The Raudondvaris Castle Manor is a monument of Lithuanian Renaissance architecture dating back to the beginning of the 17th century. The manor is located on the upper terrace of the right bank of the Nevėžis River, near its confluence with the Nemunas River, 9 km away from Kaunas towards Jurbarkas. The main building of the Raudondvaris ensemble is the castle palace and its tower. The palace, together with two official buildings, a conservatory, stables and an ice rink located on a 3.8-hectare park, forms a unified manor ensemble.
When sailing down the Nemunas or Nevėžis rivers, the white church towers, town and park can be seen on the right bank of the Nevėžis from afar, and a red castle palace is hidden among the trees. This is Raudondvaris, an area that stretches to both sides of the Kaunas-Jurbarkas road. It was first mentioned as the residence of nobles in 1615. This is an ethnographically important place – since ancient times, the Nevėžis River flowing through Raudondvaris was considered to be the dividing line between the lands of Aukštaitija and Samogitia, where the horse and a bear meet.
The development of the manor ensemble in this area is associated with the expansion of the crusaders to Samogitia. They built a castle here in 1392, which later lost its defensive significance after the Battle of Grunwald (1410), when Samogitia was returned to Lithuania and the border with the Order was moved to the west. Afterwards, the Raudondvaris Castle served as the manor of the Grand Duke. In 1572, the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund Augustus granted a privilege to the Kaunas Chamber of Commerce representative Vaitiekas Dziavaltauskas to build a castle here. The Duke appointed Pakamaris – an official of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania who served in the 16th and 17th centuries – to supervise the division of inherited lands. Pakamaris V. Dziavaltauskas built a red-walled castle-shaped manor on the upper terrace of the Nevėžis banks. Although the palace was called a castle and had typical features like towers and embrasures, it did not serve a defensive purpose. The manor was later ruled by his son Jonas.
From the beginning of the 19th century until the First World War, the manor belonged to the family of Counts Tiškevičiai. The manor is believed to have been purchased in 1819 by Count Mykolas Tiškevičius from Zabielai. Later, Raudondvaris was given to the Count’s son Benediktas Tiškevičius (1801–1866) as a wedding gift. Counts Tiškevičiai are an old and honourable family of Lithuanian nobles, descended from the nobility of the eastern Russian lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The first Tiškevičiai were Orthodox. After the ecclesiastical union of Brest in 1597, they became Unites, and in the 17th century most of the Tiškevičius converted to Catholicism.
Count Mykolas Tiškevičius (1761-1839) from Volonižas was the commander of the Lithuanian 17th Ulon Regiment of Napoleon Bonaparte’s army and the first representative of the Tiškevičiai family to own Raudondvaris. The property consisted of the 17th century’s Renaissance palace, the northern and southern conservatories of the officinas, and a Classicism and neo-Gothic conservatory built in 1837-1839. In 2010-2013, the butler’s house, stables, steward’s house, north and south barns, ice cream parlour and park were restored.
The Count brought many of the exhibits found at the manor back from his travels around the world. Some of the treasures he brought back had to surprise the Red Guards at that time. For example, he brought tangerine seedlings from China and decided to grow them right there at the manor. How could he do this in Lithuania, where winters are harsh and heating is expensive? The Count decided to install a modern conservatory to maintain the temperature required for exotic plants to survive the winter. It is said that the Count used to take his potted mandarin trees outside in the summer to show the citrus fruits growing in his conservatory to ordinary mortals.
After a fire in 1831 burned down the manor’s wooden buildings, Count Benediktas Emanuelis Tiškevičius built a new manor ensemble made of brick. During the reign of Tiškevičiai, the castle became a magnificent residence containing a large collection of paintings, works of art, rare books and exotic plants and animals. With the outbreak of World War I, all the treasures were taken to Poland and other countries, and the castle itself was ultimately destroyed. The castle palace was badly damaged in 1915 and was used as the headquarters of the German occupying authorities. The palace also housed the writer Arnold Zweig, who described the luxurious rooms and library of Raudondvaris Palace in his novel Mindaugas II (1937). As with many other manors, the worst happened to Raudondvaris – the Germans took everything of value with them when they retreated.
Although the manner still belonged to the Tiškevičiai family, they did not return to Raudondvaris after the First World War, remaining abroad instead. During the land reform, the family’s holdings were significantly diminished and only 40 hectares of land remained for the manor. This was most probably the reason behind the Tiškevičiai family not returning to their homeland.
From 1927 to 1942 the Lithuanian Women’s Welfare Committee children care home operated in the manor house. World War II caused even more damage to the manor and left deep wounds forever – the retreating Germans destroyed the castle and burned it down in 1944.
During the Soviet era, the Lithuanian Institute of Agricultural Mechanisation and Electrification moved to the premises of the manor in 1957. The leaders of the institute took care of the castle and wanted to rebuild it. The castle was subsequently renovated from 1962 to 1967: the conservatory was restored, and the stable, wheelhouse and auxiliary buildings were reconstructed. The red brick palace, rectangular in shape, just as it was in ancient times, is decorated with a round tower with a narrowing roof.
The colour of the manor walls gave the name to the whole settlement. Although the palace is referred to as a castle and has the features of a castle, like a tower and embrasures, it had no defensive significance; the walls could have been easily overcome by the cannons of that time. It was strictly a representative palace.
Several other of the manor’s buildings have also survived, and are of particular architectural interest. The shapes of the two officinas are strictly symmetrical and decorated with pointed windows. The U-shaped English neo-Gothic stables, which consist of a stable, a manage and a wheelhouse, make a great impression. The building itself is richly decorated with profiled bricks, walls, and arched niches decorated with horse heads. The gates built by Tiškevičiai have also survived.
The castle park was established next to the manor in 1834 and reconstructed in the 20th century when greenery and flower gardens were restored, including old rose varieties. The northern edge of the park leads into the forest.
An art incubator has been opened in the stud farm of Raudondvaris manor. It regularly hosts exhibitions and fun educational programmes. The stud farm also has a mobile 500-seat theatre and concert hall. The manor houses the Kaunas District Museum and a Tourism and Business Information Centre. We recommend seeing the unique glass room and inspecting the white hall. Annual art celebrations and festivals also take place in the Raudondvaris manor park. State Day is celebrated on 6 July, the Autumn Sambariai farmer’s festival takes place in September, and a Christmas tree shines throughout the winter months.