Trakai Castle is located on an island of the Lake Galvė. The construction of the stone castle began in the 14th century by Grand Duke Kęstutis, and around 1409 major works were completed by his son Vytautas the Great, who died in this castle in 1430. Trakai was one of the main centres of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the castle had a great strategic importance.
Trakai Castle was built over several phases. During the first phase, in the second half of the 14th century, the castle was constructed on the largest island of three surrounding lakes, ordered by Grand Duke Kęstutis.
The castle suffered major devastation during an attack by Teutonic Knights in 1377. After the assassination of Duke Kęstutis, a power fight over the title of Grand Duke of Lithuania between Jogaila and Vytautas began. The castle was besieged from both sides. Soon after the reconciliation between Jogaila and Vytautas, the second phase of construction started and continued until 1409. This phase is regarded as the major development of the castle in its history. Apparently, during the truce with the Teutonic Order, the construction works were supervised by the Order's stonemason Radike, four years before the Battle of Grunwald. During this phase, two wings were added, and on the southern side a 6-storey (35-metre or 115-foot high) donjon was built. The donjon had movable gates which separated the palace from the forecastle. The donjon had several functions: primarily serving as another defensive structure, it also had a chapel and living quarters. It was linked to the multi-storey Ducal Palace, which had an inner yard. The inner yard had wooden galleries, which ran around the inner wall; these galleries were used to access various support facilities without going inside the palace.
The entire southern wing of the southern palace was used for the Ducal Hall. This hall was around 10 by 21 metres (33 ft×69 ft) in size, and only the Upper Palace of the Vilnius Castle Complex could surpass its proportions. The Ducal Hall has preserved some of its original décor. The principal construction material was so-called red Gothic bricks. Stone blocks were used only in the foundations and the upper parts of buildings, towers and walls. The castle was decorated in a variety of ways, including glazed roof tiling, burned bricks, and stained glass windows. Its overall style after the second phase of construction could be described as Gothic with some Romanesque features.
The expansion of the forecastle in the early 15th century marked the third phase of the development. The walls of the forecastle were strengthened to a thickness of 2.5 metres and raised with additional firing galleries. Three major defensive towers were constructed in the corners. The south-western tower served also as a prison. The top story of the towers was designed for soldiers and housed a large number of cannons. A main gatehouse was also constructed which, along with the Ducal Palace donjon, had movable gates. The gatehouse was reinforced with additional sections for firing galleries. Close to the inner walls additional premises were constructed, including stables, kitchens, and other support structures. During this expansion in the 15th century, water levels of the Lake Galvė were a few metres higher than it is today. The castle builders took advantage of this by separating the Ducal Palace and the forecastle with a moat, just wide enough for small boats to sail through. These two structures were connected by the gates that could be lifted in case of an enemy attack.Back
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