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2020.01.24 12:15

Vilnius celebrates 697th anniversary – from tax incentives in 1323 to festival of lights today

LRT.lt2020.01.24 12:15

Vilnius begins a series of events to celebrate the city's anniversary.

A midday ceremony outside the City Hall on Friday will be followed by a three-day Festival of Lights with luminescent installations dotting the streets and courtyards of oldtown Vilnius.

Read more: Vilnius Festival of Lights to illuminate the secrets of historic courtyards

January 25 conventionally marks the 697th anniversary of Vilnius.

While earliest settlements in the area date back to the Stone Age, it is customary to date a city from its earliest mention in written sources.

Vilnius – or Vilna – was identified as the seat of Grand Duke Gediminas in a letter written on January 25, 1323.

Gediminas sent out copies of the letter, in Latin, to the German cities of Lübeck, Sund, Bremen, Magdeburg, Cologne and others. He invited knights, merchants and craftsmen to come to the Grand Duchy and practice their trade, offering them tax exemptions and protection.

Though still a pagan ruler at the time, Gediminas expressly invited Christians and Jews, promising them freedom to practice their faith.

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