Updated 2006-12-27
 

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Churches of Vilnius

Flying low over Vilnius, the capitol of Lithuania

Vilnius has more than 40 churches, most of them being renovated after the Russians destroyed or desecrated them in other ways during the occupation. The Soviet power banned all religion and used the churches for other things, storage, car repair shops, final storage for people that the KGB was ďfinished withĒ, etc.

This image collection is in no way representative of the churches in Vilnius. Some churches look better on the inside than on the outside, in which case I havenít cared for the exterior, while others are nicest on the outside and not very exciting on the inside. Then, I show the inside only. Please not that my selection is neither religiously nor politically motivated. I show the pictures just because they are beautiful. Please roll yourself in the turgid golden, rose-coloured and glittering interiors, and the yummy, mint-green domes. Here you can your fill of fantastic interiors, heaps of angels, gold, and stained glass. If you still want more, you will have to go to Vilnius, walk around and get impressed. Some of the churches (Flagships) are so impressive you can hardly get out of there, or even get your finger off the shutter.

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All Saintsí Church (RC)
Anneís Church, St. (RC)
Arkikatedra (RC)
Augustinís Church(RC)
Ausros Vartai (RC)
Bartholomew, St.(RC)
Bernadine Monastery(RC)
The Three Crosses(RC)
Dvasios baznycia, Sventos (C)
Church of the Holy Mother of God (RuO)
Church of the Holy Cross (RC)
Church of the Holy Spirit (RC)
Sts. Johns Church (RC)
Jono baznycia, Svento (RC)
Virgin Maryís Church(RC)
Kalvariju Church (RC)
Kalvariju baznycia (RC)
Casimirís Church, St. (RC)
Catherineís Church, St. (RC)
Kazimiero baznycia, Svento (RC)
Constantin and St. Michaelís Church, St. (RuO)
Kotrynos baznycia, Sventu (RC)
Kryziaus baznycia, Sventu (RC)
Mikalojaus baznycia, Svento (RC)
Missionariesí Church(RC)
Gates of Dawn (RC)
Nicholasí Church, St. (RC)
Onos baznycia, Sventos (RC)
Peter and Paulís Church, Sts. (RC)
Petro ir Povilo baznycia, Svento(r-k)
Piatnitskaya Church(RuO)
Pokrovskaja, St.(RuO)
Romanoff cerkve (RuO)
Romanoffsí Church (RuO)
Skaisciausios Dievo Motinos cerkve(RuO)
Tereses baznycia, Sventos (RC)
Thereseís Church, St. (RC)
Church of the Holy Trinity(RC)
Trys kryziai (RC)
The University Church (RC)
Vilniusí Cathedral (RC)
Visu Sventuju baznycia (RC)
Flagships

Anneís Church, St.
Katherineís Church, St.
The Gates of Dawn
Peter and Paulís Church, Sts.
RC: Roman Catholic
RuO: Russian Orthodox

The University Church - Sts. Johnsí Church, Svento Jono baznycia

The University Church was built 1387-1426 and the University added a few years later. The church tower was erected 1600-1610. The church has burnt several times, and been exposed to war, but has always been rebuilt. The latest restoration was in the 18:th century. Occupying dictators had it closed and the teachers deported several times during history, but it has always reopened and continued its duty. For example: during the Soviet years the church served as science museum. The church has 10 altars, but earlier it had 23! 13 of them were removed in the beginning of the 19:th century.

Vilnius University Church, front

The front of the University Church faces the Skargos, Didysis kiemas, the Skargaís Yard or the Great Yard. The first university rectorís name was Skarga.

Vilnius University Church, front

Another popular view of the church front, that I am not alone to photograph. It is in all the brochures.

Vilnius University Church, front, from above

Skargaís Yard photographed from the top of the clock tower.

Vilnius University Church, and the lecture hall

The jumble of buildings is apparent in this picture of the church front. To the right is the lecture hall Alma Mater Vilnensis.

Vilnius University Church, the tower

The church tower, Vilniusí highest, 68 meters, photographed from the street, a picture printed in some books about Vilnius.  

Vilnius University Church, the altar

The altar looking its best, right before a wedding with lit candles in rows along the aisle and everything covered in flower petals.

Vilnius University Church, the altar

Another picture of the altar, with the lights on. Great! Amazing. The church has ten altars in all.

Vilnius University Church, the organ

The organ is newly renovated, and very well done, too.

Vilnius, University Church, St. Anneís Chapel

St. The chapel of St. Anne with gold, gold and more gold, left and right.

Vilnius, University Church, St. Anneís Chapel, detail

This is a detail of St. Anneís altar with the reliquary. It was hidden for the Russians, but is now displayed newly polished and splendid.

Vilnius University Church, the Black chapel

Who has seen an all-black altar? It was a first for me. Very difficult to photograph.

Vilnius, University Church, St. Anneís Chapel, detail

St. George and the dragon, a Christian legend that is popular in the Baltics too, stands to the left of the altar. St. Florian, patron of the firemen...

Vilnius, University Church, St. Anneís Chapel, detail

is to the right of the altar. Note the wooden water. To the right is a collection of all the golden goodies.

Vilnius, University Church, St. Anneís Chapel, overview

Vilniusí Cathedral - Arkikatedra

Vilniusí Cathedral the Basilica is on Cathedral Square. The church was used as an art museum by the Soviets, but was quickly converted to church again, as Communism disappeared. It is strange to walk around inside this majestic building, and, being aware of the country's cruel history, to see the guide point to the paintings on the walls, and tell: ďThis is N.N. who was killed by the KGB, and this is N.N. deported in 1950, and this...Ē
The cathedral has been rebuilt several times since the end of the 14:th century, the last time was in 1783 by Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevicius, a famous Lithuanian architect.

Vilnius Cathedral, front

The Cathedral front is well known to all who have been to Vilnius.

Vilnius Cathedral, with free-standing belfry

The bell tower is 52 metres high and free-standing in front of the church. It is the only item still standing of the medieval castle wall.

Vilnius Cathedral, front

The Cathedral is majestic as it rests on the newly renovated Cathedral Square in the evening sun.

Vilnius Cathedral, front

Looking up into the ceiling outside the great gate, unveils some beautiful friezes.

Vilnius Cathedral, front

Turning down the camera shows the height a little better.

Vilnius Cathedral, front with belfry

The bell tower in between two pillars.

Vilnius Cathedral, belfry

The belfry from the street. Itís the only thing remaining of the old castle wall. The three saints on the rooftop have their own story. They stood there before occupation, when the Soviets removed and crushed them. After Communism an artist made new ones. It took some time, but after seven years they were back on duty again. Some say they have grown in the meantime.

Vilnius Cathedral

The great gate, with a little girl rushing out into the sun.
Around all the outer walls are several classicist sculptures of Moses in niches.

Vilniusí Cathedral, sculptures

Vilnius Cathedral, night

Almost night, and the floodlight is beginning to work.

Vilnius Cathedral, night

The bell tower is also lit up.

Vilnius Cathedral, really night

Now it's all dark and the light on the three saints on the roof looks good.

Interior

Vilnius Cathedral, organ

The organ is restored and looks great. Note the figurines at the top.

Vilnius Cathedral, isle

The isle, looking down towards the gate, shot through a hole to the left of the main altar.

Vilnius Cathedral, main altar

The main altar, previously known as the Vytautas altar, because king Vytautas is buried downstairs, along with other Lithuanian kings.

Vilnius Cathedral, left side paintings

During occupation the Cathedral was an art museum. Most of the paintings are gone now.

Vilnius Cathedral, left side paintings

Still, there are a lot of paintings.

Vilnius Cathedral, left isle

Left isle, as seen from the altar end. At the far end is the entrance to St. Casimirís Chapel.

Vilnius Cathedral, Virgin Maryís Chapel

Virgin Maryís Chapel.

Vilnius Cathedral, Jonas Basanaviciusí bust

Jonas Basanavicius (1851-1927), was a doctor and freedom fighter, working for Lithuaniaís freedom from tsarist Russia in 1918. He is more or less a father of the people. He was instrumental in starting the Lithuanian parliament in 1905 and founded a national democratic party. He also collected stories in the same style as the Brothers Grimm and greatly affected contemporary literature. As a painter he has depicted old Vilnius in many copperplates.

St. Casimirís Chapel, Sv. Cazimiero kapella

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casimirís Chapel

St. Casimirís chapel, Lithuaniaís patron saint. He has his own church too.

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casimirís Chapel

Before mass the lights are on and everything looks nicer.

Vilnius, Cathedral, dome in St. Casimirís Chapel

The dome is decorated just right. It offers a minute of silent pleasure.

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casimirís Chapel

A statue of Vladislaus, king of the Polish and the Swedish. Indeed.

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casmimirís Chapel, the painting with the blind man

As Casimir was a holy man, his relics are able to cure the ill. Here is the scene where a blind man is cured at St. Casimirís coffin.

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casimirís Chapel, the golden portal

The Chapelís gate from the inside.

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casimirís Chapel, close-up of the chests

The silvery, upright chest, below the relics chest, hides a painting of Casimir with three arms.

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casimirís Chapel, three hands

The third arm is impossible to erase, legend has it. Letís zoom a little.

Vilnius, Cathedral, St. Casimirís Chapel, three hands cose-up

And it is true: Casimir has three hands on the painting under the relic chest!
So perhaps the legend is true, that tells of the painter first painting the saintís right hand badly and then painted over it and repainted in another position. To his horror, the next day he saw the original hand appear again! The legend also says that the badly painted hand canít be painted over, but will always return. I am not prepared to step up and test this.

The Gates of Dawn - Ausros Vartai

The most holy place in Vilnius, and the only piece left of the old northern city wall is the town gates. During Soviet time there were plans to build a highway, beginning at the Cathedral Square, through the Old Town (which was to be flattened), knocking down the Gates of Dawn, and onwards to Minsk, in present-day Byelorussia. Happily, the Soviet Union broke down in time, before these terrible plans were realised.

The Gates of Dawn - Ausros Vartai

The room where the icon hangs, has high windows facing the street below, and when pope John Paul II visited Vilnius in September 1993, it was from this room that he greeted the masses.

The Gates of Dawn, now painted blue.

In 2004 the chapel had been painted blue, although there are no historical proof of it ever having been blue. This happens to be all the city guidesí favourite spot Most city tours end here at Ausros vartu street with a visit to the chapel, and then everyone is free to wander around the Old Town. Most of them walk straight into one of the many cafés. See the buns department.

Gates of Dawn, close-up of the balcony

If you extend your zoom or get closer to the balcony, you can see the Madonna through the open windows.

Gates of Dawn, Madonna in the distance

An early wide-angle trial done on silver film, with high contrast.

Gates of Dawn, Madonna close-up

This Madonna close-up is a little faked. I have enhanced the contrasts of the face and hands for better viewing.
The sanctuary is one small room only, with one large painted icon, clad in gold plates. The room is considered the most holy place in Vilnius. The painting behind the gold plates is a Western renaissance masterpiece by an unknown artist, painted on wood boards. The gold was added later. The room is never empty. There are always worshippers kneeling, although outside this image. The walls of the room are clad in silver plates, with tens of thousands of hammered-out, cut-off arms, legs and hearts, symbolic offerings to Virgin Mary in thanks for faith-healing. It does look mighty strange. Rumour has it that there is a secret chamber behind the icon, housing all the jewels and other goods that was sacrificed through the centuries. The Soviets didn't find it.

The Gates of Dawn, icon detail

Another close-up of the Madonna. There is a large version too. Yum!

The Gates of Dawn, the altar

An upright panorama of the altar from the far end of the room.

The Gates of Dawn, silver plates

Here are the strange, hammered-out silver plates close-up.

The Gates of Dawn, more silver plates

Thereís lots of silver, in fantastic formations. But itís slightly faked. The brass shines through where the silver is worn. Perhaps the silversmith got his part, too?

The Gates of Dawn - Ausros Vartai, roof

ďMater MisercordiæĒ the painful motherly love, it says on the frieze blew the clock, that would in fact need some restoration.

The Gates of Dawn - view from the balcony

View down the Ausros Vartu from the balcony, the view that the Pope saw when he was there in 1993.

The Gates of Dawn - outside the city wall

But mainly, the Ausros vartai is a gate through the city wall. This is what it looks like from the outside.

The Gates of Dawn - outside the city wall

Well, it isnít painted blue on this side, at least. You see the opening where the iron gate would fall down.

The Gates of Dawn - outside the city wall, coat of arms detail

At the top is the Lithuanian coat of arms since 1366, the Vytis, a white knight.

The Gates of Dawn - outside the city wall, dove in niche

The doves like it in the sun in a niche outside the Ausros Vartai.

The Gates of Dawn, Ausros Vartu Street from inside the gate.

Ausros Vartu Street pictured from inside the gate.

You can hardly see the Gates of Dawn at the top of Ausros Vartu Street.

And if you go further down the street, past St. Thereseís and look back you canít see Ausros Vartai for all the tourists.

St. Church of St. Therese - Sventos Tereses baznycia

Sharing a wall with the Ausros Vartai is the Church of St. Therese During the Soviet years, when the Cathedral was used as art museum, St. Therese was used as cathedral.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, exterior

St. Thereseís Church from Ausros Vartu street. Note the Ausros Vartai in the background.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, exterior at sunset

St. Thereseís Church at sunset.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, interior

The sun shone through the stained glass windows and made nice coloured patterns on the floor, but I had to let them go, in favour of the church's other splendours.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, portal

It is decorated in rose and gold and looks magnificent, although it is slightly dark.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, main altar

The main altar and up along the walls. The golden figures whizz around, heaven opens, the sun shines...

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, side altar

yes, all the goodies at the same time. Here is a side altar with a magnificent, gilded painting of Mary and the child.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, the beautiful ceiling

This ceiling is simply too much.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, the ceiling and wall

The ceiling as it changes into richly decorated walls.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, a portal

Hereís just one of the extremely well preserved portals.

Vilnius, St. Thereseís Church, organ

I have never heard the organ, but it looks like itís capable of some fine bass notes.

Not far from St. Therese is a great café, where you can go after your eyes have had theirs, to let the stomach have its fill.

The Church of St. Anne - Sventos Onos baznycia

No doubt the best-looking church facade in Vilnius.. The St. Anne's is said to be the most beautiful church in the whole of Lithuania, and I cannot but agree. It is also said that Napoleon wanted to bring it home ďin the palm of his hand,Ē but that story seems to be told of all churches where Napoleon once set foot. Well, he didnít take St. Anneís with him, but took some other stuff from Vilnius.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church

St. Anneís Church from Maironio Street.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, intricate brickwork

The church front must be the most complex and beautiful brick construction conceivable, with thin arcs and projections.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, intricate brickwork

Notice the horizontal, spiralling beams.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, facade

The red bricks look much redder in dramatic evening sunshine.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, steeple

You zoom like crazy to get all the wonderful details.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, details

Small bars, metallic flags, spiral pillars, profiled bricks.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, details

Perfect symmetry, 45-degree angles and everything crowned by a typically Lithuanian cross.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, three buildings

The church, belfry and Bernadine Church behind.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church

A little sideways, with my back to the bell tower.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church from behind

Here, weíre standing at the gate of the Bernadine Church, seeing the back end of the St. Anneís.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church and the Bernadine Church

The Bernadine Church is right behind the St. Anneís. It is presently undergoing restoration.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church and the Bernadine Church

As you go farther away on Marionis Street, it is obvious that the St. Anneís can easily fit within the Bernadine Church.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church and belfry

St. Anneís Church ha a free-standing belfry looking slightly silly in comparison.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, belfry

The bell tower is kind of heavier. Itís built by another master, and he just simply wasnít as good.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church

You can find an infinite amount of fantastic angles. You can also see how thin and fragile the brickwork is.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church. 33 different types of brick were used.

33 different types of brick were used.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, detail

A picture of Christ above a little niche in the wall, where someone has put flowers. There are details everywhere.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, under-up image

The Bernadine Church behind St. Anneís in a fantasy-provoking under-up-shot.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, interior

The interior is very round-ish and looks quite ďheavyĒ.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, altar

The side altars are just too big. They look very massive. Note the blue spots if light.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church, stained glass

The stained glass is mostly blue, throwing wonderful blue spots of light everywhere.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church

The vicarage, the office or whatever, in a garden to the left of the main building.

Vilnius, St. Anneís Church from Gediminasí Tower

From some distance, shot from the top of Gediminasí Tower, the church looks like this. The St. Anneís in the middle of the picture can be hard to discern for a non-St. Anne-ologist. The Bernadine Church is to the left and the angular building to the right is what is left of the Bernadine abbey.

Vilnius, Mickevius statue by St. Anneís Church

Adomas Mickevius (Mits...), a Lithuanian poet who has written beautifully about Vilnius in Polish...

Vilnius, Mickevius statue by St. Anneís Church

...so much that the Polish started to view Vilnius a Polish city. Here he is, dreaming, to the right of the abbey. But all he did was adjusting to his customersí demands. Polish was the language of choice then.

St. Church of St. Nicholas - Svento Mikalojaus baznycia

St. Nicholasí church at Mikolajus gatve is Vilniusí oldest. It is mentioned already in 1387 but was probably built a few years earlier. It seems to have stood up against time quite well. It remains unchanged in Gothic style, from the time when Lithuania was christened.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, interior

It is obvious that St. Nicholasí is very old. It is dark and the ceiling is low.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, organ

The sunís rays, the spidery sticks painted in the ceiling, give a feeling of ďWow, something is coming out of the brickĒ.

The walls are almost featureless and the organ loft is all white. There have been lots of paintings here.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, left side altar

Left side altar. There were paintings on these walls before.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, main altar

The altar is quite modest. And all black, which is unusual. And hard to photograph. Thereís another hard-to-shoot altar here.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, right side altar

Right side-altar. Look at the angelsí golden wings.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, outside the wall

An ancient wall leaning in all directions surrounds the church.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, Vytautas in a niche

The church is consecrated to Vytautas the Great. Heís staring at us from the wall. It was he who christened Lithuania.

Vilnius, St. Nicholasí Church, crooked wall

This church is really old. It is obvious because the wall is curved outwards from age.

The Church of the Holy Spirit - Sventos Dvasios baznycia

The building begun in 1501, but is has burnt several times since. The latest renovation, in late Baroque and rococo happened 1752-1760. The Baroque organ was added in 1777 built by the master Casperini Gottlieb. Napoleon pinched parts of the interior in 1812 as he was running from the Russian army, but it was returned in 1815. The church was open during the Soviet years, but the nearby monastery was closed. It is now the main church for the Polish in Vilnius.
The church has 3-4 floor beneath the ground, used as shelters during wars and epidemics. During the e.g. 1930ís a whole storey full of desiccated corpses was found. A bit further down the
Dominikonu gatve is the Church of the Holy Cross.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, exterior

The church is built into the building along the Dominikonu gatve. In the front is a Christian bookshop.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, mass

During mass the light is different.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, front part

The church has 16 altars. Where have they put them? As you get inside, you just stand there with your mouth open.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, the Lord hangs over the main altar

The Lord sits on an arch in the air over the main altar.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, interior

First you think that the ceiling is all in rose...

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, fantastic ceiling

but then you se that itís rose and sunny yellow. The dome is 49 metres high. Look at all the detail!

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, main altar

The main altar, well you can hardly see it. Itís almost too good.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, left side altar

Left side altar. With its front clad in silver and gold plates.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, stained glass

The holy family painted on glass.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, right side altar

Let us get closer to the right side altar...

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, closer to the right side altar

We raise our eyes and lenses towards the ceiling...

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, top of right side altar

and check out the exquisitely detailed sky with angels and everything at the top.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, rear side altar

Left rear altar, a bit dark and secluded.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, rear side altar

The right rear altar is also badly lit.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Spirit, across-altar

In the middle of the church is an altar with a constantly lit picture of Christ. ďJezu, ufam tobieĒ means ďJesus, we trust youĒ. ďJezu, ufam tobieď means ďJesus, we trust in youď.

St. Constantin and St. Michaelís Church (The Romanoff Church) - Romanoff cerkve

On Basanavicius Street, a bit away from the city centre, youíll find the Russian Orthodox church built to commemorate the 300:th anniversary of the reign of the Russian Romanoff tsar dynasty. The citizens of Vilnius informally calls it The Romanoff Cerkov. The church was built between 1911-1913 and the tsar could enjoy it in the then free Lithuania until the family was brutally murdered by a Bolshevik death squadron one day in July 1918. Cerkov is the Russian word for church, but the Lithuanians take great care to differentiate between cerkve (Russian Orthodox church) and baznycia (Catholic church).

Vilnius, St. Constantin and Michaelís Church, front

Isnít it yummy? Doesnít it look like some pastry with green mint topping?

Vilnius, St. Constantin and Michaelís Church, front

Newly renovated on the outside, it shines in white and green. All the scrolls make you think of something Arabic.

Vilnius, St. Constantin and Michaelís Church, dome close-up

It is good enough to eat. Just give me a big enough spoon.

Vilnius, St. Constantin and Michaelís Church, portal

ďGod bless and save mankindĒ the old Cyrillic writing above the door says, more or less.

Vilnius, St. Constantin and Michaelís Church, iconostase

Inside its sparsely decorated, not at all like the rich sobors that are probably getting money from Moscow to...

Vilnius, St. Constantin and Michaelís Church, wall with icons

show an attractive facade, such as the sobor in Palanga. Perhaps the Romanoffís arenít all that popular in the Kremlin?

The Church of the Holy Mother of God - Skaisciausios Dievo Motinos cerkve

Right by the bridge to Uzupis over the river Vilna is the white sobor (rus. cathedral) The Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Mother of God. It was built between the years 1511 - 1522 and has since been employed as military barracks, and during Communism as a museum of anatomy and veterinary arts. And it is so extremely white it is hard to expose properly.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, exterior

Another story tells that the church was built in the 15:th century on the initiative of Julijona (Juliana)...

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, front

the wife of Grand Duke Algirdas. She is also buried here.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, exterior

And look out for the aggressive beggars outside. Especially the guy who claims he is an orphan!
Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, iconostase The excessive iconostase from various angles. First, from the right. Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, iconostase And then in front in a ďworshipping shotĒ with the camera on the floor and me kneeling behind. Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, iconostase Finally from the left. Admire the beauty.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, figure of Christ

The walls in the room are all yellow and green, very much like a Swedish bathroom from the 50ís.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, iconostase left

If everything looks a little greenish itís because of the bathroom-coloured ceiling.

Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, iconostase right

And my, were people wondering what I was up to. But I donít care.
Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, ceiling Too much 1950ís tint for my taste. Vilnius, Church of the Holy Mother of God, side altar The didnít have the standard old Russian baba, walking around, fixing flowers and nagging you about not to make any pictures, but there was a suspiciously staring priest. If I want to lie on the floor to get a steady picture, thatís what I will do.

St. Church of St. Casimir - Svento Kazimiero baznycia

St. Casimir is the patron saint of Lithuania. He was a kings son, a Christian person who died very young (about 25 years). His remains are revered as miraculous and many claim to have been healed by him. Well anyway, the Jesuits started building the church in 1604, using builders from Vilnius. The church has burned many times and was latest rebuilt 1749-1755. It was changed into a Russian-Orthodox church in 1864, and the crown was removed in favour of a bulbous dome. An iconostase was put in front of the altar, etc. In 1925 it was back to Catholicism again, and in 1842 the crown was back.
During the Soviet days the church was used as a Museum of Atheism. You don't say? Today it is the patron of youth. The classicist building to the right in the first picture was once the City Hall.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church

During an evening walk the sun illuminated St. Casimirís Church, a baroque masterpiece from the 17:th century. The picture kind of threw itself at me, ordering to be photographed.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, crown

Note the fancy crown on top of the tower. One must admit Vilnius has style, compared to concrete-Stockholm.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, front to street

The church has no ordinary bells. Instead it has a wind-driven carillon, like wind chimes.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, interior

If you stand in the doorway and canít get in, as when I took this picture, it looks like this.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, main altar

The next year the church was open and all the splendour was there, for my shutter to snap at.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, main altar

ďMajesticĒ is a grave understatement when it comes to this main altar.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, cream-colour organ

The organ: small, compact. Everything is creamy white.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, cream-colour dome

Have a look at the dome. Itís cream colour, too, probably because the paintings were destroyed.

Vilnius, St. Casimirís Church, right side altar

The side altar is just as majestic as the main altar. You hardly know which one to choose.

All Saintís Church - Visu Sventuju baznycia

ĒAll Saintís ChurchĒ literally means a church for all conceivable saints, all at once. Hence the enormous amount of side altars. A real Christian pantheon.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, exterior

Where the Visu sventuju gatve, (All Saintís Street) crosses the Rudininku gatve is the All Saintís Church, just recently restored and opened (2004). The rose facade is decorated with spirals à la Princess Leiaís hairstyle.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, side chapel

To the right of the main altar youíll find a side chapel.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, left side altar

Left front side altar, consecrated to St. A.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, main altar

The main altar is really inflated baroque style, almost like an enormous old-style bathtub.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, right side altar

Right front side altar, consecrated to St. E.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, left side altar

Left side altar #1, consecrated to St. A.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, ceiling over main altar

In the ceiling above the altar Trinity is peeping down from a blue sky with sunbeams and fat angels around.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, right side altar

Right side altar #1, consecrated to St. F.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, left side altar

Left side altar #2, consecrated to St. B.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, overview

And this is the whole shmere, 11 altars in all.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, right side altar

Right side altar #2, consecrated to St. G.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, left side altar

Left side altar #3, consecrated to St. C.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, the blinding white ceiling

Even though the ceiling is not painted, it is über-powering.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, right side altar

Right side altar #3, consecrated to St. H.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, left side altar

Left side altar #4, consecrated to St. D.

Vilnius, All Saintís Church, organ

The organ, with angelís trumpets and all.

Oops, I mustía missed an altar there...

Any suggestions for the saints involved?

The Church of the Holy Cross - Sventu kryziaus baznycia

The Church of the Holy Cross on Dominikonu gatve was opened in 2004, unbearably modern inside. Terrible! I can but regret the massive damage that must have been behind the complete modernisation. Right next to it is the Church of the Holy Spirit .
Vilnius, Church of the Holy Cross, facade This church is just a part of the wall of a larger building right by the University. Vilnius, Church of the Holy Cross, altar Inside the walls are completely devoid of medieval illustrations. Everything is flattened. The altarpiece is psycho-modernistic, empty, the guess-it-yourself model. Vilnius, Church of the Holy Cross, Madonna painting I found only this one painting of the Madonna, but it was nauseatingly modern. Why?

St. Church of St. Catherine - Sventu Kotrynos baznycia

Here a new jewel in Vilniusí crown! If you were to vote for the most beautiful church in town, St. Anneís would still win, but St. Catherineís beauty makes me gasp in amazement, and hopefully the rest of the world, too. A great second place. Yes, it is close on St. Anneís heels. I can but congratulate the restorers.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, overview 2006

The pride of Vilniaus gatves ! The scaffolding is almost gone from St. Catherineís. It shines in rose and looks newly polished. It will be nice when itís finished, but that will be some time yet, because of the catastrophe inside.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, top

Man! Dig this! Enjoy the typically Lithuanian crosses with wavy sun-rays.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, concert hall 2006

In 2006 the restoration had come so far as to allow it to be used as a concert hall.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, Trinity is watching you, newly polished

The eye of the Trinity is back in order and the beams are once again radiating.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, Virgin Mary welcomes

Maria welcomes you to Paradise, although a bit dented.

2005

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, overview

This is what it looked like in 2005, with scaffolding still in place.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, side

This is a backyard where there once was an abbey.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, front

A picture taken from the lawn in front (note the beams sticking out from under the roof).

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, middle of the hall

Oneís breath is taken away when one steps over the planks and into the hall. I hard to believe something can be so utterly destroyed.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, main altar

The restorers seem to have a good chance of restoring everything to its former glory. Much more than in other churches.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, rear view, organ

Some figurines seem to be hanging in their original places in the ceiling, seemingly untouched.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, right front side altar, busted front

All the altars have had their fronts busted in. In hate, or in search of hidden treasure?

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, main altar centered

Much of he original paint and gold is left, but the sun rays are sagging around the face of the Lord above the main altar.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, broken organ

The damp-stains indicates that the church was without windows for many years. The organ has had its pipes stolen, but should look like this one.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, Latin inscription

A Latin text that was magically spared, but the figure that probably was in the alcove to the left, is gone.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, right side altar, busted front

Right side altar, busted and broken.

Vilnius, St. Catherineís Church, electric motor. Not holy!

A motor! It was probably not part of the original furnishing, but used as part of de Communist desecration of the building.

Kalvarijos Church - Kalvariju baznycia

Kalvarijos gets two stars in the book - well worth a detour - and it gets 5 stars for absolute stillness. Youíll have to take microbus 5 some distance into the Vilnius suburbs to get to the ancient suburb of Jeruzale, so named after the final station of Jesusí walk to Golgata (in Jerusalem). The Calvary ends here at Kalvarijos Church. Far out in the countryside when the church was built. A seven kilometre walk along 32 stations in absolute countryside idyll far away from the rumbling buses and wailing car alarms. Here, the birds twitter, the flickers trough the birch leaves. Whatever is, silence. The ears buzz all by themselves, surprised by the sudden silence.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, exterior

Kalvarijos Church, fifteen minutes walk from the bus stop.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, tower

Up along the towers.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, the original main stairway

The Calvary temples, the stations, lie along a path the believers should traverse to feel Christís suffering for themselves.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, one of the last stations

And if you canít budge it, there are some ten stations around the church.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, inside one of the last stations

They stand along the old road to the church and up along the terribly long and slightly derelict main stairway.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, last outdoor station

And this is the last outdoor station. Just ignore the sour Polish ladies sitting everywhere, always nagging you not to make pictures.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, inside the last outdoor station

Make a few extra shots just to tease them.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, Calvary paintings

If you are even more tired, all stations are available as paintings around the church walls.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, right side altar

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, left side altar

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, organ

Nice, fine, light greyish green organ. A concentrated organ.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, ceiling overview

But itís the ceiling that makes your jaw drop.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, main altar

The cream yellow altar is proud too, but your eyes wander back to the ceiling.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, rear ceiling paintings

Rear ceiling. Perfectly restored. Sigh.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, middle ceiling paintings

Middle ceiling Double sigh.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, front ceiling paintings

The front ceiling above the altar.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, left side altar

Left side altar. Not only is it nicely lit (but the ceiling needs fixing)...

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, flowers on left side altar

...it also has a fantastic flower bouquet.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, the Madonna altar

The Madonna altar

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, churchyard

The churchyard on the slopes around the church, are ancient and a veritable jumble...

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, churchyard

seemingly without order. 21:st century mixed with 18:th century.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, churchyard

The churchyard seems to have been mainly used by the Polish.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, churchyard, really old grave

This one is old. 1700-something. Notice the metal Madonna.

Vilnius, Kalvarijos Church, childís grave

The presentation end with a childís grave. They always weigh heavy on your heart. ďIci repose Georges Ledoux Ē who turned 8 in 1892. Children are always happy, gladdening their parents. And when they suddenly pass away there is no greater sorrow. A cherub is probably always suitable.
The Swedes occupied parts of Lithuania in 1622 and Vilniusí bishop was out and about to hide some of the cathedral goodies around Vilnius. Unfortunately the Swedes caught him. Thanking God that he was let off with his life he had the Calvary temples built. It took seven years to build both Kalvarijos Church and the temples, the latter in wood. The stations burnt and were replaced with stone temples in the 18:th century. The were again destroyed by the Soviets in 1963, but are more or less restored today.

The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul - Svento Petro ir Povilo baznycia

I have saved the best for last! A bit out of the way from the city centre, at the end of Antakalnis gatve is the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, the church in Vilnius with the most adorable interior. The construction was begun in 1668, sponsored by a M. K. Pacas, a Lithuanian nobleman, to celebrate Vilniusí liberation from Russia.
The architects were Italian, working for a Lithuanian builder. Pacas himself is buried beneath the doorstep of the main entrance, and his grave bears the inscription HIC JACET PECATOR: ĒHere lies a sinnerĒ.
The interior consists of some 2000 baroque white plaster figures. Pacas happened to die before the church was finished and the money ran out, so e.g. the altar looks quite meagre. Nevertheless, the church is a baroque pearl. You won't find anything surpassing it. What St. Anne's is on the outside, Sts. Peter and Paul is on the inside.
Here, a Christian can get all he can take of glory and extravagance, altars, icons, symbolism, but everything gets better still if you offer the church-guard a few litas so they can afford to turn he lights on. If you make only 25 pictures it's derision, 50 is a great beginning, and a hundred is about right. Bring a tripod.

Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, view towards altar

Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, view towards organ

1 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, facade

1 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, facade

Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, view towards altar

Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, view towards altar

14 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, left front side altar

20 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, main altar

20 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, ceiling over main altar

20 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, main altar

15 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, dome

13 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, right wall

9 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, left side altar

18 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, left front smallish altar

Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, plans, click for enlargement

20 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, ceiling over main altar

17 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, right front side altar

13 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, right wall

12 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, pulpit

15 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, dome with votive ship

16 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, votive ship

7 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, left side altar

9 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, left side altar ceiling

11 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, the richly decorated ceiling

8 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, right side altar

11 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, right side towards organ

11 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, right side towards organ

3 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, organ

3 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, organ

11 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, left side towards organ

6 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, round side chapel

 

4  Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Christopher, Vilniusí patron saint

2 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pacasí tombstone

5 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, statue of Death

6 Vilnius, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, entrance to round side chapel

 
The upper row, overviews,
with and without lighting, and exteriors
1. Exterior
2. Pacasí tombstone
3. The organ
4. Statue of St. Christopher carrying Christ across the river, Vilniusí patron saint
5. Statue symbolising death
6. Chapel in the round room inside the right hand tower
7. Left side altar
8. Right side altar
9. Left side altar
10. Right side altar
11. Middle of the decorated ceiling
12. The pulpit
13. Wall ending in pillar
14. Left front side altar
15. The dome
16. The votive ship
17. Right front side altar
18. Left front smallish altar
19. Right front smallish altar
20. The main altar
There are several stories concerning the altar-piece (20), or the lack of it. One of them has it that Pacas had an altar made out of pure gold (or gilded perhaps) somewhere in Europe, and that it was to be taken to Vilnius aboard a ship. The ship sank in the Baltic Sea and the votive ship was hung in the dome for remembrance. Now, thatís really something to thank God for.

The Three Crosses - Trys kryziai

The three crosses on a hilltop in the Mountain Park (Kalnu Parkas) close to Vilnius centre are also part of Lithuania's religious history. When the Soviet Union occupied the country, the crosses were blasted, removed and buried. Very few modern Lithuanians have seen the original crosses, and even fewer knew where they were buried. One if the first things on the agenda when the Soviet Union started to soften, was to make copies of the crosses and erect them at the original site.

Vilnius, The Three Crosses

It is believed that three monks were crucified here in the 13:th century. The crosses are a symbol of Christianity in Lithuania, the country that was heathen longer than any other European country, all the way to 1387.

Vilnius, The Three Crosses

Lithuania had a religion somewhat like the good old Nordic Aesir cult, but with partly different deities.

Vilnius, The Three Crosses

Unfortunately, the crosses are at the top of a steep hill, and it's not so easy to make an overview of them.

Vilnius, The Three Crosses from behind

Nice from behind like this, but the not so nice, blasted crosses lie nearby.

Vilnius, The Three blasted Crosses

They have been placed on a little hill along with all the recovered pieces of the fundament.

Vilnius, The Three blasted Crosses, fundament

You can read ď1959Ē off the fundament, but not much more.

Vilnius, The Three blasted Crosses, close-up

The broken concrete is more than just broken concrete, it stands for an attempt to subdue the peopleís thoughts...

Vilnius, The Three blasted Crosses, close-up

...and souls with violence and dynamite. And it failed. Here are the blasted crosses to remind everyone what they looked like, so that no one can forget what happened. I can hear all the Communists gnash their teeth.

Vilnius, view from The Three Crosses

Here are some of the views to see from The Three Crosses. View towards the Bernadine Church with its abbey, and St. Anneís Church.

Vilnius, view from The Three Crosses

A close-up of St. Casimirís Church and the crown. In front of it, the Augustinís Church waiting to be restored, and in front of that, the Church of the Holy Mother of God at Uzupis.

Vilnius, view from The Three Crosses

View towards the Old Town, Vilniusí University and the University Church.

Vilnius, view from The Three Crosses

Far away we see the TV Tower beyond the Vingis park. Gediminas Tower is in the front.

Vilnius, The Three Crosses from the streets below

The Three Crosses are visible from all over the city centre. With you telephoto lens on you can get a nice picture of the pair doing something in front of the crosses.

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