Trakai Island Castle
Lithuania, Trakai

Trakai Island Castle is the largest surviving medieval castle in Lithuania. Its construction began in the middle of the XIV century, and was completed in 1409. The castle was built on the island of Lake Galve to strengthen the defense of Trakai. A letter from Prince Vitovt has survived, from which it follows that the construction of the castle, in the future - the residence of the prince, was led by the mason Radike, sent by the master of the Teutonic Order himself. Trakai Castle became one of the most impregnable fortresses in all of Eastern Europe, and the enemies have never managed to conquer it. The castle was located on an area of 1.8 hectares, was surrounded by a fortress wall with three towers, consisted of a fortress (pre-castle) and a princely castle, built on a hill in the center of the island. The central part is separated from the castle by a moat 65 meters long and 10-12 meters wide. The defensive walls surrounding the castle from the south, east and west reached 7 meters in height and 3.5 meters in thickness. The loopholes were built large, adapted for guns firing gunpowder. There were 15 guns in the castle, the largest of which could throw stones the size of a head. Five five-tier towers were built on the three corners of the fortress wall on a square foundation, so the first floor of the towers had a square shape, and the remaining floors were round. According to the military regulations, the castle gates were closed at sunset and opened at dawn. Crossing a wooden bridge through a deep moat, one could get from the castle to the residential part of the castle. Immediately behind the moat, a 34-meter-high central tower (donjon) was erected, which housed a guard, a princely chapel and, on the top floor, a room with firewood stacked for a fire, which was set on fire in case of detection of the enemy. The princely palace was three-story, with two buildings surrounded by a terrace. The palace was built of stone and bricks of various sizes. You could get into the castle’s living quarters from the donjon through wooden galleries encircling the first and second floors from the courtyard side. The main hall was located on the ground floor; its windows were decorated with stained-glass windows. The walls were painted with frescoes, which almost did not survive. After restoration, the walls of the hall are covered with woven tapestries. On the second floor and in the left wing of the castle were living quarters, in the left wing - princely chambers. Since 1410, the Trakai Castle became the official residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, it was here that Vitovt prepared for the decisive battle at Grunwald. The castle lived a secular life, there were magnificent holidays and receptions. The Polish king Jagiello stayed in the castle, the kings of the Czech Republic, the ambassadors of the Greek emperor, the princes of Moscow, Ryazan and Tverskoy visited. Princess She Sudimantayte, wife of Vytautas, and her maids of honor were considered the most exquisite women in Eastern Europe. October 27, 1470 in the Trakai castle Vitovt died. After his death, the master was his brother, Grand Duke Sigismund. Until 1535, the Grand Dukes considered the Trakai Castle their residence. Here was stored the metric of Lithuania - a collection of documents from the office of the Grand Duke. After the great Lithuanian princes in the 15th century became Polish kings, the castle of Trakai from the princely residence was turned into a prison for noble prisoners. In the 16th century, a direct road was laid between Kaunas and Vilnius, Trakai was on the side of trade routes and lost its significance. In 1655, during the Northern War, the castle was badly destroyed and left for a long time. Towards the end of the 19th century, it was a pile of ruins. The restoration of the castle was started in 1926 and intensified in 1939, after the return of Trakai to Lithuania. The restoration of the castle was led by architect Jan Borovsky. After World War II, the restoration work of the Trakai Castle was continued by Lithuanian engineers and architects. According to the project of the architect Bronius Kruminis, the central palace was restored, and according to the project of Stanislavas Mikulenis, the castle was restored. By 1987, the entire ensemble was restored. The castle took on the form it had in the 15th century. Since 1962, the Trakai History Museum has been operating in the central palace, which introduces the history and modernity of the city, the castle and the surrounding area. Performances on historical subjects are shown in the courtyard of the castle, and on the top floor of the castle there is its own post office, where special “Trakai stamp” is put on postcards and letters. Nowadays, Trakai Castle is one of the most visited attractions in Lithuania.

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Trakai History Museum
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