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Grand opening of the Grand Palace.

VILNIUS -- As Lithuania celebrates its Statehood day on July 6, the most important event is the solemn official opening of the restored Palace of the Grand Dukes--a prospective symbol of national pride. The rebuilding of the Palace is also the most important project in the Millennium of Lithuania program, and the biggest cultural investment since 1991. The statehood day is celebrated to commemorate the coronation of Lithuania's one and only king--Mindaugas--and the Millennium birthday party will continue throughout 2009, because Lithuania counts its history from 1009.

President Valdas Adamkus, other state leaders and official guests from foreign countries are planning to participate in the opening event on July 6 at 1:30 p.m. A fortified wooden settlement at the site of the Palace existed from the 4th to 8th centuries, and was transformed into a castle during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It is believed that in late the 15th century the Grand Duke Alexander Jagiellon moved his residence from the Upper to the Lower Castle. The Palace flourished until late 19th century, when Russian czarist officials were ordered to destroy it completely (including the foundations).

Reconstructed but not fully completed, the Palace will open its gates to the public on July 7. Visitors can get acquainted with authentic remains of the historic residence, the reconstruction project of the Palace, interiors of representative halls and its impressive elements--portals, stoves, floors, ceilings, fireplaces, and the courtyard. From July 7-26, every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., free excursions for groups of up to 25 people will be held at the Palace in Lithuanian, English, German, Polish, Russian and other languages. It is necessary to register for an excursion in advance (more information can be provided by e-mail

The planned exhibitions will not be displayed at the Palace but for the moment will be presented in the Museum of Applied Arts. Three international exhibitions will be displayed: "Wawel in Vilnius, From the Jagiellons to the End of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth," "Lithuania in Ancient Historical Sources," and "The Art of Balts."

After July 26, the Palace of the Grand Dukes will be closed again and there will be no more excursions before the mounting works are finished, which might take a year, according to the administration. The restoration of the Palace is a project led by a former President of Lithuania Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas, despite skepticism of many Lithuanians--including current President Adamkus and prominent historian Alfredas Bumblauskas.

Most skepticism has been raised by the alleged lack of conception, clear financial planning and dubious historical value of the restoration. However, as the Palace has been built, debates on necessity of the project have lost their meaning. "We already have the palace, it is erected, and this is the reality. Now we have to ensure that the palace serves Lithuanian people and Lithuanian history, that it represents Lithuania. The question of the need and expedience is closed," said Adamkus in 2007. Over 200 million litas (58 million euros) have been invested in the restoration project, while another 20 million litas needed to fully complete the Palace by July 6 were denied by the Lithuanian Government in March.

In 2000-2001, the Lithuanian Parliament adopted the law on reconstruction of the Palace of the Grand Dukes. Restoration efforts were considered to be of foremost importance-both culturally and historically, since it represents the return of a significant symbol of Lithuania's sovereignty and the restoration of the country's historical rights.
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Author:Vaige, Laima
Publication:The Baltic Times (Riga, Latvia)
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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