The Gate of Dawn (Ausros Vartai)
is one of the main landmarks of Vilnius. Built in 1522, the
Gate represents the only extant gate of the stone defensive
wall that surrounded the town. The Gate of Dawn or as it was
originally called the Medininkai gate was built on the most
important trade routes in the southern part of the town leading
from Vilnius to Medininkai Castle, to Minsk, Smolensk, Moscow.
Nowadays the three-story renaissance building is an entrance
to the Old Town.
The unique decor of the renaissance
attic represents the characteristic features of that style.
On the main facade of the Gate gryphons guard the arms of
the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. On the frieze below the bell
tower one can read "Mater Misercordi?" (painful
motherly love). Earlier in front of the Gate there was a drawbridge
and a moat. The best place to enjoy the beauty of the Gate
is from the western side where you can also have a look on
the longest extant part of the defensive city wall.
The tradition to make chapels in gates
can be traced in many cultures. There people put the religious
pictures to protect the town from enemies and to bless people
entering and leaving the town. The chapel in the Gate of Dawn
that was constructed in 1671 by Carmelites from neighboring
St. Theresa's church, contains icon "The Blessed Virgin
Mary Mother of Mercy", known to all Catholics of the
world. You can find the copies of the painting in churches
of various countries, even in the Church of St. Severin in
Paris and in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. The painting
by the unknown master of the beginning of the 17th century
is believed to have miracle-working power. The painter depicted
Virgin Mary without child, with her head tilted to the right
and her hands crossed over. The painting masterfully combines
features of gothic style and icon painting. Later the icon
was covered with gold.
The Gate of Dawn has become a place
of pilgrimage for Catholics. In September 1993 Pope John Paul
II visited Vilnius and it was from the window of the Gate
of Dawn Chapel he offered up prayers and greeted the citizens.
Church festival of Blessed Virgin
Mary Mother of Mercy is one of the most important and beautiful
religious holidays in Vilnius and it is celebrated on the
third week of November.
Address: Ausros vartu St., 12