Hansa office at the beginning of the 20th c.
This building, probably, was built in the 15th c. on the territory of the old town in Kaunas and the site was called ‘the German corner” at the time. At the end of the 14th c. there was the commercial embassy of Hansa and merchants from Danzig had their representatives in Kaunas. Permanent residents of the colony were mainly Danzig merchants who had the elder elected according to the statute of the Hansa merchants.
Fight for trade markets in the east between some Hanseatic towns forced Danzig merchants to set up headquarters in Kaunas. In the second half of the 14th c. Hanseatic towns of the Livonian order, first of all Revel (Tallinn), prohibited the Prussian merchants to visit the office of the main trade center in Naugardukas (in Byelorussia at present). At the same time merchants from Riga monopolized Hanseatic offices in Polock. Trying to get more profit from trading with eastern goods, The Teutonic order received the authorization from the Grand Duke Vytautas to trade in The Grand Duchy of Lithuania and establish the Hansa headquarters in Kaunas. In the 14th – 15th c. the river Zeimena, which joined Priegaliai and the Curonian split, was made deeper and transformed to a canal suitable for navigation. Thus, merchants from Danzig could carry their goods by sea to Kaunas and back without transhipping.
Kaunas, as well as Vilnius had the so-called right of emporium and all the goods passing through Kaunas were to be reloaded there. Local merchants could buy the goods in great amounts and later sell them.
Crafts flourished, the city became the centre of trade between Russia and Western Europe.
In 1408 Kaunas got the Magdenburg rights and in 1440-1445 the Hansa office has been established. This strenghtened the position of the town as the centre of trade.
The guilds of craftsmen were also set up. In the second half of the 15th c. and, especially, after the peace treaty signed in 1466 in Torno town, the merchants of Köningsberg paid great attention to Kaunas. Later Vilnius became the trade center.
The example of successful Hanseatic trade excited the ambitions of the Lithuanian merchants. In 1491 Germans were prohibited to trade directly with periphery. They had to make all commercial operations in Kaunas and Vilnius. In the 16th c. Kaunas merchants pushed out the Hansa headquarters which became empty in 1527. In 1528 St. Anthony’s society of German merchants went away and in 1540 the real estate of the society, which had debts, was transferred to the town property. In the 16-17th c., when wars against Russia and Sweden began, and after a terrible fire in 1732 the period of flourishment for the town had ended. In the 17th c. the building had the residential function, and later, after the fire, just ruined eastern wall remained. At the end of the18th c. the house was reconstructed and rebuilt and served as a cellar, was burnt and rebuilt again. Around the year of 1862 the cellar was reconstructed once again and such a gothic building has remained up to these days. At present a few conceptions for restoration have been produced, one of them presented to the renewed union of former Hanseatic towns. However, because of the lack of money the building is not under reconstruction. Architect Kęstutis Mikšys suggests to reconstruct the building by removing the cover details of later times. The foreseen functions for the building – administrative premises for the Museum of History.
The material was collected, translated and designed by a team of students from Kaunas Maironis Gymnasium:
Vaida Jankauskaitė class 12
Laima Mulerčikaitė class 12
SigitaRapalavičiūtė, class 2d
Irma Jokūbaitytė class 2b
Agnė Taparauskaitė class 2d