Vasa House in Merkine

Duration of the visit 1 h.

The former house of the Burgomaster of Merkinė Town stands in the center of the town. This was where Władysław Vasa, the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, died. His heart was buried in the underground crypt beneath Vilnius Cathedral and his body was buried in Wawel Castle in Krakow.

The history of the building itself has been rather obscure. Several researchers limited their conclusions to a comment that the house had operated as an inn and that in addition to Władysław Vasa, King Charles XII of Sweden and Tsar of All Russia Peter the Great had also stayed here during the Great Northern War. However, the records in the magistrate’s ledger and other inventory material revealed a rather different function of the Vasa House, at least, during the times Merkinė Town was on the rise.

The oldest records about the Vasa House date back to the beginning of the 17 th century. According to the Merkinė Town documents, the house belonged to the Burgomaster Tomas Karlovičius and his wife Ona Pikieliova. After the death of the Burgomaster, the Vasa House was passed on to an Italian Mikalojus Scipioni Campo who served as the Senior Specialist of Merkinė Town. The latter sold the house to the Prussian nobleman Tobias Poppel from Germany. The sale and purchase contract was entered into the magistrate’s ledger in 1643. This allows drawing a conclusion that it was during the time that the house belonged to this German that Władysław Vasa passed away in that fateful May of 1648.

Based on historical sources, Władysław Vasa had spent weeks in Merkinė without showing much intent to reach the City of Vilnius. It was believed that such actions of the ruler were highly influenced by his beautiful and dearly beloved mistress Jadwiga Łuszkowska, who was the daughter of a merchant from Lviv and resided in Merkinė. In 1635, she gave Władysław Vasa an illegitimate son Władysław Konstanty Vasa. The King accepted his illegitimate child and granted him the title of the Count of Wasenau. 

In 2009, Jadwiga Kudirko-Kudirkienė wrote a book titled On the Trail of Love of the Rulers, where she recanted an old legend: “the fate made it so that he died in the arms of Jadwiga just as he had once asked when he told her his last goodbyes before her wedding: Oh would the Lord Almighty hear my plea and allow my last breath to leave my chest in your embrace”. According to the book’s author, Jadwiga had never left Merkinė, even though the King had bequeathed her enough money to live contently in whatever city of the Kingdom of Poland or the Grand Duchy of Lithuania she would have liked.

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