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Vilnius County (Lithuania)

Vilniaus Apskritis

Last modified: 2024-03-23 by zachary harden
Keywords: lithuania | vilnius |
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image by Virginijus Misiunas, 24 December 2009

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The source of the Previously Reported Vilnius county flag is <> and personal observation at flag show in jubilee of Mindaugas coronation 750th anniversary. The Arms of Vilnius County was drawn according to my personal observation and photo, which was taken from the catalogue of exposition in the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, 15-30 March, 2002. In the flag, the mounted knight is inside of red shield
Anon., 24 June and 7 July 2003

The flag of Vilnius county - Vilnius apskritis. All county flags and Coat of Arms adopted on 2004 by Heraldic Commission of Lithuanian Department of Interior.
Jens Pattke, 26 February 2005

Vilnius county - on a red field a silver knight on a black horse holds a silver lance with a golden head, on the knight's left shoulder a blue shield with a golden patriarchal cross, saddle and leather parts of the horse clothing are blue, metal parts of the horse clothing, horseshoes and knight's spurs are golden, bordure is blue with 10 Jogaila crosses. Flag proportions 5:6, free edges bordered with narrow silver stripe, finial is a golden lance head with silver bands. The charge originates from the National Arms.
Initially, the arms of early Lithuania / Vilnius duchy were not distinguished from the arms of Vilnius dukes, i.e. of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. In the late 14th century the land arms started being distinguished from the ducal arms: the knight of the Grand Duke held the sword, and the knight of the Vilnius duchy held the lance. The evidence is known both from the seals of late the 14th century and from the armories of early the 15th century (colours of the actual arms are restored from pictures in Western European armories). The blue shield with a golden patriarchal cross (the Jogaila cross did not appear yet) symbolized the dependence of Vilnius land to the Algirdas/Jogaila branch of Gediminas dynasty. In 1413 the Vilnius duchy became Vilnius province (vaivadija).
The use of a black horse is quite intriguing: the horse of the National Arms is white, and this is the symbol of sovereignity. The black horse is mentioned in the Jan Dlugosz's description of banners of Lithuanian regiments, and participated in the 1410 battle at Zalgiris / Tannenberg. Ten regiments from Trakai land had the banners with "Gediminas gate" badge, showing their dependence to the Kestutis/Vytautas branch, and 30 regiments of other Lithuanian lands (i.e. of Algirdas/Jogaila domain) had banners with knights mounted on horses of different colors: white, black, sorrel or dapple-grey. Those banners were called by the names of the different lands and local dukes. It is guessed that the white horse of the Grand Duke was replaced with the horse of a different colour for showing the dependence of land.
The knight with a lance was used by Vilnius province for about 150 years. Since the mid 16th century the knight with a sword was used again. This modification was officially recognized during the administrative reform in 1564-1565, and fixed in the Statute of Lithuania in 1566 and in 1588: it demanded using the National Arms for seals and military banners of Vilnius province. In fact, the arms of Vilnius province were the same as the National Arms. This variant of arms was used till 1795, when Lithuania fell to Russian Empire. In 1795 the Lithuania province (governorate) was established, but soon renamed to Vilnius province. During the first decades of Russian rule, only the seals were used: the Russian eagle in the upper part, and the Lithuanian knight in the lower part.
Since the late 1830s a few projects of new arms of provinces were provided. They proposed in the upper part the knight with a triple (early Orthodox) cross and in the lower part the tower of Vilnius castle. However Emperor Nicholas I granted to Vilnius province the modified historical arms on April 6, 1845: on a red field a galloping silver knight on green ground. The cross on the knight's shield was not the Jogaila cross but the red Orthodox cross.
In 1858 Bernhard Koehne proposed the improvement of Vilnius arms. He proposed the new image of the knight in defence: that was historically correct. Also the double (Jogaila) cross should be returned. The arms should be decorated with a five-towers mural crown and with two golden spikes of wheat, bent with a red Alexander stripe. But the arms were not changed that time.
On July 5, 1878 the new design of arms was confirmed. It was based on Koehne's project but the Orthodox cross has remained, the crown was of Russian Empire, and the decoration was two golden oak branches bent with a blue Andrew stripe. These arms were used till 1915. During World War I the German eagle was used on seals. In 1920-1939 the Polish eagle was used on seals. The project of Vilnius province arms was prepared in 1928 but not confirmed. Later the Soviet and Reich symbols were used on seals, and in 1945-1990 the arms of the Lithuanian SSR were used on seals.
The arms of Vilnius land is one of oldest territorial symbols in Lithuania. It may originate from the times of Grand Duke Algirdas (some historians state the first evidence of its usage in 1366) and it is undoubtedly the heraldic figure since the late 14th century. Its usage continued till World War I, and only the fall of Vilnius land from hand to hand wiped out the historical symbolism. The Heraldry commission of Lithuania decided to keep the earliest version of the knight with a lance for Vilnius land. It is attributed both to Vilnius district and Vilnius county.
The blue border with 10 Jogaila crosses is a common element for all counties of Lithuania: the border means dependence, the Jogaila cross means Lithuania, and 10 means the number of counties. Colours golden on blue are traditional for Jogaila cross in Lithuanian
Virginijus Misiunas, 24 December 2009

Previously Reported Flag

image by Anon., 7 July 2003

Coat of Arms

image by Anon., 19 June 2003