Castle as a place of memory, or the miraculous escape of Duke Vitaut de Krewa

March 28 | Uladzimir Kananovich seminar
6:00 pm
7:30 pm
séminaire kananovich
Presentation of a research project as part of the "Jeudis de la Maison Suger", a residents' research seminar.

Uladzimir Kananovich is a historian of late medieval and early modern Europe. He holds a PhD in history from the Institute of History of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences and an MA in medieval studies from Central European University. He has taught in higher education establishments in Belarus, as well as in the USA (Trinity College, Hartford). He has been a research associate at various institutions in Europe, including EHESS, where this year he is giving a research seminar entitled "Mémoire sociale et espace mémoriel au Moyen Âge" ("Social memory and memory space in the Middle Ages").

His research focuses on war and chivalry, as well as the history of memory and emotion. His first book was on "The Knight at the Battlefield". He has also worked on a monograph in English entitled "Remaking Local Heroes. Memories at Clash in the Late Medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania".


"The legend of the miraculous escape of Duke Vitaut (Lith. Vytautas, Bel. Vitaŭt, Pol. Witold) from Krewa Castle (in present-day West Belarus) in 1382 undoubtedly belongs to the historical tales that are strongly engraved in the cultural memory of the region that made up the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia and Samogitia in the XIII-XVIII centuries. According to the version preserved in the Bychowiec Chronicle, composed in the 1530s, Vitaut, long imprisoned in Krewa Castle by her cousin, Grand Duke Jagiello (future King of Poland Wladislas), having exchanged clothes with his housekeeper, miraculously escaped from the castle by taking the road to Teutonic Prussia. Alas, this extraordinary story is a rather late historiographical construction. Moreover, it underwent profound transformations over time. The Bychowiec Chronicle version, forged almost 150 years after the event, along with the Maciej Stryjkowski Chronicle (from the 1570s), is the last on the list. As such, it has endured to the present day; today, it is even adapted by so-called academic historiography.

So, we're going to study the formation and development of the memorial tradition concerning Duke Vitaut's unprecedented escape from Krewa Castle, from the prince's emigration to the Teutonic Order in 1380-1390 until the sixteenth century, when the heroic cult of Vitaut had already formed in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the process, memory serves as the principal explanatory medium. Rather than thinking of the legend of Vitaut de Krewa's escape either as personal recollections passed down through oral communication or as the imagined narrative about the duke, we will seek above all to clarify how memories of the year 1382 were constructed in subsequent generations. I believe that studies of social memory help us to reveal the social and literary situation of the people who developed the stories of Duke Vitaut in his groups. So, based on the theory of social memory, our first step is to establish the environments in which these memories were created and developed. Next, we'll look at how Vitaut's social memory was produced."

Published at 19 March 2024