Former famous Palace of Pacai – now Hotel Pacai – stands in the very heart of Vilnius Old Town. The palace has excited imagination for a very long time, because it was visited and sojourned by famous historical personalities of the beginning of a XIX century. Palace of Pacai is reviewed in the written memories and diaries of Vilnius University professor of medicine Josef Frank, aristocracy women writers Gabriele Giunteryte-Puziniene and Sofia Tyzenhauzaite.
In a restored historical baroque palace has now settled a lifestyle luxury hotel Hotel Pacai, which belongs to an international network of exclusive hotels – “Design hotels TM“. Regardless of its several hundred years of history an old palace is now packed with contemporary technologies, materials and design solutions.
However a palace still can tell its centuries’ old history. The most interesting part of it is from the beginning of XIX century, a time when the above mentioned historical figures lived and visited Vilnius from time to time. At that time Vilnius city was still full of life and aristocrats coming from their country manors to spend winters in a city.
Palace of Pacai during an infamous march of Napoleon army to Moscow
During reconstruction of a historical building complex and when adapting it to the needs of a luxury hotel, art history specialists decided to choose to expose to the people the things that were considered the most valuable in the palace. These are the wall frescoes and paintings from different periods of history.
Namely, the most abundant are wall and ceiling painting from the beginning of XIXth century. This period is of high interest and importance, because it was fateful to a bigger part of Europe. Most restored frescoes are dated 1810 – 1811, when the last and most biggest reconstruction and equipment of the palace were carried out in a style of late classicism.
In the beginning of XIXth century the biggest part of Lithuanian lands were in the hands of Russian Empire. During that time Austrian professor Josef Frank came from Viena to work in Vilnius University as a medicine professor. He described Vilnius city in contrasts – as a city full of palaces and slums. Vilnius city hall building, that is seen from Palace of Pacai windows, was described as being of elegant Italian style, but surrounded by barracks.
In this period Palace of Pacai belonged to a general Ludwig Pacas. It was an enfilade of luxuriously and richly equipped halls, with representational stairs and apartments seasonally rented for aristocrats. On the ground floor there were shops owned by city’s merchants.
Cousin of Ludwig Pacas, countess and writer Sofia Tyzenhauzaite, had witnessed in the palace several visits of Alexandre the Ist of Russian Empire. She wrote her testimony in her memoires in french, called “Reminescence“, that were very known and popular in her times. The written memoires are the moments from the very hardtimes of the year 1812, what is called French time in Lithuania. During this year Napoleon army has march through the territory of Lithuania and Vilnius city with the aim to sieze Moscow and thus to win away Imperial Russia. After a deafeat and an infamous return of the Napoleon army there were many solders left on grounds of Vilnius city. Words of Sofia in her memoires are a true historical testimony of these times.
During the year 1812, full of political changes, high rank officers of Russian Empire and that of France have replaced one after another in the apartments in a Palace of Pacai. Sofia had to relinquish her and her fathers apartment to duke Constantin, a brother of Russian emperor Alexandre the Ist. During the so called French time, their family had welcomed and accommodated marchal Joahim Murat, a husband of Napoleon’s sister. Later in the same apartment Russian general Michael Kutuzov has stayed for a while.
In June of the year 1812 Ludwig Pacas had arranged celebrations in a great hall of his palace to welcome Napoleon in Vilnius before his march to Moscow. A visit of Napoleon to the Palace of Pacai was quite short but was widely discussed and remembered to this day.
Historical spaces of a Palace of Pacai
Restored representational staircase of a Palace of Pacai has high vault ceilings and vast illusionist frescoe with white and black flooring perspective. Bricked up into the wall of a staircase was found a beautiful statue of ancient greek goddess Athena, which now welcomes the guest of a hotel. Most probably the statue was created by Italian master Giovanni Boretti.
The bel étage of the Palace had represenational spaces decorated with frescoes, mouldings and columns that were covered with white marble imitation. Palace of Pacai was famous for its many luxurious fireplaces and heaters covered by tiles.
In the hall of the bel étage is restored XIXth century frescoe, that depicts scenery of a realistic landscape. It is supposedly attributed to a painter with greek origin Janas Rustemas, that was Vilnius University professor and popular portret painter among aristocratic circles. Most probably Janas Rustemas was leading a group of painters that created frescoes for the rooms and halls of the overall palace. One of them are blue frescoes in the corridor with classical columns, that were before a part of a former great Blue hall.
Hotel Pacai, former Palace of Pacai, was visited by author Akvile Muliuolyte in May 2018, during the days of International exibition of cultural heritage and technology “Heritas” .