Barbora etc.

2023 05 31

The exhibition was dedicated to the 500th anniversary of Barbara Radziwiłł‘s birth. The title originates from the queen’s letter correspondence and is a nod to the signature form that she frequently used – “Barbara, etc.”. This was an unusually modest and simple way to sign the documents for someone who was the Queen of Poland and the Grand Duchess of Lithuania. Therefore, the exhibition encouraged visitors to reacquaint themselves with one of the most popular women of Lithuanian history in a completely new light, not only through the lens of a love story between her and king Sigismund Augustus. The exhibition covered various aspects of the noblewoman’s life – from health and diet to wardrobe, literacy, and geography – and invited the visitor to discover them by engaging all of the senses.

The exhibition took the form of an imaginary Barbara’s drawer chest. Its 24 drawers represented different aspects of the noblewoman’s life. For example, one of them invited visitors to feel the textures of the pearls and textiles worn by the queen, another – to smell the medicinal mixtures prepared by her doctor or to explore the dental hygiene of the 16th century. Also, Barbara’s correspondence allowed visitors to reflect on what she was like personally and whom she shared her joys and sorrows with. Moreover, visitors found out Barbara’s favourite dessert and its recipe, preserved since the 16th century.

Barbara Radziwiłł was born into a family of Lithuanian elites on 6th December 1522. In 1543, already widowed from her first husband, Barbara began a love affair with the last ruler of the Jagellonian dynasty, Sigismundus Augustus, the King of Poland and the Grand duke of Lithuania. The pair secretly married in 1547: their union caused a great scandal among Polish nobility and was strongly opposed by Sigismundus’ mother, Bona Sforza. However, Sigismundus became determined to gain recognition for Barbara as queen – and her coronation finally took place at Wawel cathedral in December of 1550. However, the queen’s health was already rapidly deteriorating then, and she died in Cracow on 8th May 1551. Barbara’s final wish was to be buried in the city of her childhood and youth, and so her body was taken to Vilnius. The crypts of Vilnius cathedral became her burial place and hold Barbara’s remains up to this day.

The location of the exhibition was deliberately tied to Vilnius Cathedral and its bell tower. Since her childhood, Barbara must have heard the Cathedral bells toll daily, as she grew up in the Radziwiłł Palace nearby. The mournful chorus of Cathedral bells accompanied the funerary procession of the late queen as she was laid to her final rest. For ages, Vilnius Cathedral held the secret memory of Barbara’s burial site which was only discovered in 1931. The remains and memory of Barbara Radziwiłł are still honoured in the Royal Mausoleum up to this day.

Exhibition curator: Inga Cironkaitė-Bendžienė, scientific consultant: Prof. Raimonda Ragauskienė.
Architect and designer: Povilas Vincentas Jankūnas.
Funding for the museum is provided by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, Vilnius Archdiocese.
Sponsor: Vilnius City Municipality.
Media sponsors:, „Vilnius 700“, UAB „JCDecaux Lietuva“, UAB „Media Traffic“, „IQ“ magazine.

In the poster of exhibition – S. Kuzma, Barbora Radvilaitė, property of The Palace of Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

The exhibition is part of the programme.
More information: email, tel. +370 600 12080


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