Skapo Street, Presidential Palace and Daukanto Square, Presidential Palace, De Reuss Palace

The triangular Daukanto Square (once called Napoleon Sq., in the Soviet times – Kutuzov Sq.)

Skapo Street, Presidential Palace and Daukanto Square, Presidential Palace, De Reuss PalaceSkapo Street

One of the most typical Vilnius by-streets, narrow, curved, distinguished by the interplay of light and shadows. It marks the nothern limit of the campus. An arch from Pilies St. leads to Skapo St.; a nice perspective view of is exposed on its opposite (west) side. No. 4 – the Lopacifski or Sulistrowski estate. A brick house stood on this site as early as 1545. In the late 18th cent. it was rebuilt in the Classical style according to Martin Knackfuss’ project. The Vilnius-born prodigy violinist Jasha Heifetz probably studied music in this house.

Presidential Palace and Daukanto Square

The triangular Daukanto Square (once called Napoleon Sq., in the Soviet times – Kutuzov Sq.) adjacent to the university and almost connecting with the Cathedral Square, is perhaps the most beautiful and elegant in Vilnius. It is surrounded by Classical buildings of nearly equal size on all sides except the northeast, where the Bonifratri Church of the Holy Cross stands; it stems from an earlier period, but harmonizes well with the ensemble. Today the representational centre of the Republic of Lithuania – the Presidential Palace – is situated in this square.

Presidential Palace

The remains of a brick building that have been discovered may belong to the earliest bishops’ palace, in which Bishop Christian crowned King Mindaugas. In 1795 the palace became the headquarters of the Governor General of Vilnius. In 1800–01 and 1809–11 Governor General Mikhail Kutuzov, and in 1812 – Napoleon lived there. In 1824–32 Karol Podczaszyfski reconstructed the palace according to a project by the famous Russian architect Vasily Stasov. Since the palace blocked Universiteto St., part of the university buildings standing closer to the street were pulled down. The palace has always been representational:

Rulers, kings and kings-to-be – Napoleon, Stanislaus August Poniatowski, Russian tsar Alexander I, King of France Louis XVIII and others – used to stay there on their visits to Vilnius. For some time the palace was a residence of Governor General Mikhail Muravyov who suppressed the 1863 uprising (in front of the palace a monument to Muravyov used to stand, and his museum was established in the corps-de-garde). Later Lucjan Zeligowski, Jozef Pilsudski and presidents of Poland used to stay in the palace. The Soviets turned it into an officers’ club, later to be converted into the Artists House. Here the President performs his duties and receives foreign dignitaries. The palace facade bears the Vytis sign. When the President is in the palace, the presidential flag is raised above the Vytis.

Having designed many significant buildings in St. Petersburg, Stasov followed the patterns of St. Petersburg architecture here as well. The square facade is decorated by triangular pediments, a parapet and Doric columns. Particularly elegant is the courtyard facade with an Ionic colonnade, flanked by side colonnades and a corps-de-garde (an office of guards – incidentally, the sole building with this function in Lithuania). A sizeable garden stretches out behind the palace. This regular ensemble seems to be inlaid in the chaotic mediaeval old town of Vilnius.

The interior is also very interesting – the White, Red, Green and Coffer Halls, guest rooms and a lobby. Some mural paintings have survived, and in the basement and on the ground floor one can see cylindrical vaults and other details from the early Bishops’ Palace. The facade of the Presidential Chancellery is decorated in the sgraffiti technique.

De Reuss Palace

The Palace (Daukanto Sq. 2) is a distinct partly Baroque, partly Classical monument that strikes a compositional balance to the Presidential Palace. It was built in the middle of the 18th cent. and reconstructed after 1798 (the attached four-pillar portico is attributed to architect Martin Knackfuss). The Palace had 16 large and 12 small rooms, and ancillary buildings of a horse-stable and a coach-house accommodating four carts. In the 19th cent. the proprietors of the palace were Counts de Reuss and Platers, orientalist Ignas Ziogelis (Ignacy Zagiello) and others.

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