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main destination guide sights gate of dawn


Gate of Dawn

    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
Phone: 370-5-2123028