Veliuona, is a small town between Seredžius and Raudonė on the right bank of the Nemunas. It was an important settlement back in the Middle Ages. The surrounding fortress hills are a reminder of the battles between the Lithuanians and the Crusaders, who had territories on the other side of the river. According to legend, Gediminas, the founder of Vilnius, lies buried on Ramybės (Tranquillity) Hill, which once had a fortress and an altar to Veliuona, goddess of Hades. For this reason the fortress hill is also called the Grave of Gediminas. Vytautas the Great built a wooden fortress (1412) to the east of it, on Pilies (Fortress) Hill. It is also thought that he built the area's first Christian church (1421). Veliuona therefore has a monument made of cement (1930, sculptor Apolinaras Šimkūnas) commemorating the 500th anniversary of his death.
Veliuona through the years
The settlement acquired the rights of Magdeburg in 1501 and grew both along the river with its pier and customs house and higher up beyond the reach of floodwaters. A neo-classicist estate built by the family Zaleski in the first half of the 19th century stands there to this day. In 1909 the family Vakselisin purchased the wooden manor-house with its arched second-storey windows and four column patio with a triangular pediment. The heirs reclaimed it at the end of the 20th century. The building now houses the Veliuona regional history museum, and a classroom with an exhibition introducing the life of the writer Petras Cvirka, who was born in the neighbouring village of Klangiai. The estate park retains some of its exotic trees - yellow blossom tulip-trees, red leaf oaks and rare types of red cedars.
Since 1991, a memorial celebrating Veliuona's jubilee is on display in the town (sculptor Šarūnas Šimulynas).
Interesting works of art you will find in the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Maria. Built in the mid 17th century by Albert Stanislaus Radziwiłł, it includes an epitaph with a portrait painted on tin of one of the owners of Veliuona, Jan Kazimierz Brzostowski. It also has a painting of St. Joseph by the Italian artist Michael Elviro Andriolli. Buried in the churchyard are the remains of the brothers, ethnographers Antanas and Jonas Juška, brought back from Kazan. There is a museum in their honour in Vilkija.