Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania. The first known written record of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital is known from Grand Duke Gediminas’ letters in 1323, which were sent to German cities inviting German members of the Jewish community to settle in the capital city, as well as to Pope John XXII.
According to legend, Gediminas dreamt of an iron wolf howling on a hilltop and consulted a pagan priest for its interpretation. He was told: “What is destined for the ruler and the State of Lithuania, is thus: the Iron Wolf represents a castle and a city which will be established by you on this site. This city will be the capital of the Lithuanian lands and the dwelling of their rulers, and the glory of their deeds shall echo throughout the world”. The location offered practical advantages: it lays within the Lithuanian heartland at the confluence of two navigable rivers, surrounded by forests and wetlands that were difficult to penetrate. This was especially important as the duchy had been subject to intrusions by the Teutonic Knights.
Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. There are 65 churches in Vilnius. Like most medieval towns, Vilnius was developed around its Town Hall. The main artery, Pilies Street, links the Royal Palace with Town Hall. Other streets meander through the palaces of feudal lords and landlords, churches, shops and craftsmen’s workrooms. Narrow, curved streets and intimate courtyards developed in the radial layout of medieval Vilnius. Vilnius Old Town, the historical centre of Vilnius, is one of the largest in Europe (3.6 km²). The most valuable historic and cultural sites are concentrated here. The buildings in the old town — there are nearly 1,500 — were built over several centuries, creating a blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is known as a Baroque city, there are examples of Gothic (e.g. St Anne’s Church), Renaissance, and other styles. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Owing to its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. In 1995, the world’s first bronze cast of Frank Zappa was installed in the Naujamiestis district with the permission of the government.
The meeting itself will be held in central campus of Vilnius university, which is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Eastern Europe. The university was founded in 1579 as the Jesuit Academy (College) of Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno) by King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania – Stephen Báthory. It was the third oldest university in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Soon after the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, it was forced to suspend its operation in the aftermath of the November Uprising (from 1832 to 1919). In the aftermath of World War I the University saw failed attempts to restart it by Lithuania (December 1918) and invading Soviet forces (March 1919), and finally resumed operations as the University of Stefan Batory in Poland (August 1918), a period followed by another short Soviet occupation in 1920, and the less than two year period of the Republic of Central Lithuania, annexed by Poland in 1922. Following Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, the University was briefly administered by the Lithuanian authorities (from October 1939), and then after Soviet annexation of Lithuania (June 1940), punctuated by a period of German occupation after German invasion of the Soviet Union (1941–1944), administrated as Vilnius State University by of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. After Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it resumed its status as one of the prominent universities in Lithuania as Vilnius University.