern, living city. At the top of the hill stands the remains of the Upper Castle, built in the 15th century. Inside the tower is a museum detailing some of the city’s history. Climb to the top of the tower for even better views of the city below. For a change of pace, take the funicular down to the bottom of the hill when you’re ready to leave. It’s a fun ride, and quick!
The first timber castle was built on Castle Mount by Grand Duke Gediminas around 1320. It was replaced by a brick one in the second half of the 14th century, which had to be re-built by Grand Duke Vytautas after a fire in 1419. The castle served the Polish kings as a bell foundry and a jail and, later, as King Sigismund August’s library. In 1655 it was conquered by the Muscovites, which was the start of its gradual decline. The only remaining part of it at present is just one tower which houses the Museum of the Castle. From its top you can admire the panorama of Vilnius. Unfortunately, we could only see the castle from below. There were no signposts to the funicular and it was getting too late for us to attempt a walk. The pictures of the panorama of the town were taken by my friend on her stay in Vilnius.
All Lithuanians know a legend about establishment of Vilnius city. It was the beginning of 14th century when Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas stopped for an overnight near confluence of Neris and Vilnele rivers. That night he dreamt an iron wolf howling on a hill. In the morning his soothsayer Lizdeika explained his dream as a sign for him to build here a city as it will become a well known and widely resounded in all over the World. Gediminas ordered to pour a mound at the same place he slept. On the hill there a castle was built, the predecessor for the nowadays Gediminas castle.
According to archeological researches, the hill where Gediminas castle stands nowadays was already inhabited in a Neolithic period. In 11-13th centuries a wooden castle here stood. The same as Vilnius city, it was mentioned in 1323 for the first time. For more than 250 years since 1315, when a dynasty of Gediminaičiai ruled the Grand Duke of Lithuania, the complex of Vilnius castles served as a solid defensive structure. The complex included the Bottom castle, the Upper castle and the Skew castle. The Bottom castle extended in a territory of a few hectares. It stood at the same place where now the Vilnius Cathedral stands. It looked as a separate city as it included a school, an arsenal, stables, living buildings, a cathedral. However, it finally vanished in 1800.
The newly built Palace of Grand Dukes of Lithuania nowadays symbolizes the former Bottom Castle. The Skew castle stood on the Skew hill, the same one which nowadays is known as the Bleak hill where a monument called “Three Crosses” is erected. The Skew castle was burnt in 1390 by German Order. Remains of the Upper castle are still standing on Gediminas hill. This castle is also called Gediminas castle. There were times when it was one of the most important political centers in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. There is also a tower of Gediminas castle located which can be seen well from any place in Vilnius Old Town. The tower nowadays serves as a museum, an observation square and a symbol of Vilnius and the whole Lithuania.
The museum located in the tower of Gediminas castle is a part of National museum of Lithuania. There is an exposition called “Guns and an iconography of the castle” exposed. Visitors can get acquainted with models of the complex of Vilnius castles, historical weaponry and iconography of the old Vilnius. Tourists can climb up the Gediminas hill themselves in order to visit the castle and the tower or they can use an elevator working there daily. Marvelous views of Vilnius city open from the top of the Gediminas hill.
Some people, especially youth, like settling on a spacious stone fence here and watch the city life from above. It is an impressive place where young fellows like to take their girlfriends, city guides always include this destination to tours around Vilnius, the hill is often visited by schoolchildren excursions and separate tourists. The only inconvenience about the place is that you must be on time to get down the hill in order not to be locked in the hill territory. The hill is not available to climb up all day long.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 October 2016
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