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SIGHTS IN VILNIUS

Vilnius Cathedral

    According to the prophecy of the 20th century poet-mystic Oscar Milosz, Vilnius is to become the Athens of the North. Whether it is true or not, no one knows. Bun nowadays there is one building in Vilnius that reminds of classical Athenian temples. This building is the famous Vilnius Cathedral.
     According to some ancient manuscripts on the place of the Cathedral there stood earlier a stone pagan temple to Perkunas with the altar where animals were sacrificed to propitiate the thunder god.
    The first cathedral was erected in the middle of the 13th century by the Lithuanian King Mindaugas, who, seeking favors from the Livonian order, converted to Christianity. It was a square Romanesque building with a massive tower. After Mindaugas' death in 1263, the cathedral again became a pagan temple. After the Christianization of Lithuania in 1387 a new cathedral was built. It stood there until the fire of 1419. In 16-18th centuries the cathedral suffered several fires and was rebuilt more than once. In 1769, a storm caused severe damages, destroyed the south tower and killed six people. The restoration work was started under the leadership of Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevicius, who had a really difficult task - to incorporate main Gothic building, the Baroque chapels of St. Casimir and the Valaviciai chapel, and other smaller chapels, from a variety of styles into one architectural ensemble. The admirer of Classical architecture wanted the cathedral to remind of a Greek temple both inside and outside, but his death prevented the complete realization of all his planes.
     In 1950, according to the direction of the Soviet Power the Cathedral was closed and the statues of the saints on the pediments were demolished. For a while the cathedral was used as a warehouse and then abandoned. When the building was handed over to the Museum of Art it was practically decaying: it had been plundered, the organ had been damaged, and the unique paintings were in a terrible condition. In 1980s the Cathedral was being restored. In 1990 the Cathedral was returned to the Catholic Church.
     The interior of the Cathedral is of a great artistic value. More than 40 artworks from the 16-19th centuries, both frescoes and paintings decorate the walls of the Cathedral. A museum dedicated to the history of the building from the pagan time till nowadays is located in the Cathedral's catacombs. At the exhibition different archeological finds and the altars of a pagan temple are presented.
     Casimir Chapel is one of the most beautiful examples of the early Baroque in Vilnius. It was constructed in 1623-1636 according to the order of the Grand Duke and King Sigismund Vasa, who wanted to have a chapel for the patron saint of Lithuania in the Cathedral. The palace architect and painter Constantino Tencallo used sandstone from Sweden, black, white and brown marble from Italy and the Carpathian Mountains for decoration works. Eight wooden statues, covered with silver, of the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland and members of their families, dating back to the middle of the 17th century, stand in niches in the walls covered with scenes from St. Casimir's life and allegorical compositions.
     Like many historic building the Cathedral has its mystery and doesn't want to disclose it. Many people believe in the evil spell Valaviciai Chapel cast on the researchers. There is a Latin inscription on the facade of the Valaviciai Chapel "Violator operis infelix esto" (Those who desecrate this creation will be unhappy). And in fact, the archeologists who explored the ancient layers of previous cathedrals tended to die rather suddenly.



Address: Katedros Sq., 1
Phone: 370-5-2611127