This beautiful town with its impressive panoramic views sits on the high banks of the Neris River. The town's name comes from a river named Kernave, which in turn came from the common noun kernave, meaning a boggy place in field or forest. Four fortress hills in the Pajauta river valley mark the site of Old Kernave. 19th century romantics named them Aukuro (altar), Lizdeikos (the pagan diviner), Mindaugo sostas (throne of Mindaugas) and Pilies (castle).
Somewhat on a distance stands Kriveikiskio Hill. The oldest, Aukuro Hill, was inhabited in 1000 B.C. In the 13th - 14th century the fortress hills comprised a unified defence complex. Archaeologists discovered the remains of a city and various 13th century items in the Pajauta valley in 1986. Excavations initiated several years ago of the so-called upper city have determined that a fair number of homesteads existed not only in the valley and on the fortress mounds, but also on an upper terrace about 100 meter northwest of Pilies Hill. Written sources mention he settlement in 1279, indicating that it was the domain of duke Traidenis. At the end of the 13th century Kernave was undoubtedly one of the most important economic and political centers of Lithuania. It was often used as a residence by Vytautas the Great, who built the first church here in 1420. Remains of its foundation were discovered near the present-day church.
Kernave points of interest
A state cultural reserve protects the Kernave complex, which entered the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in 2004 as one of Central and Eastern Europe's most important and interesting archaeological monuments. An exhibition on the area's history is found in the town museum.
The neo-gothic Church of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1910-1920), with its mosaic Stations of the Cross (1987) is an interesting construction. Writer and amateur historian Nikodemas Svogzlys-Milzinas, priest for many years at Kernave, lies buried in the churchyard. Nearby is a wooden 18th century chapel, and the Roemer family mausoleum (1856). The new presbytery, and the museum of church art in the old presbytery are worth a visit.
On the road to Ciobiskis from the town of Musninkai, which is 7 kilometers north of Kernave, stands an 18th century stone edifice known as the Chapel of Barbara Radziwill (Barbora Radvilaite). Apparently it was once the site of a chapel built by the beloved wife of Sigismund Augustus as a reminder of her visits to this area, including to Musninkai, which was a Radziwill estate in the 16th century. The existing, neo-gothic Church of the Holy Trinity (1865) was built on the site of an Evangelical sanctuary from that period. The crypt of the family Podbereski, owners of the estate in the 19th century, lies beneath the rustic wooden belfry. Kernave is a short drive from Vilnius.