Map of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

Cartography of a private domain: the 1645 map of the Duchy of Biržai

European cartography experienced a considerable rise in the 16th and the first half of the 17th century when maps became a practical necessity. Their importance rose in Lithuania too as people required more precise pictures of different localities due to intensifying economic ties with Europe, military conflicts and local land and administrative reforms. This is how the view of southern Lithuania emerged in 1559 according to the description of forests by Grigalius Valavičius. […]

Biržai castle

Self-rule in GDL Biržai

Between the beginning of the 16th century and the middle of the 17th century, there were about 800 functioning towns and cities in the GDL that had the traits of city-like settlements, however only a small number of them had rights to self-rule. During the following 400 years after the establishment of the first self-governing city, Vilnius, in 1387, up until 1795, it is estimated that there were approximately 250 self-ruling cities that had the kind of Magdeburg rights generally given in the GDL. The Magdeburg rights were the primary legal act that set a city apart from other settlements that did not have privileges issued to them. One of these cities was Biržai, which during the existence of the GDL belonged to the Radvila family, who were the dukes of Biržai and Dubingai and one of the most powerful noble families in the GDL. It was their private city. […]


Reformation in Renaissance Samogitia: the family of Skaczewski

The story of Stanislaw Skaczewski (Lith. Stanislav Skaševskis) (†1579), coming from the gentry and having moved to Samogitia from Masuria in Poland (Szczytno, Zakročin) in the first half of the 16th century, and that of his family is sufficient proof that emigrants from the Polish gentry were well-adjusted to the life in GDL. Furthermore, it adds vivid details to the development of Reformation process in this region and sheds light on the influence of clientele relations in Evangelical movement. […]