Ukmerge (Ukmergė) is a city on the banks of the Šventoji River. It was first mentioned in historical sources in the 13th century. Its earlier name – Vilkmergė, refers to a tributary of the Šventoji. A fortress hill where the Šventoji and Ukmergėlė come together, is a reminder of the times of the Crusaders. It’s thought to have been the site of a wooden fortress (1225) built by prince Dausprungas.
Vytautas the Great burned it down during the civil war at the end of the 14th century. He replaced it by a stone castle at the beginning of the 15th century. A wooden church, one of the first Christian sanctuaries in Lithuania, emerged near the fortress in 1378.
More history of Ukmerge
There is consensus that the settlement acquired market and fair privileges around 1435, after the Battle of Pabaiskas. A new marketplace with homes and warehouses further from the castle on the right bank of the Ukmergėlė near the Upytė-Riga road became the core of the Old Town, which exists to this day. Streets around Kęstučio Square have retained their old structure. The square itself has an Independence monument erected in 1990 to replace a demolished concrete obelisk.
Buildings from the turn of the 20th century stand in the square and along Kauno, Gedimino, Vytauto and Vilniaus streets. A residential building (late 19th century) at Kauno street 86, and to the mail wagon station at Kauno street 80 have an architectural monumental status. The latter complex of buildings (1833-1835) emerged along with the Kaunas-Daugavpils highway, laid according to an exemplary design approved in the Russian empire. The main building has an entrance-way with a four column portico. It had administrative and lodging purposes. Outbuildings included a carriage house, horse stable and bath-house.
Other sites of interest in Ukmerge
From the firehouse tower one can see the Church of the Holy Trinity with its Byzantine style tower and cupola (Kauno street 1), which emerged on the site of a sanctuary constructed by the Piarists who came to Ukmerge in 1735. They first built a six-year school, and only then a wooden church (1746).
Tsarist officials deported the monks in 1845 and gave the sanctuary to the Orthodox congregation, which converted it into an Orthodox church in 1869. The Catholics retrieved it in 1919, it closed in 1949, and returned again to the faithful in 1991. An obelisk near the Ukmerge-Deltuva road commemorates Russian and French soldiers who died in battle on June 28,1812. Buried in 14 mass graves in the nearby Pivonija pine forest are 6,442 Jews, exterminated there in the autumn of 1941. A concrete slab with a marble plaque and inscriptions in Lithuanian, Russian and Yiddish was erected in their memory in 1951.