A few days ago Lithuania has been presented with a unique gift - a precious antique sliver chalice, crafted in Lithuania
in 1560 for the Sapiegas, a famous family of Lithuanian magnates. The chalice was bought last November at a "Christie’s"
auction in London for an undisclosed price by the Ortiz brothers, founders and, until recently, sole owners of the "Iki"
supermarkets chain in Lithuania. The three Belgian brothers - George Emmanuel, Oliver and Nicolas - established the "Iki"
supermarkets in 1991, just after the reestablishment of Lithuania’s independence, and now they are a leading supermarket
chain. In presenting the chalice to President Adamkus, the Ortiz brothers said that they had been very warmly received in
Lithuania and, in gifting the chalice to Lithuania, they wished to express their thanks to Lithuania and its people.
The antique Sapiega chalice receives admiring looks.
Photo President of Lithuania website
The Ortiz brothers expressed the wish that the chalice be displayed in the Grand Ducal Palace in Vilnius, the
reconstruction of which is soon to be completed. In the meantime the chalice will be on the display in the Museum of
Applied Arts in Vilnius. At the height of its power in the 15th and 16th centuries the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) was
the largest state in Europe and in its heyday the palace of the grand dukes was a magnificent building. After Lithuania
lost its independence in 1795, this grand building was demolished by the occupying Russians in indecent haste in 1801.
With the reconstruction of the building now nearing completion, the hunt has been on for authentic furniture and
decorations for the interior and the gifting of this unique chalice was very warmly received.
Leonas Sapiega (1557-1633),
Grand Chancellor of Lithuania.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
At the beginning of the last century the chalice was in the possession of the famous Parisian collector Eugene Lubovitch.
It was sold at a "Sotheby’s" auction in London in 1978 and now was resold at "Christie’s". The chalice is valued not only
for its historic interest; it is also artistically very valuable. To create such a chalice from silver is very difficult
and requires more than one year of work. It is thought that the chalice was made for the christening of Grigorijus
Sapiega, younger brother of the famous Leonas Sapiega.
The Sapiegas were a famous family of magnates in Lithuania. Leonas Sapiega (1557-1633) is probablly the most famous of
the Sapiegas and according to Wikipedia "...is considered as a great political figure of the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth. A rich and powerful magnate, he was known for his wisdom as a statesman, lawyer and military commander,
he was one of the greatest leaders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the time of the Duchy's highest cultural
flourishing...As Chancellor he was the main editor and publisher of the last version of the Statute of the Grand Duchy
of Lithuania, considered to be the first Constitution in Europe.".
The Third Lithuanian Statute, promulgated in 1588, is the only major codification of European laws between the Justinian
Code of Roman times and the Napoleonic Code of 1804. It had a tremendous influence in the development of legal systems in
North Eastern Europe. Wikipedia states: "The statutes were a sign of the progressive European legal tradition, and
were cited as precedent in Polish and Livonian courts, furthermore in 1649 the Russian legal code, Sobornoye Ulozheniye,
was rewritten according to Lithuania's Statutes". In Lithuania itself the Third Statute continued as the basis of
law in Lithuania until the middle of the 19th century, even after the occupation of Lithuania by Russia. It is
interesting to note in these environmentally conscious times, that these statutes even had laws, which today we would
describe environment protection laws! This resulted from Lithuanians’ love of and respect for nature.
The Grand Ducal Palace in Vilnius, its reconstruction almost complete.
Photo courtesy www.lvr.lt
Further information: www.lrytas.lt 13/06/08 www.adamkus.lt www.wiki.org