The Heraldry of the Noble Gruževskis Family and Its Actualisation at the Kelmė Regional Museum

  • Gabrielė Jasiūnienė
Keywords: heraldry, coat of arms, heraldic seal, nobility, museum, Samogitia


From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the heraldry of the nobility of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was influenced by local, Polish, and other European heraldic traditions. The coat of arms became one of the most important elements representing the culture and identity of the nobles. It reflected their family and marital ties, titles, positions, and other important aspects in the life of the nobility. The coats of arms that have survived to this day act as a reminder of the past lives of their holders. The article explores the heraldry of the noble Gruževskis (Grużewski) family from Samogitia between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries and its actualisation in the twenty-first century in the manor estate in Kelmė that was formerly owned by this family. The analysis revealed that the Gruževskis, a Polish noble family, who moved to Samogitia in the sixteenth century, enriched the heraldic tradition of the region’s nobility with the Lubicz coat of arms originating in Poland. The Lubicz coat of arms depicts a white horseshoe on an azure field with two crosses, one cross inside the horseshoe and the other outside with a crest of three ostrich feathers. The article looks at the heraldic seals held by the members of the Gruževskis family be­tween the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the seventeenth-century coat of arms of Jurgis Gruževskis in the joint coat of arms in Kelmė Evangelical Reformed Church, and the eighteenth-century coat of arms of the Gruževskis family above the entrance to the manor house they used to own. It has been observed that the members of the Gruževskis family preserved their coat of arms from the sixteenth century up to the second half of the eighteenth century and that it was passed down from generation to generation. The analysis of the records shows that the family’s heraldic tradition featured both single-field and combined coats of arms. The emergence of the former in the seventeenth century is traced back to Jurgis Gruževskis. Today, the Kelmė Regional Museum is one of the main memory institutions that preserve and actualise the legacy of the noble Gruževskis family. While the coat of arms of this family is not forgotten by the museum and receives relatively comprehensive attention, there are few attempts to provide more detailed information or more critical insights about it. The heraldry of the former owners of the manor estate is usually presented using easy-to-understand visual resources such as illustrations, stands, interactive materials, and souvenirs. It is believed that visitors could be offered a more detailed picture of the heraldic traditions of the Gruževskis family and a more critical approach to these traditions could be developed by drawing upon a relatively extensive range of heraldic sources and scholarly materials. The possibility of showcasing the copies of the sources featuring the family’s heraldic traditions or developing thematic educational activities is to be considered.