History

Medininkai Castle

Medininkai Castle consists of 4 towers, 1.8-1.9 m thick and up to 15 m tall walls, and defensive ditch. The main donjon is about 30 m tall. It is believed that the castle was built in the first half of the 14th century under the rule of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas (1316-1341). The castle was one of the defensive fortifications for the Lithuanian state with its capital city Vilnius against the aggression of Crusaders and Livonian order, and potential attacks from the East.

For the first time the castle was mentioned in historical sources only in 1387, in the descriptions of the roads of Teutonic order scouts. Forces of the Crusader order together with the future Lithuanian Grand Duke, Jogaila’s brother Švitrigaila sieged the castle in 1402. It is believed that the castle did not suffer much, as it was not occupied. After the siege the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas did not abandon the castle and visited it for numerous times.

After the rule of Vytautas the Great, the significance of castle was consistently diminishing. At the intersection of the 15th and 16th centuries it was devastated by fire, after which the castle did not recover and only the ruins remained. The castle was given to Duke Vosylius Žilinskas. Not only no one took care about the castle (a wooden estate and outbuildings in its territory with ordinary life going on until the beginning of the 20th century), but it was further devastated during the so-called “Flood” period in 1655, by the soldiers of the Napoleonic Army retreating from Russia in 1812, and during the years of the first and Second World War.

Interest in the past arose only in the 19th century. Then romanticists V. Sirokomlė, T. Narbutas were writing romantic stories about Medininkai Castle. This yielded certain results – during the interwar period the conservation and preservation work of the castle began, but was terminated by the Second World War. After the war Medininkai Castle was periodically restored, archaeological and architectural research was carried out.

New period in the life of Medininkai Castle began after the re-institution of Lithuania's independence. On 6 July 1993, commemorating the 740th anniversary of Mindaugas Coronation, the first stone of the restored tower was laid, and the donjon restoration work began. It was supported by the presidents of the Republic of Lithuania Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas (1995), Valdas Adamkus (2002), the Union of Engineers and Architects of American Lithuanians (ALIAS), by different architects, archaeologists, historians, heritage protectors and other professionals. In 2004 Medininkai Castle again went to the hands of Trakai History Museum (to which it also belonged in 1967-1973), the restoration of the Castle continued during 2010-2012 and it was adapted for a museum.

Medininkai

Medininkai village is situated near Medininkai Castle. Like the castle, the settlement was built in the first half of the 14th century during the rule of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. Initially, residents of Medininkai were the family members of the castle crew, craftsmen, husbandmen; Augustan monks settled there after the christanization. At certain time, Tartars invited by Vytautas the Great lived here, too, but over time they moved to Nemėžis and to Keturiasdešimties Totorių (Forty Tatars) villages, and in Medininkai you will know about them only from tombstones with Arabian scripts.

Although Medininkai Castle was abandoned in the intersection of the 15th and 16th centuries, the village was a centre of powiat (administrative unit called pavietas), located near the trade road leading to Ashmyany. It was a place favourable for trade: at the end of the 18th century and in the 19th century Medininkai flourished and had two inns.

The decline of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy was followed by the decline of Medininkai. In 1812, during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, Medininkai was plundered and set on fire. After the unsuccessful Polish-Lithuanian revolt in 1830-1831, Medininkai suffered the Tsarist anti-Catholic repressions. In 1831, Augustan monks that served in Medininkai parish and the church, were expelled from the village, the parish was dissolved and the church was closed.

During the interwar period Medininkai belonged to Vilnius area occupied by Poland. In 1931, with the efforts of priest Antanas Rutkovskis, the current Medininkai Church of St. Trinity and St. Kazimieras was built, in 1936 – a wooden school named under Marshall Pilsudskis (in 1943 it was burned down by German soldiers celebrating the New Year).

Currently, Medininkai has a centre of sub-municipal area, a cultural centre, a school, church and a museum.