The history of the Palace dates back to the sole document written over 600 years ago - the edict by Grand Duke Jogaila of 17 February 1387.
After Lithuania converted to Christianity in 1387, Grand Duke Jogaila founded the Vilnius Diocese, donating to it a land plot nearby "Goštauto Garden on the edge of the city of Vilnius". Thus, the land of the Bishop must have been included into the territory of the present Palace complex. The first Bishop of Vilnius, Andrius Vasila (1388-1398), built a palace that was decorated, rebuilt and expanded by its successive owners. Surviving written sources on the Bishops' Palace testify that, in 1536-1555, during the days of Bishop Paulius Olšeniškis, who was one of the wealthiest bishops, the Palace was the next most impressive edifice after the Royal Castle. In the 16th century, the Palace was surrounded by a large park which, by its plants and landscaping, surpassed even the wonderful gardens of Radvila.
The last Bishop to live in the Palace was Bishop Masalskis (1730-1762). Some reconstruction works of the Palace complex were carried out by Lithuanian architect Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius to his order.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Palace suffered fires, wars and disturbances. Damaged by the fire of 1737, the Palace was hit by it again on 14 June 1748, destroying the archives of the bishop kept at the Palace, including all documents related to properties of the bishop and his jurisdiction in Vilnius.
After Lithuania was made part of the Russian empire, the Bishops' Palace became a temporary residence of the Russian Emperor, dukes and other noblemen. The Palace, the most magnificent and respectable palace of its time, was used for residence by Tsar Pavel I in 1796, Stanislav August Poniatowski in 1797, and the would-be King of France Louis XVIII in 1804.
In the 19th century, the Palace became the official residence of the Russian Governor General. Governor-General Muravyov who was called the Hangman in Lithuania and twice Governor-General of Lithuania, in 1800-1801 and 1809-1811, General Kutuzov lived in the Palace. General Kutuzov visited Vilnius a third time to attend the celebrations of the victory over Napoleon at the end of 1812. The highest military award of Russia - the Order of St. George, First Class - was conferred on him in the Palace.
In 1812, Russian Tsar Alexander and French Emperor Napoleon (28 June - 16 July) stayed at the Palace. An etching surviving from the early 19th century depicts Tsar Alexander I at the celebration of the victory in Russian - French War in this Palace in Vilnius in 1812.
In 1824-1834, the Palace was reconstructed to the design of Vasily Stasov, a renowned architect of the Tsar Court in St. Petersburg, acquiring its present-day shape.
In 1920, before the loss of Vilnius district to Poland, the Palace housed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and the ELTA news agency. Later, between the two World Wars, it again became a venue for official ceremonies. Marshal Józef Piłsudski also stayed at the Palace.
After of the Second World War, the Palace was converted into the Soviet Military Officers' Centre and youth dance evenings were held in the present White Hall. In the 60s, it received new hosts, becoming the Artists' Palace. In 1991, after the restoration of Lithuania's independence, part of the building housed the Embassy of France.
Started in the autumn of 1995, archaeological excavations covered 1 500 sq. metres of the Palace area. The cultural layer was found to be over three meters. Its earliest layer in the surveyed part of the park dates back to the 16th century, although a number of artefacts dating back to the 14thand 15th centuries were discovered. The earliest archaeological finds discovered in the courtyard of the Palace date back to the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age.
Adaptation of the Palace to the needs of the Seat of the President of the Republic of Lithuania was based on two main concepts of interior design. Premises with surviving interior design or information on its nature available (e.g. polychrome decor) were to be restored following the historic design. As no decor survived on the first floor, a decision was made to furnish and equip it in contemporary style, in selection of materials and design, however, trying to retain those typical of Classicism (e.g. mahogany) and to highlight the designation of the premises. Restoration of the interiors of the main ceremonial halls was based on historical and art history and other research materials. Interiors of the second floor in the western wing was designed anew since they were completely destroyed during earlier reconstructions. Historical data on the furnishing of the Palace in the 19th century was available and was used to furnish the Palace with the authentic late Classicism pieces of furniture and their copies made by furniture makers of Lithuania and St. Petersburg.
Last updated 2015.12.18 12:16