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Lublin, Poland

Lithuania and Poland spent multiple centuries as a single country of Poland-Lithuania, and that united country began in Lublin, where the Union of Lublin was signed in 1569.

Much of the Old Town dates to that era and was seen by the signatories of the Union. While the Castle of Lublin has been rebuilt since then, its most famous part – the Holy Trinity chapel remains intact, and even includes a graffiti by a Lithuanian noble who came to sign the union in 1569.

Lublin Holy Trinity chapel

Lublin Holy Trinity chapel

Grafitti on the Union of Lublin inside the chapel

Grafitti on the Union of Lublin inside the chapel

The chapel is especially famous for its Medieval gothic murals that cover its every wall and vault. The chapel and the murals were funded by Lithuanian king Jogaila (known in Poland as Jagiello), who also became a Polish king in the 14th century. Therefore, among the murals of saints, you may also see a major mural of Jogaila kneeling before Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus (left of entrance), a fresco of Jogaila riding a horse (on the left of the arch between nave and presbytery). On the vault above the altar place, there is the Cross of Jogaila, the symbol that still adorns the Lithuanian coat of arms.

Kneeling Jogaila

Kneeling Jogaila in a chapel fresco

Jogaila ridinga horse on a fresco

Jogaila ridinga horse on a fresco

Ceiling adorned with the Cross of Vytis (Cross of Jogaila)

Ceiling adorned with the Cross of Vytis (Cross of Jogaila)

The Lithuanians who came to sign the Union spent their days in what is now known as the Lithuanian Square (Litewski). In that square, a stone obelisk for the union was commissioned soon after signing it. The authentic obelisk has been since destroyed by the Russians who occupied the city in the 19th century. However, a new metal obelisk for the Union of Lublin has been constructed in its place.

Union of Lublin obelisk at the place where the Lithuanian delegation stayed at the time

Union of Lublin obelisk at the place where the Lithuanian delegation stayed at the time

The Union of Lublin is controversial in Lithuania itself and often considered an act of treason done by its signatories. That‘s because according to the Union Lithuanian ceded some half of its territory to Poland and Polish was de facto definitively established as the dominant culture and language of the new country. In Poland, however, the Union is held in a much more positive light, and an explanation plaque near its monument describes the union as a democratic multicultural merging of the nations.

The later history of Polish-Lithuanian relations have been even more controversial and its evaluations even more different in the two countries.

Two more memorials in the Sq. Litewski of Lublin reminds two more things that are considered glorious in Poland but held to be despicable in Lithuania. The first one of them is the May 3rd constitution which (according to most interpretations) has effectively disestablished the Lithuanian part of Poland-Lithuania by merging both countries into a single country known as Poland. The second, even more controversial, is the Polish president Józef Piłsudski. While he considered himself a Lithuanian, Lithuanians see him as a traitor as he disagreed with the notion of independent Lithuania (1918) and, as Polish president, masterminded the annexation of Lithuania‘s capital Vilnius to Poland as a part of his plan to recreate the old Polish-culture-dominated Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that began in Lublin, 1569.

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