The City Gatekeeper

History of night differs from that of day. Many societies regarded darkness with fear and the night as the time of evil forces and the devil. The night makes some people feel uneasy, others suffer from nyctophobia, an extreme fear of night or darkness. On the other hand, it serves as a symbol of divine mystery and a source of inspiration for poetic souls.

In the 16th century, when a defensive wall was built around Vilnius, closing of all city gates at sunset became another ritual marking the beginning of the night. This was a precaution taken to secure the city, while the citizens had to guard their persons and possessions themselves.

Hired watchmen guarded the peace at night. They were joined by merchants and artisans, who were obliged to patrol at night. The job was very dangerous, because dozens of criminals and drunkards roamed the streets. Inebriated gun or sword-bearing nobles often caused a ruckus. Many night guards suffered injuries or even lost their lives guarding the city. The areas outside the city proper were very dangerous, even the most courageous rarely ventured beyond the gates.

This sculpture was created in 1973 by Stanislovas Kuzma.

Learn more about the Old Vilnius after Nightfall by clicking this link.