Biržai Region Museum Sėla
Juzef Naronovičius-Naronskis’ map of the Duchy of Biržai (1645) is a guide around the duchy.
Duke Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red”

Duke Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red”


Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red” studied in Germany and traveled a great deal around Europe. Upon his arrival to Lithuania, he got involved into politics. He was the Grand Hetman twice (1553-1566 and 1572-1584) and in 1565 he became the Chancellor and the Voivode of Vilnius.


He was a talented general, one of the most prominent Lithuanian commanders during the Livonian War in 1558-1583. He distinguished himself during the Battle of Ula (January 26, 1564) when his army beat the Russian one which was 5 times bigger. Mikołaj took part in the Lublin Seim as one of the chief representatives of Lithuania. He refused to sign the Union of Lublin in 1569, which was to create a single state out of Poland and Lithuania.


Mikołaj Radziwiłł was a devout Evangelical reformer. He supported the church generously and founded parishes. He restored the evangelical reformist school in Vilnius and opened one in Biržai in 1584. On February 10, 1547, Emperor Charles V granted the title of Reichsfurst (Prince) of the Holy Roman Empire to Mikołaj Radziwiłł "The Red", for his bravery in battles against the Russians and the Tartars. Mikołaj started calling himself the Duke of Biržai-Dubingiai. On January 25, the king Sigismund II Augustus of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth approved the title. This also meant that the domain of Biržai was turned into a duchy. On November 24, 1541, Mikołaj married Katarzyna Tomicka-Iwińska and they had two sons, Mikołaj and Krzysztof.


Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red” visited Biržai in autumn 1553 and later stayed for longer periods in 1556, 1557 and 1561. He would pay a visit occasionally and he contracted local people, called seniūnai, to run the estate for him.


During this period, Biržai is referred to as township, a castle only existed in Papilys. Mikołaj  invited the Tartars and Germans to Biržai. The first mention of Germans certain Gevertas and Berynas was in 1560s, in the second oldest written record of  Biržai (after 1520).


In 1570, there were 12 German households in Biržai, including the family names Vechmanai, Melderiai, Hilieriai, Stinkusai, Vinkievičiai, Endrychovai and Tynkauzai. They owned a total of 521 voloks, which they have received from the Duke for their military services. 


The first Tatars of Biržai were given land in Niutanai, Lotkov and Aspariškiai. As early as in times of Krzysztof Radziwiłł "The Thunderbolt" a separate Cossak-Tartar flag was raised in battles for Biržai.


In 1555, the Biržai duchy was mentioned as one of the three biggest dominions in possession of Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red”. Chronicles from 1561 describe the estate which had four barns, a brewery, a bakery, a kitchen and three manors: Joniškėlis, Ageniškis and Papilys.


Between 1569 and 1571, Mikołaj gave land to noblemen in exchange for their military service: Pagervės farm and Niutanai village to the Slepščiai family, 12 voloks  to J.Tulevičius, 15 to Hanusas Tynkauzas, 30 to Kristupas Melderis and 40 to Fronckas Vechmanas.


In 1568, Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Red” gave the Papilys castle, estate and the township (500 voloks total), as a wedding gift to his son, Krzysztof Mikołaj Radziwiłł “The Thunderbolt” and his bride Ona Sobkovna. He died on April 27, 1584. His remains were kept in Vilnius until 1588. Later his son transferred them to Dubingiai, where they were buried on May 15, 1588 in the reformist church he himself had established. - Nemokamas lankytojų skaitliukas

Legal name: Municipality Budget Office; address: J.Radvilos 3, LT-41175, Biržai; company code: 190562082; tel. +370 450 31883; email: 

Data is accumulated and kept at the Registry of Legal Entities.