Statue of Grand Duke Gediminas, Vilnius
Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania who ruled between 1316 and 1341 is considered to be the founder of Vilnius. The monument to him was designed by the sculptor Vytautas Kasuba and erected in 1996. The Duke is featured with his horse and with his hands outstretched like someone having a vision or performing a miracle.
Legend has it that one day the Duke was having a nap after a day of hunting when an enormous iron wolf appeared before him howling with the strength of a hundred beasts.
A little anxious and curious what such a dream might mean, the Duke sought the wise druid Lizdeika's help. The man explained to him that he should found a city on the spot where he had slept. The city would be as strong as the Iron Wolf and the howls meant that the whole world would hear about it. And thus Vilnius was founded and named after the River Vilnia.
In fact, there had been a settlement there since paleolithic times and by Duke Gediminas' time even a kind of castle, but it was him who moved the capital of Lithuania from Trakai to Vilnius and greatly contributed to the town's splendour.
The first strong links between Poland and Lithuania also date back to his time as Gediminas had his daughter marry the future King of Poland Casimir the Great. His grandson Jogaila became King of Poland in 1385 and the two countries became one for centuries to come.
The monument bears inscriptions commemorating some other great Kings and Dukes who played an important role in the history of Vilnius. It seems to be the favourite spot frequented by locals and tourists alike, who take a rest on its steps. Interestingly, when we were there we could hear the Lithuanian language on one side of the monument, Polish on another and Russian on still another. I can't help wondering whether it is a custom or just a coincidence.
This impressive bronze statue stands in Cathedral Square behind the Cathedral. It was unveiled on 22nd of September, 1996, the work of sculptor Vytautas Kašuba, a Lithuanian refugee A fitting monument to the Founder of Vilnius - The Grand Duke Gediminas.
Apparently the bronze for the statue was donated by Lithuanian border guards, from confiscated metal. The sculpture was cast for free in Tallin, and the marble plinth was a gift from the Government of Ukraine.
At the front of the statue is 'The howling Iron Wolf' carved in stone.
Two plaques on the base of the monument (pic 5) commemorate Algirdas, one of Gediminas's seven sons, who ruled Lithuania from 1345 to 1377 and Jogaila 1377 - 1392.
The monument is based on the legend of the founding of the city;
Gediminas was fond of hunting, one of his favourite places being in the densely forested area, which is now the capital of Latvia. He had spent the day pursuing aurochs (A now extinct breed of cattle) and finally hunted one successfully. As it was late, a camp fire was prepared and the hunting party settled down for the night. Gediminas fell into a deep sleep, where upon he had a prophetic dream.
High above the Vilnia River a huge wolf howled loudly - so loudly that it sounded like a hundred wolves! Gediminas tried to shoot it with arrows, but they just bounced off. The wolf was protected by iron.
Concerned by this vivid dream, Gediminas ordered that someone be found that could interpret it. Lizdeika, A pagan priest decreed that it was the will of the gods.
He was to build a castle at the mouth of the River Vilnia (which would be as protected as the wolf was) An important town would develop around the castle, and its citizens would be heroes who'd make this a great city renowned far and wide (their voices being the howl of the wolves)
Gediminas moved to The mouth of the river, built the castle and thereby founded Vilnius.
He is known as The Grand Duke of Lithuania, although he also called himself a King of Lithuania.
He announced Vilnius as the nations capital in 1323 and 1341.
Lithuania was the last European country to convert to Christianity, and over the years had battled against attempts by German crusaders.
In 1323 Gediminas contacted many craftsmen from Germanic speaking towns to re-locate to Vilnius, promising them religious freedom.
In order to maintain peace he married his daughter to the Polish kings son. Their son Jogaila married Jadwiga, a Polish princess, thereby becoming King of Poland towards the end of the 14th Century.
Somewhere along the way Gediminas 'Got religion' and attempted to baptize the country and make Catholicism the main religion of Lithuania. He hadn't reckoned on the power of the Russian Orthodox church and the pagan žemaičiai who thwarted his plans, and it is likely that his religious 'conversion' was a ruse to prevent more invasion/unrest, especially as he would alienate the mainly pagan citizens.
Before his death in 1341 (some thought is that he was poisoned) he divided his domain between his 7 sons (he also had 6 daughters) and Jaunutis was given Vilnius, who was soon ousted by his brother Algirdas, who was then succeeded by Jogaila, who converted Lithuania to Christianity in 1387.
This monument to honor the city’s founder was erected in September 1996 at the eastern end of Cathedral Square.
According to legend, after hunting Grand Duke Gediminas fell asleep at the foot of a hill and dreamed of an iron wolf that howled with the sound of a hundred wolves. A pagan priest told him that the dream was a prophecy and that he had been chosen to build a castle on the hill and establish an unconquerable city, a city with the vigor of an iron wolf.
The Duke built the castle in the early 1320s on what is now Gediminas Hill. At the foot of the hill he founded Vilnius, named after the Vilnia River which flows through its heart.
Looking like some armoured Samurai, the Grand Duke Gediminas stands boldly overlooking Cathedral square, sword drawn. He's backed by his steed, while below him howls the iron wolf that he saw in a dream that convinced him to move the Lithuanian capital from Trakai to Vilnius. He built the fortress above the statue where he dreamt he saw the iron wolf howling.
The statue is built next to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is perhaps an irony given how Gediminas fought to keep Lithuanian free of Christianity. He was torn between appeasing the great Papal power of the time, and the very real threats of his own people to commit mass suicide if they were forced to convert from their own pagan beliefs.
But he was as skillful a diplomat as he was a warrior, and it was under his governance that the Lithuanian empire was founded. Taking advantage of the wars his neighbours to the south and east were constantly fighting, he captured land stretching as far as Moscow in the east, and as far south as the Black Sea. All this time he kept the infamous Teutonic Knights at bay.
It's little wonder he is held in such high regard, and so much of what makes Vilnius great bears his name. He is, after all, considered not only the founder of Vilnius, but the whole state of Lithuania.
The Gediminas Monument was unveiled in 1996. It shows Gediminas on his horse, holding his sword in his LEFT hand which some want to interpret that he prefered diplomacy instead of war and violence. What about him perhaps have been left-handed??
On the base there are also "portraits" of his two successors, Algirdas and Jogailla. The latter married a daughter to the Polish-Hungarian king, thus making an alliance between the countries which would be strong enough to fight back the Teutonic Order. This marriage took place in Kraków in 1386. There is a statue in Kraków to memorize this event, see the 8th tip on this side.
Jogailla/Jagiello is the father of the Polish Jagiello dynasty.
When I went down by the walking trail from the top of the Gediminas Hill I reached southeastern part of the Cathedral Square. There was the monument of the founder of Vilnius, the Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - Gediminas (1316-1341) put there.
To be honest it was not pretty monument in my opinion but quite good and quiet point to meet someone. The monument was designed by immigrant Lithuanian sculpturer Kasuba, created by Snipas and put on the square in 1996.
Statue of Gediminas is located in Cathedral Square. He was one the first rulers in Lithuania and responsible for founding Lithuania as an empire. The statue was unveiled in 1996.
At the bottom of cathedral square you'll find Mindaugas monument: he unified Lithuanians people against germans, and in 1236 was crowned as first lithuanian king