Lietuva, English Lithuania, German Litauen
Trakų, German Trakai
Dominican priory in Trakų
houses today the administration of the Trakai history museum.
A brief history.
The first settlements in the area of Trakai appeared as early as the first millennium A.D. The town Trakai, as well as its surroundings, started developing in the 13th century as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania's centre. Trakai is mentioned for the first time in the Lithuanian Chronicles in 1322 and in German chronicles in 1337, which is regarded to be the official date of its foundation. Several years later (ca 1328) Trakai became the domain of Grand Prince Kestutis, who built a new Castle on the lake-washed peninsula.
This castle and the town emerging around it became the seat of a large principality that embraced most Western and central Lithuania. Trakai acquired especially great fame after Kestutis’ son Vytautas the Great became grand prince (1392-1430).Here he planned to be crowned king of Lithuania in Trakai Castle. Here he died, uncrowned, on 27 October 1430.
In early 15th century the wooden fortress was replaced with a stone-built castle. In 1409 the town was granted with Magdeburg Rights, as one of the first settlements in Lithuania. This sparked the prosperity and the village started to rapidly develop into a town.
The castle of Trakų. Lithuania 2007, Mi 941-942.
Communities of Karaims, Tatars, Lithuanians, Russians, Jews and Poles lived here side by side. In 1477 the castle on the lake was a meeting place of the king Kazimierz Jagiellończyk (called Kazimieras Jogailaitis by Lithuanians) with the Venetian envoys. After that the castle became sort of a luxurious prison for political prisoners. The castle was refurbished by the king Sigismund I of Poland, who set up his summer residence there. However, after his death in 1548 the castle gradually fell into disrepair. Trakai lost its political significance in the XVI century. It also declined economically.
During the war with Russia in 1655 the town was plundered and burnt, the castles were destroyed. The island castle was rebuilt in the second half of the XX century. There has been a history museum in the castle since 1962. The castle's prominence as a holy site is reflected in its collection of religious art on display in a separate gallery. In summer the castle courtyard is a magical stage for concerts and plays.
The Dominican priory and church in Trakų till 1863.
Before the Conversion of Lithuania (1387) Trakai, like the whole of Lithuania, was a pagan holy place. The Lithuanian sacred fire burned in the hill fort beside Lake Galvë and religious rites were performed there.
After the adoption of Christianity, a church was required. Thus at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries a chapel of St Michael was built in the gate tower of Peninsula Castle that Kestutis had built.
After the Peninsula Castle lost its defensive significance the palatine of Trakai, Marcin Ogiński and his wife Marcibela founded a Dominican priory with church on the frontal territory of the Peninsula Castle in the XVIII century. They were short of money, however, and the construction of the church was not finished.
After the Uprising of 1863 the still incomplete priory was destroyed on the tsar’s orders and the buildings were turned into a military barracks. In the XIX century the southern nave of the church was turned into a monastery and the northern part of the nave was turned into a small church. Presently the building of the Dominican monastery is used by the administration of the Trakai history museum.
In the History Museum some relics of the Dominicans are preserved like chalices and altar plate.
Sources: Internet Trakai Dominican monastery (XVIII c.),
Kęstučio st.4, Trakų, Lithuania by Natal Newton.
www.trakai.lt and many others.
With thanks to Mrs G. Nieuwelink.
Painting 'Panorama of of new Tracų
in the 16the century',
by J. Kamarauska 1899.
Lithuania 2007, Mi 941.
The former Dominican priory houses today
the administration of the Trakų History Museum.
Lithuania 2007, Mi 941-942; Sc –.
Some caliches and altar plate,
perhaps of the
Dominican church in Trakų, XVII-XVIII centuries
in the History Museum.
Lithuania 2007, Mi 941-942.; Sc - .
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