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Panemunė Castle is a Renaissance style residential castle located in Jurbarkas district, Vytėnai village and built on top of a high bank of Nemunas.
Since ancient times, settlements built near Nemunas River were inhabited by Baltic tribes: sūduviai and jotvingiai, skalviai and aukštaičiai (Highlanders), žemaičiai (Samogitians) and kuršiai (Curonians). During later battles with the Crusaders, river banks became particularly important for the formation of Lithuania – a uniform system of defensive castles stopped the attacks of the German Order and prevented enemies from easily infiltrating the country. It is believed that there may have been a manor of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytenis built in the area of Panemunė Castle, where this well-known ruler of Lithuania was also buried. Legend says that Vytenis was killed in 1315 while attacking the Christmemel’s Crusader Castle which was in the vicinity of the surroundings of the current Skirsnemunė. During the era of Romanticism, the two small hills formed in Panemunė Castle Park were considered to be the graves of Duke Vytenis and his wife.
The current Panemunė Castle that is situated on the upper terrace of the right bank of Nemunas was built later on, after the end of the era of battles with the Crusaders. Nevertheless, it was destined to become a witness of many historical events that were important for the country.
The castle was first called Panemunė Castle based on the name of the estate, on the lands of which the castle was built. After the castle was occupied by Gelgaudai family, it was renamed to Gelgaudai Castle. When the owners of the castle changed after the uprising of 1831, it was given the name of Zamkus. After Vytėnai village was built nearby at the beginning of the 20th century, the castle became known as Vytėnai castle. Today, it is called by its original name once again.
In 1867, the castle and the estate were taken over from the ward by the heir of Gelgaudai property, lord Stanislovas Puslovskis. Several rooms of the castle and its east wing almost fully collapsed.
From the south side, toward Nemunas, there is an old, abandoned park with 5 cascading ponds near the castle walls. Its formation began as early as in the beginning of the 17th century by using a former garden with ponds and a mill as a foundation. During the second half of the 18th century, a landscaped park typical for that period was formed. By damming the stream situated within the park, a new pond system and small hills were formed, arbours were built and a menagerie – enclosure for fallow-deer was installed. The park’s conservatory included imported, exotic plants. The park was significantly damaged after century-old lindens and other trees were cut during the post-war period.
In the first half of the 20th century, the park was managed by a Salesian Monastery established within the area of the estate. A red brick chapel built by the monks in the east part of the park remained to this day.
As of 2009, the castle is being rebuilt in order to restore its former appearance – two of its defensive towers and one of the castle wings are being rebuilt, thus recreating the former structure of the castle with an enclosed courtyard. Castle facades will be plastered, and both the windows and roofing will be replaced. The project is financed by the EU structural fund. The project will be implemented in three stages. Each stage may last approximately three years.