Introduction of Lithuania: The Most Beautiful Churches
Greetings! Today, I continue the introduction of Lithuania to those who want to get to know my country. I do not know how about you, but for me, the churches are ones of the most impressive buildings. Of course, the beauty or our taste is a very slippery thing; after all, what is beautiful for me, the other man may find it tasteless. But, anyway, I offer to get to know some of the most beautiful churches in Lithuania.
Churches - the buildings that can be found in almost every larger Lithuanian settlement. There are about 1200 churches, more than 700 of them Catholics. 200 of them are old wooden churches. While traveling, I was surprised many times how small towns or villages were able to build such impressive objects. I have always looked at the churches as an architectural heritage. It needs to be understood and evaluated irrespective of the attitude towards religion. The masonry of such buildings visible from the distance embodies the efforts of the people, and its magnificence is astonishing even after many years.
Driving through the small towns in Lithuania, very often the attention is attracted by the eye-catching churches. Some of them are fairly standard, but some are just asking to stop and get out of the car for a closer look. So, let's start our journey through some beautiful Lithuanian Catholic Churches.
The Most Famous Churches in Lithuania
Vilnius Cathedral Basilica
The Vilnius Cathedral is one of the 100 most beautiful cathedrals in the world. It is the classicist masterpiece of the capital of Lithuania. Although the Vilnius Cathedral has been repeatedly ruined and burned many times over the long history, it still stands magnificently in the very heart of the Old Town of Vilnius, on the slope of the Gediminas Castle, and it is the most important Catholic religion shrine of the whole country, the place of the great Christian, national and state celebrations.
The first cathedral was built in the capital of Lithuania already in the 13th century by Duke Mindaugas. However, after his assassination, the cathedral was turned into a pagan temple. After the baptism of Lithuania, a new church was built in the place of the former temple. When it was burned down, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas, built a new, larger Gothic church, and the princes and noblemen built chapels next to it. However, Vilnius Cathedral has been rebuilt and renovated several times; it has a Renaissance, Baroque style.
There are more than 10 chapels in the cathedral, where many monuments of the history and art have survived. The most significant is the Holy Kazimierz Chapel, under which the Royal Mausoleum was built. The remains of the only saint patron of Lithuania, St. Kazimierz are kept in the Cathedral. The Lithuanian rulers, noblemen, famous people were buried in our Cathedral.
Architectural Heritage of Churches: Vilnius Cathedral Basilica - Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org
The interior of the building is rich in ornamental frescoes, valuable paintings, sculptures, tombstones.
We, Lithuanians, protect the Vilnius Cathedral, and we are glad to have it. It is a significant part of Lithuanian historical heritage, which hides many mysteries.
The Vilnius Cathedral is the magnificent building, surrounded by the buzz of the city, visitors' attention, and quietly preserving the history of Lithuania that will remain forever.
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Vilnius
The website churchpop.com has published a list of breathtaking beauty churches, the first of which is the Lithuanian church. It is the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is located in the Antakalnis district of Vilnius. It was included in the list of top 10 most beautiful churches of the world. People from over the world are coming to see this church. After entering the church, you can be shocked by the abundance of moldings there. There can be found a couple thousand of different liturgical, biblical, mystical, historical, and allegorical figures and paintings.
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was built in a Baroque style by the plan of the Latin cross. It has two towers, a dome, and a half-circle. The church has a double-edged facade, with columns and a balcony. The square to the church was named after John Paul II to commemorate the pope's visit to Lithuania.
Christ's Resurrection Basilica
Christ's Resurrection Basilica is the largest monumental architectural basilica church in the Baltic States. It was ceremonially sanctified in 2004 after Lithuania regained its independence.
In 1922, an idea to build the church as a symbol of thanksgiving to God for the regained freedom emerged in Kaunas, the temporary capital of that time. The church had become an architectural monument of the XX century. This should have been determined by modern stylistics, advanced construction, the best building materials, and a very good quality of construction work.
In 1934, during the first Eucharistic Congress of Lithuania, the cornerstone was brought from the Jerusalem Olive Mountain, and the foundations were put into operation. But the lack of money slowed down all the works, and the Soviet occupation stopped the building of the church completely. Only after regaining the independence, the church was reconstructed and finally, it started working as a church.
Most Beautiful Churches In Lithuania: Christ's Resurrection Basilica - Photo credit: vid1.ria.ru
Due to its scale, urban situation, and political significance, the Christ's Resurrection Basilica is undoubtedly the most significant example of the sacral architecture of interwar Lithuania.
St. Michael the Archangel Church - Sobor
St. Michael the Archangel Church is a neo-byzantine style building, located in the eastern part of Laisves Avenue, specially formatted in the center of the square. Previously, it was an Orthodox Sobor which in 1895 was built as a representative building expressing luxury and officiality.
The Sobor was designed by Russian architects decorated by St. Petersburg painters. In 1919, it was reconstructed into the Catholic St. Michael the Archangel Church. After the Second World War, the church has become a gallery of statuettes and sculptures. After the restoration of independence, St. Michael the Archangel Church, once again raised up crosses that were previously removed by the Soviet government. Now, it is not only a saint place for the prayers, but also the concerts of church music, theater performances, exhibitions are regularly held there.
The Architectural Heritage of Churches: St. Michael the Archangel Church
Photo credit: renginiai.kasvyksta.lt
Church of St. Anne
Church of St. Anne is a masterpiece of the late Gothic, breathtaking in its beauty. Church of St. Anne is one of the most beautiful and, probably, the most famous buildings in Vilnius. This is the late Gothic masterpiece. It has many legends. Most notable is that Napoleon saw the Church of St. Anne and wanted to bring it to Paris on his palm. It's a pity, but the reality is less romantic: during the Napoleonic march through Lithuania, the church was given away to the needs of French cavalry.
The founder of the Church of St. Anne is Grand Duke Alexander. The sanctuary was completed in 1500. From the distance, the church reminds a person who has to kneel down for the prayer and has raised his hands up. And if to look at the main facade, the form of Gediminas' pillars appears to be visible. For the building of Church of St. Anne, even 33 shapes of the bricks were used.
Lithuanian Catholic Churches: Church of St. Anne - Video credit: descubriendolituania.wordpress.com
In the XVI century, the church, rebuilt after the fire, to this day has remained virtually unchanged outside. Although it was restored several times, all the craftsmen tried to reproduce the old forms as accurately as possible. Unfortunately, the old interior decoration has disappeared.
The Highest Churches in Lithuania
Salakas church is located in the surroundings of lakes and forests, in a small town in the Zarasai district. Its construction was started back in 1907 and lasted about four years. The church is built of the stones, and it reached a height of almost 70 meters. In addition to the lack of funds, which was the biggest problem in the construction of all the churches of those times, the other obstacle to construction was the lack of stones. It is said that during the construction period, everyone coming to the town in a carriage had to bring in a large stone. Otherwise, he had to pay money, or go home without a carriage.
Locals say that the church's tower has been planned to be raised up to 95 meters in height. However, during the construction of the scaffolding, the height was reduced to 75 meters. A large ball is placed at the top of the tower, and above it is a cross. The result is impressive. Several years ago, it was restored. This church is an exceptional building of the Lithuanian lakes region.
The Highest Churches In Lithuania: Salakas Church - Photo credit: efoto.lt
Another unique object is Sasnava Church, located in Marijampole municipality. This church is considered to be the highest church of Suduva region. Construction began at a similar time as Salakas church, but, unfortunately, the First World War started, and the church has not been finished building. It was renovated around 1930 only as there was a huge shortage of funds during the construction period.
This church was built of bricks, so the policy bring in the stone was not valid here. There, another solution was chosen - to issue cards worth 1, 5 and 10 litai. The people buying them donated for the construction of the church.
Apparently, the money did not flood as much as expected, because the construction was completed only after decade, and the tower, which had a height of 70 meters, was molded lower. But that's enough. The church in the Suwalki Plains is visible from afar, and the light of its nightlife makes it possible for the planes to orient when flying into Lithuania.
Highest Churches In Lithuania: Sasnava Church - Photo credit: efoto.lt
Let's go to Samogitia. I'm not sure if this is the highest church in Samogitia, but its height is 70 meters. It is a church in Salantai, completed in 1911. In the book of Salantai Church, it is said that this church was built on the money donated by local residents.
During the construction of the church, the parish had about 12,000 inhabitants. At present, after a century, only the less than half of the population lives there. Such drastic reduction of people and believers is causing the difficulties encountered by contemporary communities to preserve such architectural values. The church already needs repairs, which is valued by hundreds of thousands of Euro, but it is impossible to collect from parishioners.
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On the other side of Samogitia, there is a relatively large town of Sveksna. The big church stays near the central square. It was completed in 1905. Its towers stand at a height of 65 m, and the street that surrounds the church is just magnifying its magnificence.
This church is also interesting because the time clock on its tower has been showing the time for a hundred years already. The literature states that this 1912 or 1914 year's clock, the gift of the Count Jurgis Plater, had only a few minor failures over the century. It is believed, that the watch is made in Switzerland, a country that is famous for its watches so far.
The Highest Churches In Lithuania: Sveksna Church - Photo credit: efoto.lt
The Oldest Churches of Lithuania
To me, accustomed to the large churches and cathedrals of large cities, the little churches, often the wooden, with exceptional architecture, some of which are even a few hundred years old look very attractive and very interesting as it preserves our history. Traveling through Lithuania with my parents in the childhood and later, I have visited a lot of them.
When I started to get interested in churches, I got to know a lot of new things about Christianity in Lithuania. The first churches began to be built in Lithuania around the fourteenth century. At that time, Christianity in Europe was far advanced, and the stone churches built there. We, the Lithuanians who were the Pagans, after the Christianity came to our country, still evaluated the wood. Therefore, the first churches were wooden. It was, in essence, an intermediate option, helping the people better at embracing this new faith (Christianity).
Of course, no authentic church ever survived - all of them were burned down or were destroyed. The oldest is the Stelmuze church, as well as an oak standing there - the church was built in 1650. However, all of the remained churches are rebuilt. Many were rebuilt or new ones were built at least twice.
Old Wooden Churches: Joseph's Church in Palushe - Photo credit: aparkai.lt
These shrines were built by the community itself; most carpenters were local. In the churches, their discernment, understanding of beauty is reflected. The whole community gave the money for which the church was built. In this most beautiful building in the town, they celebrated all of their most important holidays - from the christening, weddings to the last ceremony - the funeral. The legacy of those wooden churches - the traditions of ours.
The old churches are all beautiful, but some are the most impressing. Even historians admit that the churches built in the seventeenth-century are the most impressive. This is the golden age of our churches in Lithuania. Later, in the 18th-19th centuries, the churches were built simpler. Personally, I am most pleased with the Joseph's Church in Palushe - an old wooden church built in the middle of XVIII age. It is great and beautiful.
For me, the old wooden churches are an example of nationality that I want to know. It is a pity that the towns, in which these churches stand are becoming empty due to emigration. If there are no residents, then the churches will not be in the need anymore. Unless the tourist information centers will supervise them. But this will no longer be the houses of prayers, only tourist objects.
All the great works of art, the cathedrals - the Gothic cathedrals and the splendid Baroque churches - are a luminous sign of God, and thus are truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God. - Pope Benedict XVI
On the Final Note
There is an abundance of prayer houses in Lithuania, and they are all very different. Most often mentioned and visited are the largest and most impressive churches in Lithuania located in city centers. But not less impressive is the small churches that are far away from the big cities. There are also many churches of modern architecture in Lithuania that do not even look like built for their true sacred purpose.
The churches are situated in every corner of our country's land: the red, white towers rise up from the colorful villages and panoramas of the big cities, attract the attention of the passengers and delight the hearts of the inhabitants of their own. In the Sunday mornings, people crowd to the churches of their parishes waiting for St. Mass. And the travelers, tourists, and art lovers are often attracted to it not by St. Mass but with spectacular, magnificent, and much-thought-out architecture.
Introduction of Lithuania: The Most Beautiful Churches - Photo credit: efoto.lt
These massive buildings even after many years show the skills and talents of architects and builders of that time, which allowed the creation of masterpieces without any modern technology, which, by measuring today's scales, still seems impressive.
It is necessary to look at churches not only as a sanctuary but also as our cultural and architectural heritage. There is a perception of the beauty left by our ancestors. All the most beautiful what they were able to create, they put into the creation of the churches.
The majestic church buildings reflect our history and the changes of the eras.
Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. Buddha
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