Vilnius residents and visitors are about to receive a special gift – a transcript of the original letter by Gediminas, brought from Latvia, will be on display at Gediminas’ Castle Tower to mark the 700th birthday of Vilnius.
The letter, dated 25 January 1323, which invited Christian merchants, soldiers, craftsmen, farmers, and priests from all over the world, especially from Lübeck, Stralsund, Bremen, Magdeburg, and Cologne, to come and settle in Lithuania, is brought to Lithuania to mark the anniversary. Historians are aware of six letters sent by Grand Duke Gediminas that have survived in transcripts, but it is difficult to tell how many were sent in total.
“None of Gediminas’ original letters have survived, so this transcript is the most authentic record of the birth of the city of Vilnius. It is the one that can be considered the “culprit” of the 700th anniversary of Vilnius, because, after being transcribed and thus preserved in the Riga City Archives, it revealed the date of the first mention of Vilnius. We are very pleased that the Latvian State Archives have agreed to lend this important document for the joint project by the Lithuanian National Museum of Art and the Latvian State Archives,” says Dr Rūta Kačkutė, Director of the National Museum of Lithuania.
The letter, which is just five hundred words long, can be considered Gediminas’ vision for the country and the city, reflecting the ruler’s political ideas and tactics, his values and ideals: his ideas on how to attract foreign investment, how to implement an effective national defence concept, as well as a formula on how the majority can coexist with the minority.
The document will be accompanied by the exhibition “Letters by Gediminas: then and now”, which will provide an interactive presentation of the meaning and importance of all Gediminas’ letters. The organisers of the exhibition say that the centuries-old vision of the Grand Duke of Lithuania captured in these letters will leave no doubt in the minds of visitors that Gediminas, even today, could still be the head of the city of Vilnius with no competition.
The letter will be presented to the public on 25 January at Gediminas’ Castle Tower of the National Museum of Lithuania. On the occasion of the birthday of Vilnius, visitors will be able to see it free of charge on that day, and later on with a museum ticket. The document is stored in the Latvian State Historical Archive in Riga, so the opportunity to see it in Lithuania is exceptionally rare. The original transcript of the letter will be on display until 4 June, when it will be replaced by a facsimile in the exhibition that will run until the end of the year.