Reconstruction of the Verkiai Romuva Lizdeika Temple. By architect S. Lasavickas. VCA. Architecture Museum document collection

Once, when Duke Vytenis was hunting in the forests, he heard a cry. He found a baby in an eagle’s nest and called it Lizdeika, and the surrounding areas were named Verkiai (verkti means to cry, Verkiai – a place where someone cries). When he grew up, Lizdeika became the chief oracle and interpreted a dream of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas about Vilnius. Maybe the history of Vilnius indeed started here, in Verkiai.

Although it is only a romantic story, it is known that there was an ancient pagan settlement in Verkiai and human remains with abundant shrouds and weapons were found. The first structure in Verkiai was a temple belonging to the ancient Lithuanians, thus Vilnius’ city dwellers who foster old traditions gather here to kindle and oversee the holy flame. After the Christianisation of Lithuania, Jogaila gave Verkiai to the bishops, who turned the former manor into their summer residence. Old oak trees hold the memory of those times, the 1700s, when Bishop Konstantinas Kazimieras Bžostovskis had a palace built here. Imagine in winter, when everything was covered in frost, bananas and pineapples grew in the glasshouse. The manor had a rich library, collections of paintings and hosted operas as well as fireworks shows. What we can see in Verkiai today is only a small part – the main palace has since been dismantled.

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