The City of Kretinga is closely connected to one of the most affluent and influential noble families of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of the 16th and 17th centuries. With great power in their hands, they rivaled the notorious Radziwiłł family and were even prepared to take it to the next level by waging a personal war against the Radziwiłł family. In 1600, a private army consisting of 600 infantrymen, 1600 cavalrymen and 24 cannons of this noble family marched to Vilnius. The army was half of that which crushed the forces of the King of Sweden five years later. At that time, the battle between the Radziwiłłs and this noble family was avoided only thanks to Bishop Merkelis Giedraitis who was asked to mediate between the rivals by the King of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth...
It was the same family of noblemen that was fully devoted to defending the interests of Lithuania and were the first Lithuanian nobles to receive the title of counts. This was the Chodkiewicz family, the most famous of whom was Jan Karol Chodkiewicz (1560–1621) who served as the Elder of Samogitia, the Hetman (military commander) of the Army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Voivode of Vilnius. Jan Karol Chodkiewicz was considered to be one of the most gifted European generals in the beginning of the 17th century. In 1605, he led an army of 4000 warriors to the Battle of Kirchholm and gained an impressive victory against the Swedish army three times the size of his. In the aftermath of the battle, Jan Karol Chodkiewicz received greetings from the Holy Roman Emperor, King of England and the Shah of Persia.
There is a monument in the City Hall Square of Kretinga which was created by Architect Adomas Skiezgelas and Sculptor Rimas Eidėjus as a tribute to Jan Karol Chodkiewicz in 2009. The monument found its home in Kretinga because Jan Karol Chodkiewicz was the one who founded the City of Kretinga back in 1609 and granted it the Magdeburg rights. To commemorate this, the City of Kretinga was first called Karolštatas, i.e. the City of Karol.
The City Hall Square of Kretinga is an urbanistic monument of the 17th century. Four hundred years ago, a market and a two-storey high brick building with a tower stood at this location. This building served the function of the City Hall and was also often called the House of the Magistrate as it was the venue of the city council (magistrate) meetings. It was also the place where the townsfolk elected the burgomaster and other officials, the courts held their sessions and the merchants signed their contracts. The town criers proclaimed the decisions of the magistrate in the City Hall Square whereas the courtyard was used to carry out sentences and punishments. At the end of the 18th century, the surrounding wooden buildings were rebuilt into brick ones to protect the City Hall from fires.
As the Russian Tsar took over the government in Lithuania in 1795, Kretinga City lost its rights. The City Hall building was abandoned and slowly fell to ruin. It was completely demolished in 1845. Thirty years later, an orthodox church was constructed in the same place only to be replaced by the Freedom Monument in 1931. There is a possibility that the historic City Hall of Kretinga will be rebuilt once again in the future.