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The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and its Reconstruction

May 17 – August 26, 2012
Belarus National Museum of History
Minsk, Karl Marx St. 12

The common history and cultural heritage of the multiethnic and poly-confessional Grand Duchy of Lithuania unite the current modern nations of Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland.  That is why the history of the palace of the grand dukes of Lithuania in Vilnius Lower Castle, at first the political and cultural center of the old Lithuanian state and later a center of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the scholarly research associated with its reconstruction, the actual reconstruction of this historical residence, the many unique archaeological finds from the palace territory, and its current use as a museum are of interest to all the nations in Central and Eastern Europe whose fate for several centuries was determined in this palace.

Several cities in Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, Szczecin, Wroclaw, Biskupin) and Germany (Duisburg, Regensburg, Munich) have already become acquainted with the history of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and its material culture through traveling exhibitions during 1992–2010.  Now the palace history and collections come to neighboring Belarus at the Belarus National Museum of History.  The exhibition, The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and its Reconstruction, was initiated by the history museum in Minsk and consists of three main sections.

In the first section, 18 copiously illustrated panels describe the development of the palace and the most important historical events of that time, presenting the most important iconographic material, research results, groups of archaeological finds, developing museum collections as well as the reconstruction project and future exhibition concepts. This section of the exhibition is supplemented by a model of the Vilnius Upper and Lower Castle complex, which was created in 2006 and has traveled to Poland and Germany, as well as by 16th and 17th century engravings of panoramic views of the Vilnius castles by Georg Braun, Frans Hogenberg, and Tomasz Makowski.

In the second and third sections of the exhibition, 120 authentic objects from the collections of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania are on display: 99 impressive and informative archaeological objects as well as 21 valuable applied and visual art objects.

The highlight of the exhibition is the archaeology display of nearly 100 carefully chosen objects found in the territory of the Vilnius Lower Castle and Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania dating from the 13th – 17th centuries.  These unique finds reveal the splendor of the palace during the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. The objects are arranged thematically in five cases. The objects in the first case are from the early brick buildings of the 13th-14th centuries and those with Christian and pagan symbols. In the second and third cases are architectural pieces from the palace interiors. The fourth case shows games and entertainment pieces, and the fifth – jewelry, personal hygiene items, and weaponry.

The types of objects on display include: 28 ceramic tiles with heraldic symbols and initials of the rulers, their coats-of-arms, mythological and religious imagery, and floral decorations; Gothic figural bricks and tiles from the 14th-15th centuries; and wooden and ceramic utensils, scissors, knives, and combs from the 14th-15th centuries. Special attention has been given to the display of 14th-16th century games and game parts: draught or checker pieces, chess pieces, dice, and fragments of game boards for backgammon and Qirkat (or Alquerque). The musical life of the palace is revealed through a display of 15th and 17th century jaw harps, 14th-15th century fragments of a flute, and a Renaissance tile showing children playing musical instruments. Next to these finds, there is a display of 15 pieces of metal jewelry:  14th-15th century rings, clasps, and leather pouch reinforcements. Among the seven military objects are: 14th-17th century arrowheads, pieces of sword handles, and a wooden arrow.  Very rare leather items from the 15th-17th centuries have been brought back to life by the careful, meticulous work of the museum’s conservators and are now on display.

The third section of the exhibition is dedicated to the furnishings and works of art which will be on display in the future in the newly reconstructed Gothic, Renaissance and early Baroque halls of the palace. They will reflect the splendor and artistic taste of the royal and ducal court. The highlight of this section is two large tapestries woven in Flanders at the turn of the 17th century. Next to them, visitors will see decoratively carved wooden Italian cassoni or marriage chests, a 17th century German table and four chairs, and 16th century Italian armor. Copy portraits of several Polish and Lithuanian rulers (Sigismund the Old, Anne Jagiellon, Sigismund Vasa, and Anne of Austria) as well as old maps of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and views of cities (Vilnius, Grodno, Brest Litovsk) will also be on view.

 We hope that this exhibition will interest the Belarusian public in our common past and cultural heritage; will let us share our experiences; will foster more cooperation between museum workers and other specialists of both countries; will stimulate further restoration and reconstruction work at the former residences of the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Nesvizh, Mir, and Grodno; and, will attract Belarusian tourists to Vilnius, the historical capital of Lithuania, in whose center stands the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.


2012-05-15
Accueil  |  Actualités  >  The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and its Reconstruction