The Old Karaite Graveyard

  • Žalioji str., Trakai
  • http://www.seniejitrakai.lt

karaimu kapinesThe old Karaite graveyard lies in the western part of Trakai in Užtiltė on the left hand side of Zalioji str. on the north-western shore of Totoriškės Lake. The area is shaped like an irregular rectangle . On the western side of the graveyard is a path leading to the new Karaite cemetery.

The graveyard dates back to when the Karaites first settled in Trakai in the late fourteenth century. Burials took place in the northern part until the plague year of 1710 and in the southern part until 1932. All burials have a north-south orientation. The earliest graves have simple stone monuments and later floral or geometrical designs were carved on the stones with epitaphs and quotations from Holy Writ. After 1710 we can sense the influence of local culture and there are inscriptions in Russian and Polish as well as Karaite. Later graves are surrounded by cast-iron railings. The whole graveyard is girt with a low stone and earth wall with two gates on the north and west sides. The northern gates were built in the eighteenth century and the western ones in 1897 (according to a design by Mikhail Prozorov and A. Griaznov. The work was carried out at the instigation of the local activist Feliks Malecki.

In the northern part of the cemetery under its stone lies the body of Ezra ben Nissan, Trakai Karaite vogt and physician to the king-grand duke John Casimir and his family. He died in 1666. In the southern part the theologian Solomon of Trakai (1650-1715) and the hakkans (senior clergy and secular leaders) Boguslav Kaplanovskiy (1806-98) and Romuald Kobecki (1823-1911) are buried.

This is a Trakai Historical National Park memorial site. There is no threat to the graves. Continual woodland clearance work is under way. The Old Karaite Graveyard belongs to the Lithuanian Republic.

More information: www.seniejitrakai.lt

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