Michał Rudnicki. History of Salos and the Surrounding Areas

Lithuania does not have many places such as Salos, which is unique for a number of reasons. First of all, it is due to the location of the lands - the border between Livonia and Courland. In the Medieval times it used to be the possession of the Grand Duke of Lithuania, before Zygmunt Stary (Žygimantas Senasis), the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, gave the surrounding areas as a gift to his remote relatives and supporters. This was how the town of Rokiškis became the property of Dukes Iwan and Jan Krotoszyńscy, the area of Panemunėlis fell into the hands of vicegerent of Trakai Olechno Fedorowicz Krzywca, the area of nearby located Pakriaunis became the property of Duke Michał Oboleński (Mykolas Obelenskis), and Salos, as mentioned in the Chronicle by Stryjkovski, including the lands and forests, lakes and swamps, became the property of the powerful Lithuanian Radvila (Radziwiłł) family. The powerful Radvila family did not see anything special in Salos as they preferred living close to the king in Vilnius, Gardin, Kraków, from where their family position could be better preserved and, possibly, strengthened. Historians believe that none of the family members ever resided in Salos, yet they visited the area for hunting purposes.

At about the same time when Salos became the property of the Radvila family, i.e. in about 1518, Bona Maria, a young-aged daughter of Galleazo Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and Isabella di Aragona, arrived in Kraków, Poland. It goes without saying that the young offspring of the Duke of Milan and the future wife of Sigismund the Old (Zygmunt Stary/Žygimantas Senasis), did not venture to go to the remote, cold land full of forests, bears and strong honey, as the Kingdom of Poland was depicted by Italian chroniclers, all by herself, without any escort. For three months she sailed from Manfredonia, near the Adrian harbour, accompanied by a whole team of courtiers with their families and servants, representatives of the family of Morykoni. The Morykoni family were very powerful, and their members had lived in Florence in the 13th century. In the 14th century part of the family moved to the Duchy of Milan where they became close to the court of Duke Sforz and became clients, and later courtiers, of the dukes. That was why the Morykoni were on board the ship that carried the bride for King Sigismund, then not a young man aged 51.

The Radvila family were not as influential in the Kingdom of Poland as they were in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, consequently, they were trying to find ways to strengthen their position in the lands of the Crown of Poland. The best way deemed was to get closer to the King so that he would rule in favour of the Radvila family. The possibility to accomplish that (also exploited later by those who descended from the Radvila family and numerous others) was by coming closer to the King's wife, since the King would mostly listen to his wife and the King would supposedly be most disposed towards his wife (particularly, if the wife was Queen Bona). In these times the Queen hardly ever appeared without escort, she was always surrounded by courtiers, and that was how the Radvila family got acquainted with the Morykoni family.

Most probably everybody knows the history of Lithuania and Poland and we are not here to discuss whether or not the scheme of the Radvila family turned out successful and they managed to gain a strong position in the lands of the Crown of Poland. For us at this point it is important that the owners of Salos got acquainted with the Morykoni, the courtiers of Queen Bona, as this acquaintance is of utmost importance to the history of Salos.

The Morykoni family, whose representatives had been settled in the Crown of Poland by Queen Bona in the 1530'ies, moved to Lithuania in the 17th century. Their position in the Polish-Lithuanian state was rather strong, presumably due to relations of kinship. Offsprings of the Morykoni family married representatives of powerful Polish and Lithuanian families, including the Radvila family. Relations with the Radvila family were of special importance to the Morykoni, the family being quite new and hardly known in Lithuania. It is important that marriages brought new lands and riches into the hands of the Morykoni family. This is what happened with the village of Salos and the surrounding areas: they were handed over by the Radvila family to the Morykoni family, first as a pledge, and eventually the lands became the property of the Morykoni family. Thus, the first historically affirmed owner of Salos was mentioned in 1733 and his name was Krzysztof Morykoni (butler's assistant of Ukmergė / podstoli Wiłkomierski). His wife's maiden name is not known, yet we know that she gave birth to three sons: Pranciškus (Franciszek), Mykolas (Michał) and Marcijonas (Marcjan). Marcijonas, who was the administrator of Ukmergė in 1771, was given Salos and Taujėnai (Towiany) by his father. Marcijonas Morykoni married Benedykt Tyzenhauz's daughter Alexandra and they had two sons: Benediktas Benjaminas Morikonis (Benedykt Beniamin Morykoni), one of the leaders of Kosciuška (Kościuszko) rebellion in Lithuania, and Ignotas Morykoni (Ignacy Morykoni), the second son, who is known to have been a participant of the uprising and the administrator of Ukmergė. What is important to us is the fact that Ignotas Morykoni, the grandson of the initial owner of Salos, was the founder and establisher of the Salos Manor palace. The author of the project of the manor had travelled from Italy, the homeland of Morykoni. And that was the architect named Petras de Rosi. Nota bene: this was the architect who had designed the former residence in Taujėnai (Towiany) in Ukmergė area, that initially belonged to Ignotas's brother Benediktas Benjaminas (Benedykt Beniamin) but later became the ownership of the Radvila family. The palace of the Salos Manor, very much like that of Taujėnai, is a one-storey building with a mezonine level. The plan is not-regular and asymmetrical: the right wing is two-sided, divided by a corridor whereas in the left wing the rooms are connected in a successful order, in the amphilade manner. The front fa?ade of the palace features six monumental Doric portico columns holding a triple-angled fronton decorated by the Morykoni family crest. The crest is unusual and untypical for the Polish and Lithuanian heraldry, probably because it had been brought from Italy, and it is noteworthy that in Rzeczpospolita the approval of this family crest was effected rather late, by King Jan III Sobieski. The palace of the manor was built in a beautiful park, the remains of which can still be admired nowadays. It is deemed to be one of the oldest parks in Lithuania, dating back to the times of the Radvila family, i.e. the end of the 16th century. According to the legend, the Radvila family had a zoo and kept bears, instead of dogs, to guard the palace.

The founder of the palace in the manor was Ignotas Morykoni, notorious for his meanness both in respect of himself and the people around him. For instance, he allowed his wife Helena Billewiczówna to go to Vilnius for shopping only once a year and he himself used to wear clothes till they lasted, nonetheless he was most generous to the church and the peasants. In 1781 he had the Holy Cross Church built and in 1784 he took charge of the construction of the St Fransiscus of Seraf Church in Aleksandravėlė; it was by his initiative that a school for peasants was established in the Salos manor, he also established a village hospital and a small pharmacy, which lets us conclude that such practice in this part of Europe at the beginning of the 19th century was hardly regular, if undertaken at all. It is also important that by his will Ignotas Morykoni cancelled all of his peasants' debts.

Ignotas Morykoni had only one son - Liucijonas (Lucjan) Morykoni, who was well-known as a patriot but by character did not resemble his father. In his diary Jakub Gieysztor (Jokūbas Geištaras) wrote about him: this was a very rich person, one of the richest in Kaunas province, educated, straightforward, but totally unpractical. He was not good at managing people in his lands and lost his property so very quickly. He lost part of his lands before the uprising of January, and later he was detained and arrested for his participation in the uprising. He was imprisoned for a few months in Vilnius and later spent a whole year in a prison in Kaunas. When he was finally released from prison, he had no funds and had to sell Salos to Count Rajnold Tyzenhauz from Pastovys (Postawy), and he himself moved to Warsaw, where he worked as a teacher till the end of his days. According to the legend and stories told by later owners, after his death Liucijonas Morykoni returned to Salos and the rooms of the palace are still haunted by his ghost...

When in the hands of the Tyzenhauz family, Salos became the cultural centre of the area. The venue was famous for the best parties in the whole province of Kaunas, attended by top society representatives, even those from Vilnius. The park served a place for a summer theatre stage where actors invited by the Tyzenhauz family from other provinces and as far as France gave their performance. Although for the most part of the year the Tyzenhauz family lived in Pastovys, they took good care of the palace in the Salos Manor. These days the walls of the rooms were decorated with tapestry brought from England.

Rajnold Tyzenhauz had no children and after his death Salos fell into the hands of his sister Marija Tyzenhauzaitė (Maria Tyzenhauzówna), the wife of Aleksander Przeździecki from Rokiškis. That was the end of the "golden age" of Salos, as the owners lived only in Pastovys or Rokiškis and the palace of the Salos Manor was inhabited by tenants.

The last owner of Salos was Rajnold (Rainoldas) Przeździecki, grandson of Maria Przeździecki, son of Konstanty (Konstantinas) Przeździecki and Elżbieta Plater-Zyberk (Elžbieta Platerytė-Zyberk), a diplomat and writer, the author of monographs on Vilnius and Warsaw, a most educated person, but, as the story goes, a person with a serious drawback - not being able to dance. When asked why he did not dance, he used to reply that he had been brought up in Vatican. In 1913 Rajnold Przeździecki was granted the Count's title from Nikolay II, the Tsar of Russia. He had no wife and no children and died in solitude in exile in Paris. That was the end of the history of the owners of the Salos Manor and its palace. It should be noted that, fortunately, in the post-war period the palace was hardly damaged and in 1977 art historians started renovation works. It was not only the palace and the park that survived, luckily other buildings of the manor survived, too: the large and the small outbuildings where the servants used to live, the guard's house, the cattle-shed, the washing and the freezing units. Have many ensembles like that of Salos survived in Lithuania?

I mentioned the Church of Salos, and I believe it is also well worth our attention. The construction of the first wooden chapel in Salos was funded by Count Ignotas Morykoni in 1781. There were two altars in the chapel: the big one featured a picture of the Crucified, painted by the disciples of an anonymous painter, and in the left-hand altar there was a picture of the Holiest Sorrowful. In 1867 two sacristies were added to the chapel from both sides, and in 1878 masters from Berlin built a four-foot pitch organ. Count Lucjan Morykony had planned to build a new brickwork church and building materials had been collected, including stones, but shortly, as already mentioned, the Salos Manor had to be sold to the Tyzenhauz family and the construction works were stopped. Still by now the church archives have retained the draft plan of the brick church. In 1888, with the mediation of Bishop Antanas Baranauskas (who procured the permission of the governor of Kaunas to Countess Maria Przeździecka (Pšezdeckienė) who financed the construction), the new church was finally built. The interior of the church is very beautiful and original. There are three naves in the church and the central nave contains a big Gothic altar.

(Presentation delivered at the opening of Academia Salensis)

More information about Salos manor architecture and archival photos  can be found in the website of Architektūros ir urbanistikos tyrimų centras.

An article about Salos church in Lrytas.lt