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How this happened in the Great Battle… Exposé of Grunwald”

Tadeusz Popiel and Zygmunt Rozwadowski, The Battle of Grunwald, 1910.
Lviv History Museum
Portrait of Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas, 17th–18th c.
Lithuanian Art Museum
Portrait of King of Poland Jogaila, late 17th c.
Monastery of the Canons egular of the Lateran in Krakow
Miniature The Battle of Grunwald from D. Schilling’s chronicle, 15th c.
Burgerbibliothek of Bern
F. K. Black, Model of A. Wiwulski’s Grunwald monument in Krakow, after 1939.
City of Krakow Historical Museum
Large banner of the GrandMaster of the Teutonic Order fr om Jan Długosz’s Banderia Prutenorum, 15th c.
Jagiellonian Library in Krakow
Anonymous letter (from a duke or military commander) to the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, 1411–1413.
Secret State Archives Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation
W. Kossak, S. Tondos, Anniversary postcard, Krakow, 1910.
Wawel Royal Castle – The National Art Collection

International exhibition to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald (1410–2010)

10 November 2010 – 30 January 2011
Radvila Palace, 22 Vilniaus St., Vilnius

The international exhibition “How this happened in the Great Battle… Exposé of Grunwald” is one of the latest and most emphatic events to be held in Lithuania to commemorate 600 years since the historical battle that determined the fate of Lithuania, Poland, and this region of Europe, and is one of the last cultural accords in this year’s anniversary program. This exhibition, organized by curators from Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine, and assisted by academics and culture experts from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, is testament to the vitality of the common historical memory shared between Lithuanians, Poles, Ukrainians, and other nationalities related to the Grunwald tradition, the possibilities of overcoming stereotypes from the past, the significance of mainting ties in today’s world, and the hope of a shared future in a united Europe.

The exhibition is not dedicated to a re-telling of the history of the Battle of Grunwald or the reasons for the war against the Teutonic Order, the battle itself or its outcomes, but first of all, to the manifestations of historical memory related to the common victory of the allied army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, the signs of this victory and their fixation by various means and forms from the 15th century to today, and the historical imagery of the heroes of Grunwald in historiographical traditions, literature, and fine art.

The idea to organize such an exhibition in Vilnius came about several years ago, when possible cooperation in exhibitions, and academic and other museum related projects was discussed with the leaders of the Wawel Royal Castle – The National Art Collection, directors Prof. Jan K. Ostrowski and Jerzy T. Petrus, after having successfully organized the exhibition for Lithuania’s Millennium Program “Wawel in Vilnius”. From the Jagiellonians to the End of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth”, it was agreed to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the victory at Grunwald together as well, with non-identical exhibitions in Krakow and Vilnius. Th e exhibition titled “The Token of a Magnifi cent Victory. To mark the six-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald” (Naznak świetnego zwycięstwa. Wsześćsetną rocznicę bitwy pod Grunwaldem), held at the Wawel Royal Castle from July 15 – September 30, 2010, which was opened by the heads of state of Poland and Lithuania, Bronisław Komorowski and Dalia Grybauskaitė, served as the inspiration for the exhibition planned for Vilnius, “How this happened in the Great Battle… Exposé of Grunwald”. Approximately 80 exhibits have arrived in Vilnius from the Krakow exhibition, and both exhibitions and catalogues use much of the same iconography. However the Vilnius exhibition is significantly broader in scope and includes Lithuanian exposés of the memory of Grunwald, and signs of the historical victory that are kept in Lithuania – more than 200 exhibits. It is symbolic that the Vilnius exhibition is also patroned by the ministers of both countries – Lithuania and Poland – ministers Arūnas Gelūnas and Bogdan Zdrojewski, who continue the tradition of their states’ Presidents who acted as patrons of the Krakow exhibition.

One of the most impressive exhibits in Vilnius, as it was in the Krakow exhibition, is the monumental diorama by Tadeusz Popiel and Zygmunt Rozwadowski, The Battle of Grunwald (on display in Vilnius from November 10 – December 5, 2010), whose unveiling in 1910 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the victory at Grunwald, along with the monument by Antoni Wiwulski, became the most important highlight in marking the historical battle. Today this painting belongs to the Lviv History Museum (Ukraine). Unlike the extraordinary canvas by historical painter, Jan Matejko, The Battle of Grunwald (1878), this diorama does not individualize the participants of the battle, the historical figures, but firstly aims to recreate the impression of the fateful battle. The preparations for the commemoration of the victory at Grunwald for the Vilnius exhibition 100 years ago are also reflected in the paintings by Jan and Tadeusz Styka (1909, 1937), kept at the Vytautas the Great War Museum in Kaunas. Also taking the Grunwald theme, they were meant to be sketches for another panoramic painting which was intended for display at the Krakow barbican in 1910. This year’s exhibition also presents the specially released publications, souvenirs, and photographs of the celebrations in Vilnius and Kaunas from the 1910 commemoration of the Grunwald victory. Whilst assembling this exhibition, an unexpected fact came to light, that in ethnic Lithuania and among Lithuanians in diaspora, over 200 publications and minor announcements on the Grunwald theme were released in 1910 in the Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, and Belarusian languages. The Vytautas monument in Vilnius Cathedral was honored by wreaths representing Lithuania and Poland. An interesting testament to those times that also reflects the destruction of cultural heritage objects during the Second World War and the attitude of Nazi Germany towards the Teutonic Order tradition is the only surviving fragment of A. Wiwulski’s monument dedicated to the Battle of Grunwald, destroyed by the Germans in 1939, that is on display in this exhibition – the head of Vytautas, Grand Duke of Lithuania. Also on display is an authentic plaster-cast model created after A. Wiwulski’s Grunwald monument.

1910 was the year in which commemorating the victory at Grunwald reached its culmination, yet this exhibition aims to reflect how the historic battle was remembered since its very conclusion. The history behind the wars with the Teutonic Order, the course of the Battle of Grunwald, the unification of Lithuania’s and Poland’s forces, and the significance of the fated 1385 Treaty of Krėva are all briefly presented. Alongside diagrams of the battle itself, there are displays of weapons and other archeological artifacts from the times of Grunwald, the chronicles of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order from the Königsberg historical collections, photographs of the actual fields of Grunwald, with the remains of the chapel erected on site immediately after the death of the Grand Master, old iconography of the Battle of Grunwald and its heroes – Jogaila (Władysław Jagiełło) and Vytautas, and publications of Jan Długosz’s Banderia Prutenorum. In addition, there are two of the earliest authentic portraits of Jogaila and Vytautas (late 17th–early 18th century) to have survived, that are today kept in Krakow and Vilnius, and thus serve as testaments to the historical ties between the old capitals of Poland and Lithuania. The unification of the Lithuanian and Polish forces is also symbolized by sculptor Tomasz Oskar Sosnowski’s white marble sculpture created in Rome, Jogaila and Jadwiga (1852). The fateful retreat maneuver by the Lithuanian army during the battle at Grunwald that determined its end is evidenced by a copy of a letter written in 1411–1413, protected today in the Secret State Archives in Berlin. The patron saints of Lithuania and Poland and their military triumphs are presented – Bishop of Krakow and martyr Stanislaus, and Prince Casimir Jagiellon, as well as Saint Bridget of Sweden, who foretold the downfall of the Teutonic Order.

The exhibition highlights the respectful traditions concerning the King of Poland and most supreme duke of Lithuania, Jogaila, in the Krakow Cathedral and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas, in the Vilnius Cathedral, and presents the signs of remembrance dedicated to these heroes of the Battle of Grunwald (reconstruction of Jagiełło’s Chapel in the Krakow Cathedral, and V. Grybas’ cenotaph model dedicated to Vytautas). Also on display are valuable and rare 16th–18th century printed memorials (by Joannes Vislicensis, the Lithuanian Chronicles – Bychowiec Chronicle, and works by M. Miechowita, M. Bielski, M. Kromer, M. Stryjkowski, I. Radvanus, A. Vijūkas-Kojelavičius, F. Paprocki, and others) that allow us to trace the transformations of how the Grunwald victory was remembered, and to recognize various interpretations and assessments of the course and significance of the battle, related to national traditions. The 19th century historiographic and literary positions of Grunwald are represented in works by J. U. Niemcewicz, S. Daukantas, T. Narbutt , I. J. Kraszewski, and H. Sienkiewicz, and publications of historical sources by J. Voigt and A. T. Działyński, among others.

Much attention is given to 20th century scientific research on the Grunwald victory. The exhibition presents original studies by Lithuanians (Vydūnas, J. Gabrys-Paršaitis B. Dundulis, M. Jučas), Poles (H. Łowmiański, S. M. Kuczyński), Germans (M. Oehler, J. Pfi tzner), and representatives of other countries (V. J. Lastouski, W. Urban) that determined the formation of the battle’s image, focusing as much on the battle itself as on its heroes, Jogaila and Vytautas. Works on the Battle of Grunwald by the Swedish academic living in Germany, Sven Erik Ekdahl, deserve a separate mention because it was this researcher who discovered the earlier mentioned 1411–1413 letter that confirmed the consciously maneuvered retreat of the Lithuanian army led by Vytautas during the battle. Jan Matejko’s The Battle of Grunwald (1878) canvas has had a great influence on the formation of Grunwald’s image in Lithuanians’ memory as it recorded the vision of the battle, where Vytautas’ role is prominent. In inter-war Lithuania, several copies of J. Matejko’s painting were produced, and one of them – the 1927 painting by Juozas Ignatavičius – is on display at the exhibition. New and unexpected forms of signifying the memory of the victory at Grunwald in the 20th–21st centuries are also shown at the exhibition, such as the huge reaction received by the display of J. Matejko’s painting The Battle of Grunwald in Lithuania in 1999 (over a few months over 200,000 people flocked to the Museum of Applied Arts to see the painting), basketball and football clubs bearing the Grunwald name (Žalgiris in Lithuanian), as well as various products. Remembering the historical battle’s tradition, the match between Kaunas’ “Žalgiris” basketball team and the Soviet Union’s army sports club “CSKA ” in the end of the 20th century was understood by Lithuanians as, among other things, the opposition of a small, freedom-loving nation against the empire.

The exhibition is headlined by an initiave of the Krakow Wawel Royal Castle, where in several stages from 1937 to 2009 the banners of the Teutonic Order were reconstructed – they are trophies of the Grunwald victory, material signs of the allies’ triumph, the signifi cance and meaning of which in fostering historical memory was so lucidly understood by J. Długosz, who urged that they be recreated in the future, were they ever to decay. Some of these trophies of the Grunwald victory were meant to be displayed in the Vilnius Cathedral as well, however, neither they nor their drawings have survived, unlike the Krakow banners.

The aspects of remembering the Grunwald victory that are not able to be displayed as material objects are presented in introductory texts contained in the comprehensive and original exhibition catalogue, expanding and supplementing the context of the image of Grunwald. Th e catalogue contains articles by M. Jučas and S. Ekdahl, an overview of the chronological events of Grunwald gives us the most important historical facts about the battle, and reminds us of the significance of the Lithuanians’ maneuver. M. Walczak describes the Grunwald theme in 15th–18th century art, while V. Jankauskas analyses Lithuanian artists’ focus on Grunwald in the 19th–20th centuries. J. T. Petrus and D. Tarandaitė present the development of iconography featuring Jogaila and Vytautas. Articles by K. J. Czyżewski, and V. Dolinskas discuss the Krakow and Vilnius cathedrals’ place in typifying the military triumphs of Poland and Lithuania, the commemoration of Grunwald’s heroes, and their memorialization. S. Maslauskaitė’s commentary describes St. Casimir as the patron saint of Lithuania’s and Poland’s military triumphs. Insight given by E. Ulčinaitė, D. Kuolys and V. Daujotytė reveals the image of Grunwald formed by historiography and fictional literature from the 15th to the 20th century. M. Piwocka presents Grunwald’s trophy banners and the history of their reconstruction, while A. Janczyk and A. Grybienė discuss the 1910 commemoration of the Grunwald anniversary. An article by R. Petrauskas summarizes the traditions of remembering Grunwald in Lithuania.

Exhibition patrons:
Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania Arūnas Gelūnas
Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland Bogdan Zdrojewski

National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Wawel Royal Castle – The National Art Collection
Lithuanian Art Museum
The Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Vytautas the Great War Museum
Polish Cultural Institute in Vilnius

The transportation of the diorama “The Battle of Grunwald” by Tadeusz Popiel and Zygmunt Rozwadowski to Poland and Lithuania was organised by the Wałbrzych Art Gallery’s Art Exhibition Center “Książ Castle”. The work is owned by the Lviv History Museum.
Co-organisers: The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, the National Culture Centre and the Krakow Wawel Royal Castle – The National Art Collection.
The idea to display the panorama to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald was conceived by Alicja Młodecka and Adam Dobosz.
Curator: Alicja Młodecka.

Exhibition concept and text
Vydas Dolinskas, Birutė Verbiejūtė, Marijus Uzorka
Joint authors: Jerzy T. Petrus, Krzysztof J. Czyżewski, Agnieszka Janczyk

Exhibition plan
Romualdas Budrys

Exhibition curators
Marijus Uzorka, Birutė Verbiejūtė

Exhibition coordinators
Vytautas Balčiūnas, Vytenis Bialopetravičius, Eduardas Brusokas, Paulius Bugys, Rima Cicėnienė, Eglė Montvilaitė, Daiva Narbutienė, Barbara Orszewska, Ojcumiła Sieradzka-Malec

Wawel Royal Castle – The National Art Collection art restorers
Leader: Ewa Wiłkojć
Lithuanian Art Museum Pranas Gudynas Restoration Centre art restorers
Leader: Jūratė Senvaitienė
Kaunas Vytautas the Great War Museum Restoration Workshop
Restorer: Aušra Bajoraitienė
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania art restorers
Leader: Jurgita Kalėjienė

Exhibit lending institutions:
Wawel Royal Castle – Th e National Art Collection (Poland)
City of Krakow Historical Museum (Poland)
Monastery of the Canons Regular of the Lateran in Krakow (Poland)
Lviv History Museum (Ukraine)
Th e Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Vytautas the Great War Museum (Lithuania)
Lithuanian Art Museum
Vincas Grybas Memorial Museum (Lithuania)
Vilnius University Library (Lithuania)
Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Private collections: Vydas Dolinskas, Mečislovas Jučas,
Sigitas Narbutas, Robertas Tautkus

Illustration lending institutions:
Archives and Library of Krakow Cathedral Chapter (Poland)
Archives of New Records in Warsaw (Poland)
Bagaslaviškis Church of the Discovery of the Holy Cross (Lithuania)
Berlin State Library Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Germany)
Bridgett ine Church in Lublin (Poland)
Burgerbibliothek of Bern (Switzerland)
Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw (Poland)
Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary the Victorious in Lublin (Poland)
City Gallery Prague (Czech Republic)
Collegiate Church in Opatów (Poland)
Diocesan Museum in Sandomierz (Poland)
ELTA – Lithuanian News Agency
Gdańsk History Museum (Poland)
Innsbruck University Library and Tirol State Library (Austria)
Jagiellonian Library in Krakow (Poland)
Latvian State Historical Archives
National Library of France
National Museum in Krakow (Poland)
National Museum in Warsaw (Poland)
National Museum of Lithuania
R. Paknys Publishing House (Lithuania)
Royal Library of Belgium
Sandomierz Cathedral (Poland)
Saxon State Library – Dresden State and University Library (Germany)
Secret State Archives Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Germany)
State Archives in Krakow (Poland)
Th e Princes Czartoryski Library in Krakow (Poland)
Toruń University Library (Poland)
Trakai Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lithuania)
Trakai History Museum (Lithuania)
Warsaw University Library (Poland)
Wawel Cathedral (Poland)
Wawel Cathedral Treasury (Poland)
Wrocław University Library (Poland)

Exhibition sponsors


Media sponsors



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