Bishops’ Palace

Philippe Benoist, Vilnius. Governorate-General Palace and the University Astronomical Observatory. 2nd half of the 19th century. Šiauliai Aušros Museum

Can you imagine that the territory where the present-day Presidential Palace stands and the heart of Vilnius was once a suburb? After Lithuania was baptised, a stratum of high-ranking clergy was needed, so the Grand Duke of Lithuania and the King of Poland Jogaila donated a plot of land to Vilnius’ first bishop, Andrius Vasila, by means of his privilege in 1387 whereby he wrote: “We donate the land near the garden of the Goštautai.” In this way, the Bishops’ Palace was built, though the land was swampy there.

This is also the place where Tsar Paul I lived at the end of the 18th century, where Stanisław August Poniatowski stayed in the early 19th century, and the future king of France Louis XVIII stayed on a visit. However, you can imagine what the palace looked like only from a dim image depicted on a piece of copper made 500 years ago. In the first half of the 19th century, the palace was destroyed, and the present-day Presidential Palace was built, which was used as a residence for Vilnius’ governor-general.

Even nowadays you can go back to the past: every Sunday at noon you can see the ceremony of the changing of flag and soldiers wearing the uniforms of the 14th century army who guarded the palace.

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