Palace of Grand Dukes may rise again

  • 2000-10-19
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - A group of Lithuanian intellectuals has established a foundation for the rebuilding of the palace of the Lithuanian grand dukes in Vilnius. And if they have their way, the rebuilt palace will appear behind Vilnius Cathedral by 2009.

The year 2009 was set as a target date because it marks the millennium of the written word"Lithuania." This word appeared for the first time in German chronicles.

The palace, as a symbol of Lithuanian statehood, was destroyed on the order of Russian ruler Catherine II in 1799, four years after Russia occupied the Lithuanian Grand Duchy.

"We need to popularize the idea of rebuilding the palace," said Marcelijus Martinaitis, a famous poet and member of the foundation. The rebuilding of the Lithuanian grand dukes' palace would cost 100 million litas ($25 million), say members of the foundation. They expect that the government will put up most of the money. The rest should come from private donations, especially from Lithuanians living abroad.

Members of the foundation were encouraged by the congress of the Lithuanian World Community, which was held in Vilnius this summer. "The congress proclaimed the top three priorities of the Lithuanian World Community: lobbying for Lithuania's membership in NATO, European Union accession and the rebuilding of the grand dukes' palace," says archaeologist Vytautas Urbonavicius, member of the foundation.

The palace, built in the Gothic style for Lithuania's Grand Duke Vytautas the Great in the 14th century, was rebuilt in Renaissance style in the 16th century.

"I would build a modern-style palace because there are not enough documents about the authentic Palace of Grand Dukes", said Daina Vanagaite, architect with the Institute for Monument Restoration.

However, members of the foundation say that there are paintings from the 16th and 18th centuries that provide enough information about the palace to build it according to its former grandeur.

"Financing is the main problem for rebuilding the palace. Maybe it is worth it to rebuild it. The palace would activate international tourism in Vilnius. There would be a place for a museum in the palace," said Marija Mikneviciute, architect with the Institute.

The idea of rebuilding the palace seems tempting to Rolandas Paksas, who is expected to occupy the post of prime minister soon. "Everything depends on our financial situation. This issue isn't on our immediate agenda. However, I would like to support the idea of rebuilding the palace. The palace would make Vilnius even more attractive to foreign tourists," Paksas said.