The Columns of the Gediminids

The Columns of the Gediminids since 1397 was the coat of arms of the Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania. It is believed that a similar sign was used by Vytautas' father Duke Kęstutis 

After Vytautas' death, Žygimantas Kęstutaitis took over the columns. Initially, this coat of arms represented Kęstutaičiai (house of Kęstutis), and since the 16th century, when it was used in Lithuania by the successors of King Jogaila of Poland, the Columns became a symbol of the entire dynasty of Grand Duke Gediminas.

It is by far the most mysterious of the symbols, surrounded by legends. Lithuanian chroniclers identified the shape of the symbol as columns and attributed them to Palemonas, the legendary progenitor of the dynasty of the Gediminids, who came to Lithuania from Italy. Teodoras Narbutas 19th c. called this sign the Coulmns of Gediminas, because he believed that it had been used by the Grand Duke Gediminas. 20th century were referred to as the gates of poles or otherwise. At present, the name of Gediminas columns is more neutral.

The Columns of the Gediminids featured on the Lithuanian coins of the 14th and subsequent centuries, the banners of the regiments who were led by Grand Duke Vytautas and who fought in the Battle of Grunwald; the 15th and 16th-century church paraphernalia given to Vilnius Cathedral; the 15th-century seals of the Lithuanian Franciscans and major state seals in 1581–1795; book graphics; and the pieces of work by Vilnius’ goldsmiths.

The Columns of the Gediminids became especially common in the 20th century when the independent state of Lithuania was formed. The symbol, as a distinctive sign, was adopted by the Lithuanian army, aviation and other public authorities. It was used to decorate Lithuanian orders, medals, and insignias and became an attribute of numerous public societies and organisations.


Information collected by Dr. Vilma Akmenytė-Ruzgienė.

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