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Valkininkai stands on the banks of three rivers. The town is surrounded by the twists and turns of the Merkys, Šalčia and Geluža rivers. The name of Valkininkai was first mentioned in the 14th century, when a castle/hunting lodge of the grand dukes stood here. In 1418, Vytautas the Great gifted Valkininkai settlement and its manor to his wife Julijona. Back then, the village was situated on a large island on the Merkys River, while the manor and the hunting lodge with its artificial moat stood a bit farther away. In the second half of the 16th century, when agriculture became the town’s predominant economic activity, Valkininkai rapidly expanded. Consequently, the town was granted the Magdeburg rights in 1571.
Valkininkai St. Mary’s Visitation Church was constructed during 1822-1837 in the style of Classicism. Fenced in by a stone walls, this complex of sacral buildings is a home to valuable pieces of art. and looks magnificent. The collection includes a unique icon of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The Franciscan Monastery was built sometime from 1635 to 1650. The church with two towers and a two-story U-shaped monastery wings was constructed in the western part of Valkininkai, right next to the Merkys River. This Renaissance and Baroque-styled building complex became the epicenter of the town and its surrounding settlements. In 1832, the Tsarist government closed down the monastery and used it as barracks for the Russian military. During the period from 1867 to 1868, the monastery was completely refitted to be used as barracks. Almost seven decades later, Valkininkai was heavily damaged during the Second World War and the former Franciscan Monastery was obliterated.
The market square is the center of public life and the main gathering area for celebrations and events. Valkininkai also has a town square. The square used to be rectangular area with a small block of shops and traders. In the 16th century, the market square was cobbled. During this time, Valkininkai was one of the largest towns in the region, so it was no surprise that various fairs and markets were held here, bringing people from both from nearby villages and the furthest reaches of the land. Currently, the market square is surrounded with rows of wooden houses with St. Mary’s Visitation Church being its main feature.