The oldest extant construction in Kaunas Old Town is the castle tower and wall fragments on the banks of the Neris River. Built in the latter half of the 14th century, the enclosure type castle lost strategic importance after the Battle of Grunwald (First Battle of Tannenberg or Battle of Žalgiris). Vytautas the Great gave it a representational function. It was practically destroyed by the Russian army in 1655, used as a prison in the 18th century and preserved in the first half of the 20th century. As a result of excavations undertaken after the Second World War the tower was restored. Zither Player, a granite statue erected in a square near the castle, is a symbol for how vital the country's historical legacy and traditions are.
Church of St. George the Martyr and Bernardine monastery
Behind the ruins of the castle loom the red brick Church of St. George the Martyr and the Bernardine monastery. King Casimir Jagiellon invited the Bernardine friars to Kaunas in 1468. They settled close to the castle in a wooden monastery. Stone buildings replaced it at the beginning of the 16th century. Fire destroyed the church at the end of the 16th century and again in the 17th century. Reconstruction work preserved its Gothic exterior, but interior changes introduced baroque altars, pulpits and confessionals. In 1950 the church became a medical warehouse, the monastery a medical school. The complex returned to the Franciscan Order in 1993. The restored sacristy became a chapel.
|Address||Papilio gatve 9, Kaunas|
Church of the Holy Trinity in Kaunas Old Town
The Bernardine nuns built the Church of the Holy Trinity on the west side of Rotušės aikštė in the 17th century. It acquired its present-day structure in the 18th century. The architect Mykolas Songaila redesigned it in 1939. It was closed in 1963, later renovated, reconstructed and given to the local seminary in 1982. A post office complex built ca 1820 (during the Kaunas-Suwalki road construction) beside the gates leading into the curia functioned as the Kaunas city museum in 1897-1934 and is now the Museum of the History of Communications.
|Address||A. Jakšto gatvė 1, Kaunas|
Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum in Kaunas Old Town
On the corner stands the Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum .It began in the poet's flat in 1936 and was later extended to the entire building. The main exhibits are Maironis his rooms and personal items. The other halls present the history of Lithuanian literature. There is a monument to the writer in front of the mid-18th century mansion, which was erected on 16th century foundations and once belonged to the Kaunas court elder Sirutis. Its cellars served as a prison after the uprising of 1863, including for one of the rebel leaders, Antanas Mackevičius. Maironis acquired a flat on the second floor of the mansion in 1910. The "Sakalas" publishing firm and a library and reading room occupied the lower floor during the first half of the 20th century.
|Address||Rotušės aikštė 13, Kaunas|
The Old Town Hall of Kaunas Old Town
The Old Town Hall (Kauno rotušė, 1542, reconstructed in 1780) in the center of the square is the most attractive of three such buildings surviving in Lithuania. A civic marriage bureau since 1974, it also houses a ceramic museum in the basement. The city jail once occupied the cellars, trade companies the first floor, and magistrate and court facilities the second floor. The building was reconstructed in the first half of the 19th century for cultural organizations, and then as municipal offices from 1869 until the Second World War. In Kaunas the Old Town hall is also known as "the white swan".
Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier in Kaunas Old Town
To the right of the Town Hall on the south side of the square is the white plaster façade of the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier. Adjacent former monastery buildings were converted into a Jesuit high school in 1991. The Jesuit community was founded in 1639. The friars initially purchased Perkūnas House for their own needs, and began construction of the church in the square in 1666.
The sanctuary caught fire in 1732 and was consecrated only in 1759. The late baroque interior of that period is manifest in the sole surviving high altar of Jesus Crucified, made of dark red and grey artificial marble according to a design by Tomas Žebrauskas. A monastery and college were built in 1761-1768. Although the pope abolished the Jesuit Order in 1773, the monks stayed in Kaunas until 1787, and upon their departure left their property to the Franciscans. In 1825, after the side altars were torn down and the high altar covered with an iconostasis, the sanctuary became an Orthodox church (Alexander of Neva Cathedral from 1843).
The Jesuits recovered it when they returned to Lithuania from Germany after the First World War. They renovated added two storeys to the monastery and college buildings, and made the college into a boys' high-school. A technical college took over the buildings during the Soviet occupation, and the church was converted into a sports hall in 1949 (the crypt underneath the high altar became a sauna, the attic a shooting gallery). The complex was returned to the Jesuits once again in 1990 and the church was reconsecrated in 1992. A plaque on the façade indicates that the poet Adam Mickiewicz taught at the district school (formerly the college) in 1891 - 1823.
|Address||Rotušės aikštė 8, Kaunas||+370 610 23331|
Travelling from Rotuses Square towards the Nemunas river one's eye draws to a small red brick Gothic building. The name is Perkunas House - a Hansa League bureau in the 16th century. Explanations for the name include a version which connects the building to a small statue exposed in a wall during renovations, which apparently proved that pagan gods were ones worshiped in what may have been a temple to Perkunas (the Lithuanian god of Thunder) on this site.
It was a chapel under the Jesuits in the 17th - 18th century, a theater from 1844, a school from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century and a museum warehouse in the Soviet times. Returned to the Jesuits at the end of the 20th century, Perkunas House now functions as the Jesuit high school cultural center, with an exhibition dedicated to Adam Mickiewicz. He worked in Kaunas briefly as a teacher.
|Address||Aleksoto g. 6, Kaunas Old Town|
|Telephone||+370 8 641 44614|
Medicine and Pharmacy History Museum Kaunas
Enter through the small door on the right marked Kasa and be prepared for a strange and sometimes sinister history lesson, albeit mostly in Lithuanian only. Set out on two floors, the museum traces the medical history of Lithuania with the help of miscellaneous books, skulls, dioramas, apothecary shops, barrels, a spooky cellar, some fabulous old machines and other detritus including ancient packets of Aspirin. Major themes have explanations in English on the walls, although detail is lacking. Despite this, a visit is worth the effort. Medicinos ir Farmacijos Istorijos Muziejus:
|Address||Rotuses 28, Kaunas|
|Telephone||+370 37 20 15 69|