Gediminas Castle in Lida (reconstruction).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas as depicted in the
Sapieha Genealogy in Kodeń, 1709
Butvydas ?
Gediminas (ca. 1275–1341) was Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1315 or 1316[1][2] until his death. He is
credited with founding this political entity and expanding its territory which, at the time of his death, spanned
the area ranging from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.[3][4] Also seen as one of the most significant
individuals in early Lithuanian history, he was responsible for both erecting the capital of Lithuania, and the
establishment of a dynasty that can be traced to other European monarchies such
as Poland, Hungary andBohemia.
As part of his legacy, he obtained a reputation of being an inveterate pagan who diverted attempts
in Christianizing his country to a political benefit against his enemies, after negotiations with the Pope and
other Christian states.
Modern Litas commemorative coin dedicated to Gediminas
1 Titles
2 Biography
2.1 Origin
2.2 Choice of religion
2.3 Incorporation of Slavic lands
2.4 Domestic affairs and death
3 Legacy
4 Family
5 See also
6 References
7 Sources
8 External links
Gediminas' normal Latin style is as follows:
Gedeminne Dei gratia Letwinorum et multorum Ruthenorum rex[5]
Which translates as:
"Gediminas, by the grace of God, of the Lithuanians and many Rus'ians, king"[5]
In his letters to the papacy in 1322 and 1323, he adds Princeps et Duke Semigallie (Prince and Duke
of Semigallia).[6] In contemporaryLow German he is styled simply Koningh van Lettowen, mirroring the
Latin Rex Lethowye(both "King of Lithuania").[5] Gediminas' right to use Latin rex, which the papacy had
been claiming the right to grant from the 13th century, was controversial in some Catholic sources. So for
instance he was called rex sive dux ("King or Duke") by one source; Pope John XXII, in a letter to the King
of France, refers to Gediminas as "the one who calls himself rex". However, the pope did call
Gediminas rex when addressing him (regem sive ducem, "king or duke").[6]
Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas on stamp. Issued on August 25, 1920.
Gediminas was born in about 1275.[7] Because written sources of the era are scarce, Gediminas' ancestry,
early life, and assumption of the title of Grand Duke in ca. 1316 are obscure and continue to be the subject
of scholarly debate. Various theories have claimed that Gediminas was either his predecessor Grand
Duke Vytenis' son, his brother, his cousin, or his hostler.[8] For several centuries only two versions of his
origins circulated. Chronicles—written long after Gediminas' death by the Teutonic Knights, a long-standing
enemy of Lithuania—claimed that Gediminas was a hostler to Vytenis;[9] according to these chronicles,
Gediminas killed his master and assumed the throne. Another version introduced in the Lithuanian
Chronicles, which also appeared long after Gediminas' death, proclaimed that Gediminas was Vytenis' son.
However, the two men were almost the same age, making this relationship unlikely. Recent research
indicates that Gediminids' ancestor may have been Skalmantas. In 1974 historian Jerzy Ochmański noted
that Zadonshchina, a poem from the end of the 14th century, contains a line in which two sons of Algirdas
name their ancestors: "We are two brothers – sons of Algirdas, and grandsons of Gediminas, and greatgrandsons of Skalmantas." This discovery led to the belief that Skalmantas was the long-sought ancestor of
the Gediminids. Ochmański posited that the poem skipped the generation represented by Butvydas, and
jumped back to the unknown ancestor. Baranauskas disagrees, believing Skalmantas was Butvydas'
brother rather than his father, and that Vytenis and Gediminas were therefore cousins.[9] Gediminas became
the Grand Duke in 1316 at the age of 40 and ruled for 25 years.[10]
of religion
He inherited a vast domain, comprising not only of Lithuania proper, but also
of Samogitia, Navahradak, Podlaskie, Polotsk and Minsk.[11] However, these possessions were all
environed by the Teutonic Knights and the Livonian Order, which have long been the enemies of the
state.[1] Gediminas allied himself with the Tatars against the Teutonic order in 1319.[12]
Position of Grand Duchy of Lithuaniain Eastern Europe until 1434.
The systematic raiding of Lithuania by the knights under the pretext of converting it had long since united all
the Lithuanian tribes, but Gediminas aimed at establishing a dynasty which should make Lithuania not
merely secure but powerful, and for this purpose he entered into direct diplomatic negotiations with the Holy
See as well. At the end of 1322, he sent letters to Pope John XXII soliciting his protection against the
persecution of the knights,[13] informing him of the privileges already granted to
the Dominicans and Franciscans in Lithuania for the preaching of God's Word.[14] Gediminas also asked that
legates should be dispatched to him in order to be baptized.[15] This action was supported by the Archbishop
of Riga Frederic Lobestat.[16] Following these events, peace between the Duchy and the Livonian order was
eventually conducted on 2 October 1323.[17]
On receiving a favorable reply from the Holy See, Gediminas issued circular letters, dated 25 January 1325,
to the principal Hansa towns, offering a free access into his domains to men of every order and profession
from nobles and knights to tillers of the soil.[13][18] The immigrants were to choose their own settlements and
be governed by their own laws. Priests and monks were also invited to come and build churches
at Vilnius and Navahradak. In October 1323, representatives of the archbishop of Riga, the bishop of
Dorpat, the king of Denmark, the Dominican and Franciscan orders, and the Grand Master of the Teutonic
Order assembled at Vilnius, when Gediminas confirmed his promises and undertook to be baptized as soon
as the papal legates arrived. A compact was then signed at Vilnius, in the name of the whole Christian
World, between Gediminas and the delegates, confirming the promised privileges. [19]
Thus his raid upon Dobrzyń, the latest acquisition of the knights on Polish soil, speedily gave them a ready
weapon against him. ThePrussian bishops, who were devoted to the knights, questioned the authority of
Gediminas letters and denounced him as an enemy of the faith at a synod in Elbing; his Orthodox subjects
reproached him with leaning towards the Latin heresy, while the pagan Lithuanians accused him of
abandoning the ancient gods. Gediminas disentangled himself from his difficulties by repudiating his former
promises; by refusing to receive the papal legates who arrived at Riga in September 1323, and by
dismissing the Franciscans from his territories. These apparently retrogressive measures simply amounted
to a statesmanlike recognition of the fact that the pagan element was still the strongest force in Lithuania,
and could not yet be dispensed with in the coming struggle for nationality.
A peace agreement between Gediminas and the Order
At the same time Gediminas privately informed the papal legates at Riga through his ambassadors that his
difficult position compelled him to postpone his steadfast resolve of being baptized, and the legates showed
their confidence in him by forbidding the neighboring states to war against Lithuania for the next four years,
besides ratifying the treaty made between Gediminas and the archbishop of Riga. Nevertheless,
disregarding the censures of the church, the Order resumed the war with Gediminas by murdering one of
his delegates sent to welcome the Grand Master for his arrival to Riga in 1325.[16][20] He had in the meantime
improved his position by an alliance with Wladislaus Lokietek,[21]king of Poland, and had his
daughter Aldona baptized for the sake of betrothing her to Władysław's son Casimir III.[22]
An alternative view of these events was proposed by an American historian Stephen Christopher Rowell,
where he believes that Gediminas never intended to become a Christian himself, since that would have
offended the staunchly pagan inhabitants of Žemaitija and Aukštaitija. Both the pagans from Aukštalija and
the Orthodox Rus' threatened Gediminas with death if he decides to convert, where a similar scenario also
happened to Mindaugas, which he desperately wanted to avoid.[23]
His strategy was to gain the support of the Pope and other Catholic powers in his conflict with the Teutonic
Order by granting a favourable status to Catholics living within his realm and feigning a personal interest in
the Christian religion. While he allowed Catholic clergy to enter his realm for the purpose of ministering to
his Catholic subjects and to temporary residents, he savagely punished any attempt to convert pagan
Lithuanians or to insult their native religion. Thus in about 1339-40 he executed two Franciscan
friars from Bohemia, Ulrich and Martin, who had gone beyond the authority granted them and had publicly
preached against the Lithuanian religion. Gediminas ordered them to renounce Christianity, and had them
killed when they refused. Five more friars were executed in 1369 for the same offence.
Despite Gediminas' chief goal to save Lithuania from destruction at the hands of the Germans, he still died
as a pagan reigning over semi-pagan lands. Also, he was equally bound to his pagan kinsmen in Samogitia,
to his Orthodox subjects in Belarus, and to his Catholic allies in Masovia.[19] Therefore, it is still unclear
whether the letters sent to the Pope were an actual request for conversion or simply a diplomatic
of Slavic lands
Gediminas Castle in Lida (reconstruction).
While on his guard against his northern foes, Gediminas from 1316 to 1340 was aggrandizing himself at the
expense of the numerous Slavonic principalities in the south and east,[4][25] whose incessant conflicts with
each other wrought the ruin of them all. Here Gediminas triumphal progress was irresistible; but the various
stages of it are impossible to follow, the sources of its history being few and conflicting, and the date of
every salient event exceedingly doubtful. One of his most important territorial accretions, the principality
of Halych-Volynia, was obtained by the marriage of his son Lubart with the daughter of the Galician prince.
Gediminas Tower named after the founder of Vilnius, although it was built considerably later.
From about 23 km (14 mi) south west of Kiev, Gediminas resoundingly defeated Stanislav of Kiev and his
allies in the Battle on the Irpin River. He then besieged and conqueredKiev sending Stanislav, the last
descendant of the Rurik Dynasty to ever rule Kiev, into exile first in Bryansk and then in Ryazan. Theodor,
brother of Gediminas, and Algimantas, son of Mindaugas from the Olshanski family, were installed in Kiev.
After these conquests, Lithuania stretched as far as to the Black Sea.[26]
While exploiting Slavic weakness in the wake of the Mongol invasion, Gediminas wisely avoided war with
the Golden Horde, a great regional power at the time, while expanding Lithuania's border towards the Black
Sea. He also secured an alliance with the nascent Grand Duchy of Moscow by marrying his daughter,
Anastasia, to the grand duke Simeon. But he was strong enough to counterpoise the influence of Muscovy
in northern Russia, and assisted the republic of Pskov, which acknowledged his overlordship, to break away
from Great Novgorod.
affairs and death
His internal administration bears all the marks of a wise ruler. He protected the Catholic as well as the
Orthodox clergy; he raised the Lithuanian army to the highest state of efficiency then attainable; defended
his borders with a chain of strong fortresses and built numerous castles in towns including Vilnius.[27] At first
he moved the capital to the newly built town of Trakai, but in c. 1320 re-established a permanent capital in
Gediminas died in 1341,[12][29] presumably killed during a coup d'état.[29] He was cremated as a part of a fully
pagan ceremony in 1342, which included a human sacrifice, with favourite servant and several German
slaves being burned on the pyre with the corpse.[30] All these facts assert that Gediminas most likely
remained entirely faithful to his native Lithuanian religion, and that his feigned interest in Catholicism was
simply a ruse designed to gain allies against the Teutonic Order.
He was succeeded by one of his sons, Jaunutis, who was unable to control the unrest in the country,[31] for
which he ended up deposed in 1345 by his brother Algirdas.[32]
Gediminas on the Millennium of Russia monument in Veliky Novgorod.
He was a founder of a new Lithuanian dynasty; the Gediminids, and laid the foundations of the state's
expansion while sometimes referred as the "true" state founder.[1]
In modern belief, he is also regarded as founder of Vilnius, the modern capital of Lithuania. According to a
legend, possibly set in 1322 while he was on a hunting trip, he dreamt of an iron clad wolf, who stood on a
hill, howling in an odd manner. He consulted his vision with his priests and decided to build a fortification on
the confluence of rivers Vilnia and Neris, where the place of his vision was pointed out.[28][33][34]This event
inspired the Romantic movement, particularly Adam Mickiewicz, who gave the story a poetic form.[35]
Gediminas is depicted on a silver Litas commemorative coin, issued in 1996.[36]
Main article: Family of Gediminas
An oak in Raudone under which Gediminas is reputed to have been mortally wounded.
It is uncertain how many wives Gediminas had. The Bychowiec Chronicle mentions three wives: Vida
from Courland; Olga from Smolensk; and Jaunė from Polotsk, who was Eastern Orthodoxand died in 1344
or 1345.[37] Most modern historians and reference works say Gediminas' wife was Jewna, dismissing Vida
and Olga as fictitious, since no sources other than this chronicle mention the other two wives. [38]
An argument has been advanced that Gediminas had two wives, one pagan and another Orthodox. This
case is supported only by the Jüngere Hochmeisterchronik, a late-15th century chronicle,
mentioning Narimantas as half-brother to Algirdas. Other historians support this claim by arguing this would
explain Gediminas' otherwise mysterious[39] designation of a middle son, Jaunutis, as his succession would
be understandable if Jaunutis were the first-born son of Gediminas and a second wife.
He is said to have left seven sons and six daughters including:
Manvydas (ca. 1288–1348)
Jaunutis initially ruled Vilnius after the death of his father
Vytautas the Great
Maria, married Dmitry of Tver
Aldona, married Casimir III of Poland
Elzbieta, married Wenceslaus of Płock
Eufemija, married Boleslaw-Yuri II of Galicia
Columns of Gediminas
Family of Gediminas – family tree of Gediminas
Gediminids – dynasty named after Gediminas
^ a b c Plakans 2011, p. 51
^ Christiansen 1980, p. 154
^ Pelenski 1998
^ a b Bugajski 2002, p. 125
^ a b c Rowell 1994, p. 63
^ a b Rowell 1994, p. 64
^ Tęgowski 1999, p. 15
^ Vjachaslaў Nasevіch. Gedzіmіn // Vjalіkae knjastva Lіtoўskae: Эncыklapedыja. U 3 t. / rэd. G. P.
Pashkoў і іnsh. T. 1: Abalenskі — Kadэncыja. — Mіnsk: Belaruskaja Эncыklapedыja, 2005. S. 519.
^ a b (Lithuanian) Baranauskas, Tomas (1996-11-23). "Gedimino kilmė". Voruta 44(278): 6. Archived
from the original on October 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
10. ^ Kiaupa 2000, p. 114
11. ^ The new encyclopædia Britannica: Volume 5
12. ^ a b Akiner 2009, p. 22
13. ^ a b "Letters of Gediminas". Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences. Winter 1969. Retrieved
23 April 2011.
14. ^ Housley 1986, p. 274
15. ^ Muldoon 1997, p. 135
16. ^ a b Slavonic and East European review, Volume 32; Published by the Modern Humanities Research
Association for the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, 1953
17. ^ Kiaupa 2000, p. 115
18. ^ Chase 1946, p. 24
19. ^ a b O'Connor 2003, p. 15
20. ^ Olins 1928, p. 60
21. ^ Lietuvos aukštųjų mokyklų mokslo darbai: Istorija, Volume 36, Alna litera, 1997
22. ^ Christiansen 1980, p. 147
23. ^ Rowell 1994, p. 223
24. ^ Muldoon 1997, p. 134
25. ^ Ertl 2008, p. 402
26. ^ Smith 1991, p. 356
27. ^ Purton 2009, p. 154
28. ^ a b Rutter 1925, p. 20
29. ^ a b Taylor 2008, p. 20
30. ^ Jones-Bley & Huld 1996, p. 210
31. ^ W. Ingrao & A. J. Szabo 2008, p. 52
32. ^ R. Turnbull 2003, p. 14
33. ^ University of Colorado 1968, p. 140
34. ^ Grossman 1979, p. 157
35. ^ Metelsky 1959, p. 37
36. ^ "Lithuanian Coins in Circulation, Issue of 1996". Bank of Lithuania. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
37. ^ (Lithuanian) Ivinskis, Zenonas (1953–1966). "Jaunė". Lietuvių enciklopedija. IX. Boston,
Massachusetts: Lietuvių enciklopedijos leidykla. pp. 335. LCC 55020366.
38. ^ (Lithuanian) Vytautas Spečiūnas, ed. (2004). "Jaunutis". Lietuvos valdovai (XIII-XVIII a.):
enciklopedinis žinynas. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos institutas. pp. 38, 46. ISBN 5-42001535-8.
39. ^ Kiaupa 2000, p. 118
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