BDAR

VYTIS: FROM THE LITHUANIAN DENAR TO THE EURO

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Location: Bank of Lithuania buildings in Kaunas, Vilnius Central Post Office, History Museum of Lithuania Minor

With the approaching adoption of the euro in Lithuania, the exhibition was dedicated to the development of one of the oldest coats of arms in Europe – the Lithuanian Vytis. It features an armour-clad knight with a sword and a shield. The knight first appeared on Lithuanian coins at the end of the 14th century. Initially, the figure of the knight was not yet settled on, as on some coins the knight was depicted as riding to the left, on others – headed to the right; on some – holding a lance, and a sword on others. The image of the knight was fully formed during the rule of Sigismund the Old, when the groats minted in 1535 started featuring a double cross on the knight’s shield. Following the 1569 Union of Lublin, a composite coat of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the Polish Eagle was introduced. The Ordinance of 1580 not only equalised the Lithuanian and Polish coins in value, but also established the mandatory use of the coats of arms of both of the states. After the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, most of the Lithuanian land became part of the Russian Empire. When the country declared its independence on 16 February 1918, the historical knight of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Vytis) became the coat of arms of the Republic of Lithuania. It was depicted on the first provisional banknotes of the 10 September 1922 issue. The designs for the permanent banknotes issued on 16 November 1922 were created by the artist Adomas Varnas, while those of other issues – by Adomas Galdikas, Vilius Jomantas and Antanas Žmuidzinavičius; the plaster models for the coins of the 1925, 1936 and 1938 issues were designed by the sculptor Juozas Zikaras. However, the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states brought the development of Lithuanian money to a halt.

The historical coat of arms of Lithuania – Vytis – was restored after the declaration of the Act on the Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania on 11 March 1990. The knight, which was created before the war by Juozas Zikaras and used in various Lithuanian coins, became the basis for its composition. The new version of the coat of arms, created by the artist Arvydas Každailis, was approved on 4 September 1991 and is still used on the Lithuanian euro coins. The first designs of the restored Lithuanian banknotes and coins featured the image of the knight created by Zikaras. In 1997, the Lithuanian Mint issued the 10, 20 and 50 circulation cent coins, in 1998 – the 1, 2 and 5 litas coins of a new sample. Their plaster models were created by the sculptor Antanas Žukauskas, who used the version of the knight which had been adapted specifically to coins by Každailis. Artists of the collector coins issued by the Bank of Lithuania are encouraged to create a greater variety of its stylised versions. In 2004, Lithuania joined the European Union and started preparations for the adoption of the euro. It was decided to depict the figure of the coat of arms of Lithuania – Vytis – on the national side of the Lithuanian euro coins. Its plaster models were created by Žukauskas.

Exhibition catalogue

Temporary exhibitions
Last updated: 2021-08-10