The history of the castle is closely
connected with the formation of the city. According to the
legend found in the Chronicle of Lithuania, the castle on
the Castle Hill was founded by Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas,
who once had a prophetical dream. In his dream he saw an iron
wolf standing on this place and howling like a hundred wolves.
The pagan priest Lizdeika interpreted this dream as gods'
will. Gediminas should build a castle and a city that would
soon become famous and prosperous, and would be unassailable
for enemies. According to other historical facts, in the 5-6th
centuries there had already been large settlements on the
banks of the Vilnia River and Gediminas chose this place for
the construction of the new town because of its favorable
geographical position. About 1230 the castle was built and
soon the capital was moved from Trakai to the new town named
after the Vilnia River.
In the historical documents three
Vilnius castles are mentioned: the Upper Castle (a fortress)
and the Lower Castle (a residence of Grand Duke) were situated
on the Gediminas Hill, the Crooked Castle was located on the
present Hill of Three Crosses. The oldest of them is the Upper
Castle, now called Gediminas Castle. The first wooden castle
on this place was built in the early 13th century. After Grand
Duke Gediminas proclaimed Vilnius the capital of Lithuania,
the wooden castle was reinforced with brick walls. The current
stone building was erected according to the order of Grand
Duke Vytautas. The majestic stone castle, surrounded with
ten feet thick defense wall with three towers and entrance
gates, dominated the medieval town. The castle was severely
damaged by Russian troops in the 17th century. By the beginning
of the 20th century the castle had been practically ruined.
But due to the restoration work started in 1930 one of the
main city's landmarks has been preserved and now you can visit
the Western (Gediminas) castle tower, ruins of defense wall,
surrounding the palace and the castle.
The construction of the Lower castle
was started at the beginning of the 14th century. Since the
middle of the 14th century it served as a residence of Grand
Duke and his family. The castle was defended by a brick defensive
wall with towers, one of which, rebuilt into a belfry, survived
up to nowadays.
Now the castle houses the museum of
the history of Lithuania. It was founded in 1960 and is located
in the best-preserved western tower of the Upper Castle. One
of the exhibitions is dedicated to the history of the castle
and displays archeological finds, models of Vilnius at various
stages of its development and historical documents. From the
top of the tower you can enjoy the marvelous panorama of Vilnius.
Address: Arsenalo St., 5