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Panemunė Castle

Panemunė, Gielgud, Vytėnai – these are but a few of the names given to this castle in its 400 years of existence. The oldest known name, however, is Panemunė Castle. The castle is in western Lithuania, on the right bank of the river Nemunas, between Raudonė (10 km) and Skirsnemunė (6 km). The castle stands on the top of a steep river bank on the former Panemunė estate. It was built for the owner Eperias (Eperiess) by the Dutch architect Peter Nonhaardt, who served at the royal palace in Vilnius. Construction was completed in 1609-1610. The building had two stories, was square in plan and had thick masonry walls with cruciform openings, high round towers at the corners and a cobbled courtyard. It was surrounded by dams, defensive ditches and park. In 1753 the somewhat decrepit building was acquired by Baron Leo Igelstrom, who sold the premises to the Gelgaudas (Gielgud) noble family. The castle came to bear this family‘s name, although locally it was often referred to as the Zomkus (Pol. zamek-castle). In the course of refurbishing the building the Gelgaudas family gave it some classical features and remodeled the interior very lavishly and ornately. The castle ceased to be inhabited after the 1831 revolt (led by General Anthony Gielgud, q.v.) and passed to the Elenoravas estate. Rev. Antanas Petraitis bought the partly ruined and fire-damaged building in 1930. He expressed his death-bed disire that the properry be used for religious purposes. In 1935 the castle was taken over as an architectural monument by the Culture Museum of Vytautas Magnus in Kaunas. The remainder of the estate was donated to the Salesian order, who named their new residence Vytėnai (q.v.). This was because the 13th century castle of Vytenis was located in that area. Restoration of the castle began after World War II.

The castle was preserved and restored several times: in 1939, from 1959 to 1962, in 1984, and again from 1995 to 1997. In 1961 it was inscribed in the official list of Lithuanian architectural monuments.

Today, Panemunė Castle is the property of the Vilnius Academy of Arts.