The first Jesuits arrived in Vilnius in 1569. The Bishop of Vilnius, Valerijonas Protasevicius, invited them to Lithuania to help strengthen the Catholic faith in light of the rapid spread of the Protestant Reformation ideas. The small Jesuit mission in Vilnius eventually grew into a separate Lithuanian Jesuit Province. The college founded by the Jesuits grew into Vilnius University – one of the oldest and most renowned institutions of higher education in Central and Eastern Europe. Between 1773 and 1814, Lithuanian Jesuits played an important role in ensuring the continuity of the Society of Jesus. In 1773, the Jesuits were suppressed across the world by Pope Clement XIV, but in the parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania occupied by the Russian Empire, the papal decree was not publicized. As a result, the Society continued operating unabated with its center in Polotsk, and with three Lithuanian Jesuits as its leaders. Ultimately in 1820, all Jesuits were expelled from Russian lands. In 1923 Father Benediktas Andruska reestablished the Society of Jesus in Lithuania. During the Soviet occupation the Jesuits took part in various underground activities, which included the publishing of the “Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania”. After Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, the Society of Jesus was officially restored.
Descriptions, photos and details
Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle and Evangelist (Church of Sts. Johns) (Šv. Jono Krikštytojo ir Šv. Jono apaštalo ir evangelisto bažnyčia)
This Church is closely associated with the Christianization of Lithuania – its construction in 1387 near the market square was begun by Jogaila, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. In 1571 King Zygimantas Augustas gave this parish Church to the Jesuits, who founded the Jesuit Academy of Vilnius (currently Vilnius University) nearby. Because of changing historical circumstances over the years, the purpose of Sts. Johns Church repeatedly changed as well, though it always remained surrounded by the academic community. Ultimately, it became part of the ensemble of Vilnius University, one of the oldest and most renowned educational institutions in Central and Eastern Europe.
In 1737 the Gothic-style Church was rebuilt and acquired its current Late Baroque appearance and one of the most beautiful facades in Europe (architect Kristupas Golubickis). Other improvements included a southern addition constructed in 1826 and stained glass windows installed in 1902. In 1948 the Church was closed down, first turned into a warehouse, and later occupied by the Museum of Science. The Jesuits were the caretakers of the Church between 1570 and 1800, as well as from its re-consecration on October 11, 1991, through the present.
On the pillars of the Church are the statues of twelve different saints, including both Sts. Johns, the martyrs, which represent the Universal Church. This was a pantheon of saints and Sts. Johns, upon which the name of the Church was based. The areas of prior altars are marked by monuments to noteworthy individuals. The main altar is highlighted by an ornate tabernacle, the Crucified Jesus, sculptures of saints and Jesus’s Baptism, as well as paintings of the patrons of this shrine and other Jesuit saints.
In the right nave by the altar is a chapel constructed in 2016, and dedicated to Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas, who had worked there prior to World War II. This chapel is a modern addition to the lavish Baroque Church and is dedicated to the pastoral care of the community of Vilnius University.
Through the arch of the altar a traditional Our Lady of Loreto statue is visible. It was brought from Italy in 1647, and shortly thereafter it became renowned as miraculous throughout Lithuania and Europe. Students were known to pray by it during their exams. After the Second World War the statue was transferred to the Vilnius Art Museum, later restored, and then transferred to the Cathedral, where it can be viewed today at Valaviciai Chapel. The current Our Lady of Loreto statue in Sts. Johns’ Church is a copy of the original, replicated by the restorers. Our Lady of Consolation Chapel, located in the left nave near the main entrance, is one of the six chapels in this Church. In its center there is an altar with an 18th century painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Child decorated with metal coverings. The second chapel is dedicated to St. Ann. It is also known as the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, because its portal is decorated with a painting of the Mother of God in the clouds, surrounded by two Guardian Angels. Nearby in the Body of Christ Chapel (Oginskiai Chapel), the Most Blessed Sacrament is kept, and another painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding a Child, is venerated.
May and September
Mon.–Sun. – 10.00–19.00
Mon.–Sun. – 11.00–20.00
Belfry is closed from October untill April.
Tue.–Thur. – 18.00 (in a chapel)
Sun. – 11.00, 13.00
Sun. – 11.00
St. Casimir Church and Jesuit Monastery (Šv. Kazimiero bažnyčia ir jėzuitų vienuolynas)
This Church is included as part of the following itinerary: Vilnius Saints.
This is the second Church in Vilnius established by the Jesuits, and built to honor St. Casimir, the patron of Lithuania. It was conceived as the most important Jesuit Church in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Its construction began in 1604, following the canonization of St. Casimir. The construction of St. Casimir Church and the Jesuit monastery coincided with the establishment of the Lithuanian Jesuit Province. This monastery was the most important and significant building within the Jesuit Province of Lithuania, because living there were the provincial and other monks, who had completed their entire formation and had taken their final solemn vows (three conventional monastic vows plus the fourth Jesuit vow of obedience to the Pope).
St. Casimir Church was built using the design of the Jesuits’ beloved Church of the Gesù in Rome as a model, and is among the earliest Baroque shrines with the Latin cross plan and cupola. After the last fire in 1749 the Church was reconstructed, and a new multi-tiered cupola with a crown was added. St. Casimir’s cupola is one of the finest in Europe.
In the 17th century in the crypt under the main altar of the Crucified Jesus, a Jesuit burial site was set up. It was decorated with monochrome paintings depicting the Crucifixion, the Resurrection of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and images of the departed monks, portrayed kneeling and praying in their coffins. It is believed, that the crypt was filled in during the restoration of the Church, after the Russian Cossack attacks in middle of the 17th century. The crypt was discovered by coincidence in 1991. After its discovery, over 200 remains found in other crypts of St. Casimir were re-buried here. A relic of St. Andrew Bobola, who in 1622 was ordained and then served as a priest here for twelve years, is venerated in this crypt.
In the 18th century thirteen masonry altars were installed at St. Casimir Church, but only the main altar and the two altars located on either side of it remain. Some paintings recovered from the demolished altars, are now displayed in the Church of Sts. Johns. The main 18th century Baroque altar features the works of a renowned contemporary painter – Antanas Kmieliauskas.
Following the Uprising of 1831 St. Casimir’s Church was closed. Between 1864 and 1868 it was remodeled and then became the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas. At that time the height of the Church towers was reduced and, subsequently, the Church was crowned with onion-shaped domes. During the interwar period the Church was returned to the Catholics; during the Soviet occupation it housed the Museum of Atheism; and it was finally returned to the Jesuits only after Lithuania regained its independence.
I–VI – 10.30–18.30
VII – 8.00–17.00
Mon. – 17.30
Tue. – 7.15
Wed. – 17.30
Thur. – 17.15
Fri. – 17.15
Sun. – 10.30, 12.00
Sun. – 9.00
St. Ignatius Church (Šv. Ignoto bažnyčia)
This Church is included as part the following itinerary: The Route of Divine Mercy.
St. Ignatius Church is named after the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius Loyola. A painting from 1757 above the main altar, by the artist Simonas Cechavicius, portrays the vision experienced by St. Ignatius while he travelled to Rome with two friends.
The history of this Church began in 1569, when the first Jesuits settled in Vilnius and only had a Jesuit novitiate and service buildings at this location. Like other Jesuit churches in Lithuania, St. Ignatius Church is a basilica, with a dome and two steeples, one on each side of the presbytery. The interior was decorated with valuable frescoes. In 1737 the Church was heavily damaged by fire; thereafter, its reconstruction in the middle of the 18th century was supervised by architect Tomas Zebrauskas.
In 1798 the authorities transferred the monastery and Church to the Russian military. Consequently, the artificial marble altars were demolished, the decorative molding was destroyed, the interior of the Church was divided into three floors, to provide accommodations for the soldiers, and stables were constructed. After uprisings in 1831 and 1863, the tsarist army set up barracks, stables and a casino for officers in the monastery and Church – the building thus lost its sacred status.
At the request of Bishop Matulaitis, military chaplain Blessed Michael Sopocko returned to Vilnius and took it upon himself to reconstruct the Church of St. Ignatius, in order to provide pastoral care to the army. It was consecrated in 1929. Fragments of the polychrome oriental artwork, created during Father Sopocko’s reconstruction, are visible today on the vaulted ceilings of the Church. However, the original Baroque splendor was not restored – its current facade is only a stylized version of the facade that existed during the first half of the 17th century. During the Soviet years a cinema and a film studio warehouse were set up in the Church. The former monastery buildings are currently used by the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense, a movie theater, a restaurant, and Lithuania’s Technical Library. In 2004, when the restoration of the Church was completed, Bishop Eugenijus Bartulis, the Military Ordinary of Lithuania, declared St. Ignatius Church the primary church of the military ordinariate in Lithuania. An image of Divine Mercy, which previously hung in a camp chapel in Ghor Province, in Afghanistan, is now venerated in this Church.
St. Raphael the Archangel Church (Šv. arkangelo Rapolo bažnyčia)
In the monastery near St. Raphael the Archangel Church lived those Jesuits, who were preparing to take their final vows. The monastery and the Church ensemble is built in the Vilnius suburb of Snipiskes. Nearby was a small hill known for its miraculous wayside shrine, containing a statue of Christ Carrying the Cross, which was erected around 1710 during the outbreak of plague in Vilnius.
St. Raphael Church was consecrated in 1730. After the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, the Church and the monastery were given to the Order of Piarists, whose goal was the Christian education of youth in schools. In 1791 the Church was transferred to Pilaites parish. Army barracks were set up in the monastery, and the Church was turned into a warehouse. The Church was returned to Catholics in 1860. The monastery was reconstructed in 1974 with its original appearance partially restored. The Department of Cultural Heritage of Lithuania is currently located in the monastery.
The Church was constructed in Baroque-style as a rectangular tripartite basilica. Its interior contains nine remaining altars. Some more notable 17th century paintings, reminiscent of Jesuit times, can be seen in this Church: “St. Ignatius Loyola”, “St. Francis Xavier” and the image of Joseph Calasanz, the founder of the Piarists. The main altar painting depicts St. Raphael the Archangel, escorting young Tobias home from a difficult journey.
On August 14th, 1904, the President of the Republic of Lithuania Antanas Smetona and Sofia Chodakauskaite – Smetoniene were married at St. Raphael’s.
Mon.–Sat. – 7.00, 17.00
Sun. – 7.00, 10.30 (for children), 11.30, 17.00
Mon.–Thur. and Sat. – 7.30, 18.00
Fri. – 7.30, 13.00
Sun. – 8.00, 9.00 (for children), 13.00, 18.00
Fri. – 18.00