My dear adventurers and lovers of unusual journeys, I sincerely hope you are well and ready for a new adventure on the Mr.M blog. Today we continue our adventure in the capital of Lithuania – Vilnius and discover some new details and beauties of this charming city.
If by any chance you missed the previous story about Vilnius or want to remind yourself of some details, take a few minutes of your time and visit this link.
Before I start today’s post, I would like to thank the Vilnius Tourism Board for this amazing experience and for having the opportunity to visit the pearl of this unusual Baltic country in northern Europe!
In the previous post, I showed you a part of the Castle Complex in Vilnius and we saw what secrets the Grand Duke’s Palace hides. Today we continue our tour of the city and take you to another part of the complex. The Palace of the Grand Duke and the Cathedral in Vilnius formed a complex of castles and have been located next to each other for centuries, but the interesting thing is that these two buildings have completely different history.
Numerous scientists have found some evidence that in pre-Christian times on the site of today’s city of Vilnius, the pagan god Perkunas was worshiped. Numerous historical writings reveal that the King of Lithuania Mindaugas built the original cathedral in 1251 as the place of his baptism in the Christian rite. After Mindaugas’ death in 1263, the cathedral was restored to its original cult of worshiping pagan gods.
At the end of the 14th century, more precisely in 1387, when Lithuania formally accepted Christianity, another Gothic cathedral with five chapels was built. Unfortunately, in 1419, that cathedral was completely destroyed in a fire. In its place, Vytautas The Great built a larger Gothic cathedral. A century later, the cathedral was renovated, and written sources mention the bell tower for the first time. It is believed that the bell tower was built on the site of the defensive tower of the Lower Castle at the beginning of the 15th century. After the great fire in 1530, the cathedral was rebuilt, and from 1534 to 1557 more chapels and crypts were added.
During this period, the cathedral acquired architectural features associated with the Renaissance. After the fire of 1610, it was rebuilt and two front towers were added. It has been renovated and decorated several more times.
The Cathedral of Vilnius is a shorter formal name, while the original name of this sacral building is the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and Ladislaus of Vilnius. This is also the main Roman Catholic cathedral in Lithuania. It is located in the Old Town of Vilnius, not far from the Cathedral Square. Dedicated to Saints Stanislaus and Ladislaus, this church is the heart of Catholic spiritual life in Lithuania.
The coronations of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania took place in this sacral building. Many famous people from Lithuanian and Polish history are buried in the crypts and catacombs, including Vytautas the Great, his wife Anna, his brother Sigismund, his cousin Švitrigaila, St. Casimir, Alexander Jagiellon and two wives of Sigismund II Augustus: Elizabeth of Habsburg and Barbara Radziwill. The buried heart of the Polish king and Grand Duke of Lithuania Wladislaw IV Vasa rests here, although the rest of his body is buried in the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow.
The interior of the cathedral is adorned with more than forty works of art dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, including frescoes and paintings of various sizes. During the restoration of the cathedral, the altars of the presumed pagan temple and the original floor, set during the reign of King Mindaugas, were discovered. In addition, there were the remains of the cathedral built in 1387. A fresco from the end of the 14th century, the oldest known fresco in Lithuania, was found on the wall of one of the underground chapels of the cathedral.
During the Soviet regime, the cathedral was initially turned into a warehouse. Masses have been celebrated again since 1988, although the cathedral at that time was still officially called the “The Gallery of Images”. In 1989, it was restored to the status of a sacred religious building.
A historical event that marked history is the coronation of the young heir to the throne and future king of Poland, Sigismund II Augustus, who was crowned Grand Duke of Lithuania in the cathedral in 1529. After another fire in 1610, the cathedral was rebuilt, and two front towers were added. The cathedral was damaged again in 1655, when Vilnius fell into the hands of Russian troops in the Russo-Polish war between 1654 and 1667. years. The cathedral has been renovated and redecorated several times.
Between 1623 and 1636, on the initiative of Sigismund III Vasa, and later completed by his son Wladislaw IV Vasa, a baroque chapel of St. Casimir was built from Swedish sandstone, the royal architect Konstantin Tenkal was in charge of its construction. Its interior was reconstructed in 1691–1692 and decorated with frescoes by Michelangelo Palonius, an altar and stucco by Pietro Perti. This chapel contains sculpted statutes of the kings of Jagiellonia and an epitaph with the heart of Wladislaw IV Vasa. More than anything else in the Cathedral, this chapel symbolizes the glory of the Polish-Lithuanian Union and common history.
Between 1786 and 1792, three sculptures of Kazimierz Jelski were placed on the roof of the Cathedral in Vilnius – Saint Casimir on the south side, Saint Stanislaus on the north and Saint Helena in the center. These sculptures were removed in 1950, and restored and returned in 1997. It is assumed that the sculpture of St. Casimir originally symbolized Lithuania, the sculpture of St. Stanislaus Poland, and the sculpture of St. Helena holding a 9 m cross represents the true cross of faith. Later, in 2002, work officially began on the renovation of the Palace of the Grand Duke, which is located behind the cathedral itself. The newly erected palace building significantly changed the appearance of the cathedral.
The Cathedral and Bell Tower were thoroughly renovated in the period from 2006 to 2008. The facades are covered with fresh multicolored paint, which greatly improved the appearance of this sacral building. It was the first renovation since Lithuania’s independence in 1990.
I did not miss the opportunity, regardless of the weather conditions, to capture the moment when I visited such an important building as the Vilnius Cathedral. Now we will see a little what the streets of the capital of Lithuania look like and what you can visit from the museum, if the road leads you to unusual Vilnius!
Pilies Street (literally “Castle Street”) is one of the main streets in the Old Town of Vilnius. It is a rather short street, which stretches from the Cathedral Square to the Town Hall Square. Of the several locations across Vilnius used by market vendors to sell goods by local artists, Pilies Street is the most popular.
It has a natural advantage over the Town Hall Square because the street is very busy and it is less likely to be disturbed by political or cultural events that are usually held in the Town Hall.
A large number of tourists and locals visit this street to buy gifts for the holidays, such as Christmas or to visit friends before going abroad. The market is also popular among souvenir hunters. Souvenir shops offer amber dishes and jewelry, as well as unique clothes. The street is also known for the “Kaziukas” fair, when folk artists from all four parts of Lithuania gather to exhibit and sell their best products.
As the capital, Vilnius has been the art center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for centuries and has attracted artists from all over Europe. The oldest works of art that remain from the early Gothic period (14th century) are paintings dedicated to churches and liturgy (eg frescoes in the crypts of the cathedral in Vilnius, decorated books of hymns).
Wall paintings from the 16th century were also discovered in Vilnius (for example, painting the vaults of the Church of St. Francis and St. Bernard or in the Church of St. Nicholas). Gothic wooden, mostly polychrome sculptures were used to decorate the altars of churches in Vilnius. Some Gothic seals from 14-15. centuries have remained to this day (Kestutis, Vytautas the Great, Sigismund II Augustus).
The period of Baroque flourishing that began at the end of the 16th century was exceptional for Vilnius because wall painting flourished in the city. Most palaces and churches were decorated with frescoes that were characterized by bright colors, sophisticated corners and dramatic style. During this period, secular painting also spread – representative, imaginative, epitaph portraits, battle scenes, politically important events.
This type of painting is characterized by a detailed realistic style. Sacral architecture is dominated by sculptures of this period (tombstones with sculptural portraits, exterior and interior decorative sculptures), made of wood, marble and stucco.
Italian sculptors were extremely important in the development of sculptures of the Grand Duchy in the 17th century and were invited there by the Lithuanian nobility. Their works are characterized by the features of mature baroque: expressiveness of form, sensuality, atectonic composition (eg sculptural decoration of the church of St. Peter and Paul). Domestic Lithuanian sculptors emphasized the decorative features of the Baroque, and the expressiveness and emotionality of the Baroque was less characteristic in their works.
There are many prominent art galleries in Vilnius. The largest art collection in Lithuania is housed in the Lithuanian Art Museum. In one of its branches, the Vilnius Gallery of Paintings in the Old Town of Vilnius, there is a collection of Lithuanian art from the 16th to the beginning of the 20th century. On the other side of Neris, the National Art Gallery has a permanent exhibition on 20th century Lithuanian art, as well as numerous exhibitions on modern art. The Center for Contemporary Art is the largest place for contemporary art in the Baltic States, with an exhibition space of 2400 square meters.
The Center is a non-collectible institution dedicated to developing a wide range of international and Lithuanian exhibition projects, as well as presenting a wide range of public programs including lectures, seminars, performances, film and video screenings and new live music events.
Užupis Republic near the Old Town, once one of the most neglected districts of Vilnius during the Soviet era, is home to a movement of bohemian artists, who run numerous art galleries and workshops. Užupis declared itself an independent republic on April 1, 1997. In the main square, a statue of an angel blowing a trumpet stands as a symbol of artistic freedom.
Užupis Republic is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Užupis means “behind the river” or “other side of the river” in Lithuanian and refers to the river Vilnia, the name Vilnius is derived from the name of the river Vilnia. The district has been popular with artists for some time and many cities compare it to Montmartre in Paris and Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, precisely because of its bohemian and laissez-faire atmosphere. On April 1, 1997, this district declared itself an independent republic (Republic of Užupis), with its own constitution.
The most interesting thing is that in 2015, a project was realized – Vilnius Talking Statues. Eighteen statues across Vilnius communicate with visitors in multiple languages via a phone call to new smartphones.
If you want to learn something new about the incredible capital of Lithuania, the best address to start your journey is the Vilnius Museum. This is a new space for locals and tourists to learn more about the capital of this unusual Baltic country. Opening its doors for the first time in the spring of 2021, the Museum presents unique, and unknown, but still current, views of the city and the stories it tells.
This museum is dynamic in itself, with constantly changing exhibitions, like Vilnius itself, the Museum plans to set up two or three exhibitions each year, based on original studies of urban life. This museum is dedicated exclusively to Vilnius and invites visitors to take a closer look at the city and discover something unexpected in its premises.
Another museum you can visit is the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. This museum includes the former office of the Deputy Chief of the KGB Internal Prison on the first floor of the museum includes an exhibition of documents, photographs, maps and other objects depicting the Sovietization of the region in 1940-1941. years, as well as prison cells.
Exhibition dedicated to the guerrilla war of 1944-1953. years where you can get to know the territorial structure and military organization of guerrilla units, the aspirations of freedom fighters, their daily activities and daily life. The fight of the NKVD-NKGB against the armed resistance was revealed at the exhibition Unfair Fights.
On the second floor of the museum, there is an exhibition dedicated to the imprisonment of Lithuanians in gulags from 1944 to 1956, deportations from 1944 to 1953 and KGB activities from 1954 to 1991.
My dear travelers and adventurers, we have come to the end of this special second post about Vilnius, today you saw the most famous symbol of Lithuania and Vilnius – Vilnius Cathedral, which would not have been possible without the selfless help of the Vilnius Tourism Board in cooperation with local partners. Of course, as always, I tried to share my impressions of this unusual experience from Lithuania.
If you are planning a visit to the capital of Lithuania, try to get a Vilnius Pass, with which you can explore this magical city for less money. Even if you decide to visit Vilnius for only a day, two or three days, Vilnius Pass will help you make the most of your trip.
Time always flies when a person has a good time! A man is rich at heart if he has managed to explore the world and I am glad to always be able to find partners for my projects that help me discover new and unusual destinations in a completely different way during this global health crisis COVID-19.
I am honored to have the opportunity to work with companies that are at the top of the tourism industry and I would like to thank them for this amazing adventure and for allowing me to experience the beauty of this unusual Baltic country in North Europe in a completely different way.
How did you like this story of mine about my experience in Vilnius? Have you maybe had the opportunity to visit Lithuania before? Share with me your experiences, I would be glad to hear!
If you have a question, comment, suggestion or message for me you can write to me below in the comments. Of course, as always you can contact me via email or social networks, all addresses can be found on the CONTACT page. See you in the same place in a couple of days, with a new story!
Warm greetings from Lithuania,
This post is sponsored by the Vilnius Tourism Board. This post presents my personal and honest review of the destination experience.