Kaunas castle, Coven castle (lit. Kauno pilis) is located in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas. The oldest stone castle in Lithuania. According to archaeological research, its construction dates back to the middle of the 13th century. It was built in a strategically important place - the confluence of the Neman and Neris rivers as a stronghold in defense against the Teutonic Order. Currently, about a third of the castle with two towers has been preserved. The complex of buildings of the Kaunas Castle is included in the Register of Cultural Property of the Republic of Lithuania, protected by the state (code 839).
Kaunas Castle in 2016
|54 ° 53′56 ″ s w. 23 ° 53′06 ″ c. d. H G I O L|
|Status||Open to visit|
|Wikimedia Commons Media Files|
Kaunas Castle is mentioned in the Chronicle of the Land of Prussia by Wiegand von Marburg under 1361 in connection with the reconnaissance expedition of the Crusaders. Judging by archaeological data, it had double fortifications: the main walls at a distance of 18-30 m were bordered with pre-castle ones. Both were towerless. On the outer planes of the walls there was a two-meter strip of red brick, which contrasted with the plastered surface.
In 1362, the Teutonic Order, as well as invited knights from the Czech Republic, Italy, Denmark, England besieged the castle and after a bitter struggle they took it and destroyed it. At the beginning of the 15th century the castle was rebuilt by Vytautas. As a result of the reconstruction, the castle acquired massive corner towers. The walls had a thickness of 3.5 m and reached 9-10 m in height. It is assumed that the towers were four-tiered. Floor ceilings were wooden. The castle was surrounded by a protective moat.
After the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, the castle lost its strategic importance. Prince Vytautas often stayed at the castle and received guests. After his death, the castle became the residence of the headman of Kaunas; various administrative institutions were located in the castle. At the beginning of the XVI century the castle was used as a prison. One of the most famous prisoners was the son of Akhmat, the khan of the Great Horde, Sheikh Ahmad.
In the mid-16th century, the southwestern tower of the castle was surrounded by a barbican. This was probably the last device to enhance the defensive power of the castle. The construction of the Barbican was associated with the need to strengthen the castle during the Livonian War (1558-1583). In the first half of the 17th century, Neris washed the northern wall of the castle: in 1611, one tower collapsed, and in the 30s of the 17th century the northern part of the castle was washed away.
In the XIX century, the territory of the castle was divided into small sections and sold out. The ruins of the castle were especially damaged in 1870, when it was allowed to use masonry for the construction of a new highway and city streets. The first serious archaeological research in Kaunas Castle began in 1924. In 1930 and 1932 the territory of the castle was cleared and wooden buildings of the late period were demolished. In 1965, the Kaunas Castle Museum, a branch of the Kaunas State Historical Museum, was opened.
Currently, the roof has been restored and a tourist information center operates in the round tower of the castle. The projects of partial restoration of the castle and the establishment of a museum exhibition are being discussed.
The defensive structure erected to repel the attacks of the crusaders
Archaeological excavations have shown that even before the construction of the castle in this area was a wooden settlement. The place for the fortress, which became the largest defensive structure, was not chosen by chance. The fact is that the lands of Kaunas (Lithuania) were dangerously close to the lands of the Teutonic Order, and the belligerent crusader neighbors repeatedly tried to seize the nearby territory. And to protect against them, a defensive structure, Kauno pilis, was built of stone and brick. The Teutonic knights could not get to the bastion, which was considered the key to the Principality of Lithuania, unnoticed, and those on duty at the top saw everything that was happening for several kilometers.
The exact date of the construction of an irregular-shaped quadrangular building is unknown, but already in the XIV century the first written mention of the Kaunas Castle appeared, protected on all sides by rivers, a swamp and a deep moat. The current Pope, who dreamed of imposing Catholicism in the country, wanted either to end Lithuania forever, or to convert it all the same to Christianity. However, the pagans Lithuanians were in no hurry to accept the new faith.
After accurate information appeared about the powerful fort, built to repel the attacks of the crusaders, a military campaign of knights, who came from all over Europe, to the city began. The invaders, who dreamed of conquering an impregnable fortress, built tall wooden towers that helped them overcome the powerful walls that collapsed after undermining.
Confrontation to the Teutons
25 days opposed the Teutonic knights of Kaunas (Lithuania), but as soon as the last wall fell, the crusaders entered the city. Many residents fled to a defensive structure that could not resist the onslaught. The knights who broke into the set fire to the castle, killed and burned more than a thousand Lithuanians. And only 36 valiant warriors who survived surrendered to the mercy of the victors.
After the crusaders left, the castle was again carefully restored, but several times the participants of military campaigns besieged the fortress, bringing death and destruction. And all the time, the inhabitants, who did not even think about moving the bastion to another place, rebuilt it again, making it more powerful.
High (above 10 meters) and double walls with loopholes surrounded the most recognizable monument of the city. Four towers appeared, in which not only the garrison lived, but also the ammunition depots. And around them, semicircular bastions were built for additional fortification.
Resurrected from the ashes castle
Kaunas Castle, which had serious damage, successfully survived many sieges. It lost its strategic importance after the Battle of Grunwald took place in the 15th century, which changed history. The tipping battle brought defeat to the Teutons, and a new state appeared in the international arena - Polish-Lithuanian. Grand Duke Vytautas rebuilt the fortress, having slightly modernized it. However, two centuries later, the waters of a powerful river eroded the land on which the historical monument stood, and its northern part collapsed.
Despite this, Russian and Swedish soldiers often used the fort as a defensive structure, and the last time this happened at the beginning of the XVII century, during the Northern War.
For a long time, the dilapidated Kaunas Castle remained abandoned, and only with the 30s of the last century does its revival begin. The former defensive fortress is transferred to the local museum, and next to it a wonderful green park with many well-groomed walking paths is set up, which makes it so pleasant to stroll in a hot summer.
City Business Card
Now part of the construction remains from an important strategic object of medieval Lithuania: a powerful round tower, which was covered with a thick layer of earth, and fortress walls. The amazing beauty of the most ancient architectural ensemble of the state is complemented by magnificent landscapes that add mystery to the structure. In Kaunas Castle (Lithuania), various exhibitions are currently being held, visitors of which get acquainted with modern sculpture and painting. You can also visit concerts of ancient music, costume shows, immersing in the atmosphere of the Middle Ages. Children’s festivals, informative and fun, will appeal to kids, while Christmas and Halloween events will appeal to more adult audiences.
Often costumed performances are arranged for tourists using historical attributes and ancient weapons right on the site of the attraction, and in the evening everyone will find an amazing fire show.
The history of the Kaunas warrior castle with the Teutonic siege and the destruction of the castle in Kaunas
Kaunas Castle was first mentioned in the chronicle of the land of Prussia Wiegand von Marberg in 1361 in connection with the reconnaissance expedition of the Teutons.
Pope Innocent VI, wanting to instill Catholicism in Lithuania, wrote about the need to either end Lithuania or convert it to Christianity. The commander of the Teutonic castle Ragnit Heinrich Schöningen in the winter of 1361 received an order from the master Wienrich von Kniprode to obtain information about the fortifications and prepare a military campaign in Kaunas. Knights from all over Europe gathered on this campaign. Gathering in Koenigsberg (present Kaliningrad) in a huge army, the crusaders, led by Bishop Bartholomew, moved to Kaunas.
The Germans brought to the city walls two huge siege wooden towers above the walls, at the same time digging the walls themselves. The garrison led by Prince Voidat Keistutovich bravely defended Kaunas for 25 days. But as soon as the undermined part of the wall collapsed, opening the entrance to the city, Kaunas was captured by the crusaders and devastated by fires. Some managed to escape to the castle. Already on April 10, Palm Sunday, the knights began a siege of the castle, but were repelled. On Holy Saturday in 1362, the Teutons managed to smash the walls with rams, set fire to the castle in many places and break into it. In that battle, 1,100 Lithuanians died in the battle, burned even more, only 36 soldiers with the young leader Voidat, who surrendered to the mercy of the winners, remained. The next morning, the knights built an altar on the ruins of the castle and performed the Easter service, celebrating the victory over the Gentiles. Then the crusaders left, finally destroying the fortifications.
The castle was restored, but the crusaders again attacked Kaunas. The siege of Kaunas in the spring of 1367 was especially stubborn. The crusaders, together with the troops of several European countries, besieged the castle for more than two weeks. As a result, the castle was again destroyed, and its defenders were killed.
By 1368, the Lithuanian prince Keistut built another, more powerful. More precisely - the Second Castle was erected, which was already adapted to protection against gunpowder. The courtyard of the castle was surrounded by walls 3.5 meters thick and 9.5 meters high, and there were towers in all four corners of the courtyard.
In 1383, Kaunas Castle was again taken by the Germans and destroyed, and the territory passed under the authority of the Teutonic Order. The order restored the castle.
At the end of the XIV century, the castle was repeatedly attacked, and often had damage.
The castle lost its significance after 1410, when the power of the Teutonic Order was destroyed at the Battle of Grunwald.
At the beginning of the 15th century the castle was rebuilt by Vytautas. In the middle of the XVI century, the castle was slightly modernized: a bastion was built near the round tower. In the first half of the 17th century, the Neris River washed the northern wall of the castle: in 1611, one tower collapsed, and in the 30s of the 17th century the northern part of the castle was washed away. But, despite this, the Russian and Swedish armies used it as a defensive structure during the war at the beginning of the 18th century. This was the last time the castle served military purposes.
Gradually, the castle fell into disrepair and completely collapsed.
Since 1930, research and restoration work was carried out in the castle. The south-east tower of the castle was restored and for some time there was an exhibition of the military museum.