Verkiai Manor Estate was established in a beautiful corner of nature in the outskirts of Vilnius City. The estate borders the Neris River and the forested districts of Jeruzalė, Naujieji Verkiai and Verkiai Forest. The Verkiai Manor Estate consists of a number of well-preserved buildings and remnants of fine architecture stored at the Verkiai Architectural Reserve.
Back in the 14th century, the manor of the Grand Duke of Lithuania gifted by the King of Poland Jogaila to bishops stood in Verkiai. The manor used to be a summer house but later gradually became a permanent residence of the bishops of Vilnius City.
The first Verkiai bishop manor was a wooden building with masonry cellar and stood in place of the present-time Trinapolis Monastery.
Since 1780, the Verkiai Manor had belonged to the Bishop Ignacy Jakub Massalski. He hired a famous architect Marcin Knackfus to choose the location of the new manor and to design its spatial layout. Marcin Knackfus started the construction of the central and eastern parts of the manor. The latter was designed to house servants. The work of Marcin Knackfus was continued by his former student Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius after he completed his studies in Paris. Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius redesigned the central manor partially changing its layout. Based on the designs of this young architect, a masterpiece of Classicism was built. The manor of Ignacy Jakub Massalski was shaped like a luck bringing horseshoe: two-story-high central manor house with servants’ quarters from both sides to the east and to the west. The central manor house was the most luxurious and ornate. It had several halls, 30 rooms, a chapel, a treasury, a large library, a museum and a domed theatre hall which is known for its rendition of the Marriage of Figaro of 1788. The manor house had waterworks and gas lighting. Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius also designed other estate buildings: the greenhouses, pavilion, inn and stables, a school for the children of peasants, watermill, villa, etc. The construction of the entire manor estate and its buildings supposedly lasted until the end of the 18th century. Sadly, Ignacy Jakub Massalski was unable to bring his dream manor to completion as he died during the Uprising of 1794. That was when the manor was passed on several times and largely deteriorated, especially in terms of its architecture.
The heaviest damage to the manor was caused at the time when it was occupied by the army of Napoleon. The French soldiers burnt down the wooden floor and the roof rafters of the central manor and used the walls of the manor house for target practice. A year later, the manor was used as a prison for French captives. By the middle of the century, the abandoned manor house and other estate buildings started falling apart and lost the shine and splendor they had under the rule of bishops.
New life was breathed into the Verkiai Manor and Park in 1839, when the entire estate was bought by the German Count Ludwig Adolf Wittgenstein who served as Colonel in the Russian Army. Stefanija Radvilaitė was the first wife of the Count. After her death, Count Ludwig Adolf Wittgenstein moved to Verkiai together with his second wife. It was Count Ludwig Adolf Wittgenstein who attempted to preserve and restore the Verkiai Manor Estate and Park to its former glory. Sadly, the central manor house was too deteriorated for a successful reconstruction and had to be demolished all the way to its cellars. The eastern servants quarters with an added tower at the west became the main house. Count Ludwig Adolf Wittgenstein built an additional hall and established a gallery there, keeping a variety of paintings by European artists, busts of famous people, ivory carvings and ancient military armor brought in from the collection of the Radziwiłł family of Nesvyžius. A two-story high winter garden was built next to the south end of the eastern servants’ quarters. The winter garden had many tropic plants, such as bananas, pineapples and fig trees. The garden had pathways winding among the flower bushes and fruit trees, a fountain, birds kept in cages and a working organ. Even at times of the coldest winter, the greenhouse maintained a temperature of +16–18°C.
The Verkiai Manor Park was also redesigned by decreasing its upper part, building a new fence and a guardhouse and reconstructing the central court and its fountain and pool. The new golden age of the manor lasted until 1864. Later, the reconstruction works started by the Count were taken over by his son Peter who mostly focused on ponds, waterways and aquiculture. Since 1881, the estate has been once again abandoned and unmaintained.
During the 20th century, misfortune once again befell the Verkiai Manor. In 1910, the owners changed numerous times, the land was sold and the forests were cut down. The Verkiai Manor Estate was heavily damaged during the First World War as well. The greenhouse next to the eastern servants’ quarters fell into decline, highly valued trees in the estate park were cut down, the lower part of the park and other buildings fell apart and pieces of art were stolen from the manor. During the interwar period, the manor house was used for a variety of purposes: a boarding school and summer house, a school of husbandry, a technical vocational school of husbandry and a school for leaders of collective farms in the Soviet times. The deterioration of the manor stabilized gradually only in the second half of the 20th century.
Presently, the manor house belongs to the Lithuanian Science Academy and Nature Research Center that use the building for their own needs. Visitations to the manor are restricted. The eastern servants’ quarters have the original hall and wall décor but the halls are empty.
Verkiai Manor Park
The Verkiai Manor Park was constructed on the Neris River upper terrace and slopes of its right bank at the end of the 18th century. At first, the park was geometrical but was later (19th century) redesigned into a landscape garden. The Verkiai Manor Park is second only to the Palanga Park. It was one of the most beautiful works of the famous French landscaper Édouard François André. Sadly, the Verkiai Park has lost its beauty and glory. The majority of the rare exotic or local plants and trees died of old age or were cut down during the wars, especially the First World War.
Several plants from foreign lands granting the Verkiai Park its singular features have remained: many species of linden, some of the oldest larches in Lithuania, eastern white pine, a large northern white-cedar, sycamore maple, green ash, Berlin poplar, butternut, etc. The predominant trees of the park include local Scots pines, littleleaf lindens, Norway maples, many oaks, European white elms, Scots elms and firs and ashes, the latter two of which grow on the terraced slopes and the banks of the Verknė Creek.
The observation deck provides marvelous vistas of the Neris River, the Trinapolis Church and large forests. An altar has been built in the place of Lizdeika Shrine and is a favorite spot of those who still nurture and practice the old Baltic beliefs and customs.