Places of Events
This is, no doubt, one of the key locations of public life. This is the crossing of the main city streets, fairs and gatherings of townspeople, military parades, religious and official public events, attractions for townsfolk and highest level concerts, New Year’s salutes and even some exhibitions are held here. The Cathedral Square will reveal you the diversity of Vilnius: students rush through and gather here as well as public officers, bank employees, policemen, street musicians, market sellers, religious people, punks, skateboarders, beggars and dozens of other kinds of people. And everybody has their own wishes, which are said in the minds of many stepping over the well-known tile in the square. It is believed that this is a miraculous place making these wishes come true... This tile is marked with a special inlayed word. Find it!
Nothing can be as important for the city is the Cathedral Square. It is not merely the most lively and important centre of the city but the symbol of our state.
It is probably the most frequently visited market place of folk artists in Vilnius, surely having an advantage over the Town Hall Square in this respect, since it is full with people and sellers everyday, irrespective whether any event is held here or not. Before going abroad to visit some friends or looking for a Christmas gift, everybody would certainly run into this street. If there is some festival in the city, it will be the right thing to go to Pilies Street – most of processions always make their way through this place. Whatever the festival – be it Christmas, Easter, Kaziukas or St. Francis fair, the day of Restoration of Independence, or just a city’s event, you can go to Pilies Street without even asking if anything will be held there.
TOWN HALL SQUARE
The Town Hall Square is, of course, the traditional centre of trade and events in the city. As far back as early 15th century, the square was bordered by small shops. With the expansion of the city and the development of trade the number of small shops was increasing. Most of them were selling salt, iron and meat products. It is known that all of these shops could not have been sold, donated or transferred wilfully as everything was strictly regulated. Trading on the Town Hall Square was restricted by a number of regulations such as the prohibition for the Jewish butchers to build their butcher’s shops both on the urban market and on Vokiečių Street. It was also prohibited to buy up products on the roadsides and sell them later in the city at a higher price. It was a measure to avoid the season of high prices, especially if there was a shortage of some product such as grain in deficit times. Any violations were punished with monetary fines, flogging, imprisonment and confiscation of merchandise. By the way, confiscated goods were donated to various refuges and hospitals. However, fighting with resellers was often a real challenge: powerful owners of jurisdictions would not always obey the orders of the rulers. For some reasons, Scottish and Jewish tradesmen in the 17th century were forbidden to trade in golden, silver, silk and semi-silk fringes and edgings, but this prohibition was not applied to the said articles produced in manufactories of Naples and Frankfurt. It is also interesting that following the example of a foreign city Vilnius was granted the Magdeburg rights. According to these rights, merchants from other countries travelling on the routes through Vilnius were not entitled to go round the city and they had to stop in the capital and to sell the goods they had brought to local buyers, if any wished to buy them. In 1503, the city was obligated to build a special guest house so that foreign traders will have some place to stay. Such guest house was built on the site of the nowadays National Philharmonic. They had rooms for merchants and their retinues to accommodate and some premises to store their goods as well as room for horses, carts and sledge. Strict regulations were also imposed on traders and guilds regarding the construction of their market places and participation in the city’s events.
Many attractions and events were organised in the square such as the performances of bears, travelling acrobats, comedians, and various troupes. The mysteries, or semi-religious performances, were also rather popular.
The Town Hall Square was the place where various celebrations were announced such as meetings with important guests and foreign rulers and family festivals of local noblemen.
Such traditions survived up to the present: major annual fairs are still held in this square, Christmas tree is decorated here, various concerts and other attractions are organised as well as celebrations of the important dates of the state. Come to take a look here, show yourself and look at others.
References: R Čaplinskas, "Vilniaus gatvių istorija" (Vilnius, 2000), A. Juškevičius and J, Maceika "Vilnius ir jo apylinkės" (Vilnius, 1991), Samalavičius "Vilniaus Rotušė" (Vilnius, 1981), calendar for the year 1999 "Vilniaus universiteto kiemai" and V. Tūrienė "Dešimt Šventaragio mįslių" (Vilnius, 19930.