One of my favorite modern Lithuanian writers Kristina Sabaliauskaitė in her book series "Silva Rerum" described almost every corner of old, 18-century Vilnius. This book is so impressing that after you read it, the whole Vilnius starts to look different. The most intriguing thing in that book and other legends of Vilnius is a scary story about Basilisk who lives in the underground part of Vilnius. People say that in the spooky night while walking alone, you should never watch under your feet because you can catch Basilisk’s look, which will turn you into stone. Old people of Vilnius still say that Basilisk is alive, living lonely under the streets of the capital city. But all the scariest Vilnius legends come from the Town Hall. So, let’s get into a spooky adventure in Town Hall in Vilnius.
Can you imagine a building which has a prison underground and a classy theatre with luxurious shops above? During the Medieval Times, Vilnius Town Hall looked exactly like this. Nowadays, Vilnius Town Hall is a flashy building surrounded by expensive world-famous designer stores and boutiques. Looking at this building now is hard to imagine the dark and spooky Medieval Times.
When Lithuania finally became a Catholic country, in the 14th century, the city of Vilnius was granted the Magdeburg rights. For this occasion, the Town Hall was built in order to serve as the headquarter for the city’s authorities. During that time, the square where now Town Hall is located was the city’s main square - the very heart of the town. Thus, the Town Hall was built together with the archive, treasury, ammunition warehouse, and other facilities which were needed at that time. And yes, including the prison in the basement. Later on, when the authorities have changed, the Town Hall served as a theatre, that also had some shops, especially smoked meat stores on the upper floors. But the underground still was the land of Hangman.
The prison in the basement had two underground levels - the deepest one was for the most serious criminals, without any light or fresh air. The upper level was used for small prisoners. The life of prisoners was hard with tortures, lack of food and water, and moreover Basilisk who was wandering around Vilnius all that time. Some legends are saying that Basilisk was defeated by a fearless young knight, who has spent a lot of days and nights looking for Basilisk to end up his life finally. When he found it, Basilisk looked at him, and instead of seeing young valiant, the beast saw itself and become a stone in a second. Nobody knows which story about Basilisk is real, but, keep in mind that an enormous beast is maybe still sleeping somewhere under the streets of Vilnius.
Nowadays, the Town Hall with its square is a cozy and peaceful place in Vilnius. Just some people sometimes look at this building and remember all the legends and stories hidden there. But even the spookiest place can become an attractive and beautiful gem. The Town Hall in Vilnius is alive - full of celebrations, weddings, various concerts and exhibitions, standing and hiding sleeping Basilisk under the ground.
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