There were many religious orders established in Lithuania during the 17th and 18th centuries. These new orders constructed monasteries and convents, and new churches were built nearby. As a result, church art flourished, with special devotion given to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Paintings and altars dedicated to Our Lady appeared in churches of every religious order, and various forms of devotion and traditions venerating Mary were established. During this period, some Marian shrines, which were visited by especially large numbers of pilgrims became widely renowned. Since the 18th century, paintings known for miracles and special graces, were adorned with crowns, sent by the pope.
The first painting in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to be granted this honor was that of Our Lady of Trakai, which was adorned with papal crowns in 1718. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s image with Child Jesus was named the patron saint of Lithuania. In 1750 the second image of the Mother of God, also known as Sapiega Madonna, was crowned. For many years this painting was venerated at St. Michael’s Church in Vilnius; it is now located in Vilnius Archcathedral Basilica. Although it has been venerated by the residents of Vilnius and by pilgrims from around the world for many years, the painting of our Lady of the Gate of Dawn was crowned only in 1927.
Descriptions, photos and details
The Gate of Dawn Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy and St. Theresa’s Church
Mother of Mercy of the Gate of Dawn
The Gothic-style Gate of Dawn is the only surviving remnant of the Vilnius defensive wall, which was built in the 16th century. The image of Our Lady of Mercy was initially hung outdoors, affixed to the inner side of the Gate, as a complement to the image of the “Redeemer of the World”, which was hanging on the outside of the Gate. The Discalced Carmelites, who came to Vilnius in the 17th century, built a chapel in the defensive tower of the Gate and moved the painting there as an object of popular devotion. Since then, St. Teresa’s Church has been closely linked to the image of Our Lady of Mercy of the Gate of Dawn. Initially, the chapel was accessible only from the garden of the monastery, with laypeople praying on the outside. A gallery for pilgrims was built in the late 18th century, and in the middle of the 19th century the chapel became accessible to all the faithful. The Gate of Dawn Chapel is considered the most significant legacy of the Carmelites of Vilnius.
The Gate of Dawn Chapel is also included within the European Marian Network, which links twenty of the most significant shrines honoring Mary in Europe.
Near the Gate of Dawn Chapel there is the Church of St. Theresa. It is one the most notable Late Baroque shrines, constructed without towers, in Lithuania. It was completed and consecrated in 1654. The Church belonged to the Discalced Carmelites, whose monastery complex bordered the fortification walls of Vilnius, and stretched over three city blocks. Today St. Theresa’s is the last remaining Church built by the Carmelites in Vilnius. The frescoes and illusionary altars, portraying the spirituality of the Carmelite Order and the life and works of St. Theresa, were painted between 1760 and 1764 by a local artist, Motiejus Sluscianskis. In the main altar there is a painting depicting the ecstasy of St. Theresa, as the angel pierced her heart with a spear representing the love of God.
During his visit to Lithuania Pope John Paul II said a Rosary at the Gate of Dawn Chapel. In one of his speeches he recalled, that immediately after being elected Pope, he rushed to the Lithuanian Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy in the Vatican Basilica grottoes, to pray. The Gate of Dawn Chapel is one of the oldest and most important places of pilgrimage in Lithuania. In the late 18th century this Shrine became a symbol of the struggle for independence and statehood for Lithuanians and Poles. The residents of Vilnius honored Mary of the Gate of Dawn as their patron. According to Saint John Paul II, “This Gate has become a special place of meeting with the Mother of Church and Christ, and a place of unity for the faithful of the entire region. Christians of Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and other countries gather here like brothers and sisters to share their faith, hope and love in the presence of the Virgin Mary.”
The icon of Our Lady of Mercy was painted in the early 17th century on oak boards and was based upon a painting by the Dutch artist Martin de Vos. This icon is a rare example of Madonna painted without the Child Jesus. It portrays the Blessed Virgin listening to the angel’s message, and also a Mother of Mercy, holding sinners in her heart’s embrace. In 1927 the icon was adorned with crowns blessed by Pope Pius XI and was given the title of the Mother of Mercy.
Monday–Sunday – 8 a.m.–7 p.m.
Monday–Saturday – 9.30 a.m. (in Lithuanian)
Monday–Saturday – 10.00 a.m. (in Polish)
Sunday – 9.30 a.m. (in Lithuanian)
Holy Mass (in Lithuanian)
Monday–Saturday – 6 p.m.
Sunday – 11 a.m., 6 p.m.
On the first Friday and Saturday of every month – 9 a.m.
Monday–Saturday – 5 p.m.
Sunday – 9 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m.
On the first Friday and Saturday of every month – 10 a.m.
Minor indulgence feasts of the Mother of Mercy are celebrated on the 16th day of each month with Holy Mass in St. Teresa’s Church at 10 a.m. (in Polish) and 12 p.m. (noon) (in Lithuanian).
The great indulgence feast of the Mother of Mercy of the Gate of Dawn is celebrated for eight days, starting from the week on which falls the day of November 16.
Vilnius Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Vladislaus
Mother of God of St. Michael (Sapiega Madona)
St. John Paul II started his historic visit to Lithuania with a prayer at the Vilnius Cathedral Basilica, which he called “the beating heart of the Lithuanian nation”. Vilnius Cathedral is one of the oldest Lithuanian churches. It was mentioned for the first time in recorded history in 1387, the same year as the Christianization of Lithuania. The Cathedral received the title of St. Vladislaus because it was the baptismal name of Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland. The main altar features a painting portraying the death of St. Stanislaus, the patron of Vilnius Cathedral and the Bishop of Krakow. St. Stanislaus chastised the Polish King Boleslaw II the Bold for his cruelty and injustice, and eventually, he excommunicated the King. In retaliation, the King murdered St. Stanislaus during a Holy Mass. The painting was done by Pranciskus Smuglevicius, a famous Lithuanian artist.
Throughout 600 years of its existence, Vilnius Cathedral was rebuilt several times, until it acquired its current Neoclassical style at the beginning of the 19th century (architect Laurynas Gucevicius). The Cathedral was closed (1949-1988) during the Soviet occupation, and for a long time, it housed the Vilnius Art Gallery. Only in 1988, was the Cathedral returned to the faithful and then solemnly re-consecrated. The relics of St. Casimir, the patron of Lithuania and youth, were also returned to the Cathedral, and are now venerated in the magnificent Chapel of St. Casimir. The Gostautai Chapel in the right nave of the Cathedral features the painting of Sapiega Madonna. In 1750 the pope crowned this painting for numerous graces granted to the faithful. There are 11 chapels in the Cathedral. In addition to the previously-mentioned Chapels of St. Casimir and Gostautai, the pilgrims can also pray at the Holy Eucharist and Exiles Chapels, located in the right nave and St. Vladislaus and Valaviciai Chapels in the left nave.
Distinguished noblemen, rulers, bishops, and other clergymen of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania are buried in the crypts of Vilnius Cathedral. The King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Aleksandras Jogailaitis, Queen Barbora Radvilaite, Queen Elzbieta Habsburgaite, and the heart of the ruler Vladislovas IV Vasa are buried in the royal mausoleum. In 1985 the treasury of the Cathedral was discovered. It consists of Lithuanian goldsmith masterpieces, which were hastily hidden in a niche between Gostautai and Exiles Chapels in the fall of 1939 after World War II began. Today the treasury of Vilnius Cathedral is displayed at the Church Heritage Museum.
Monday–Sunday – 7 a.m.–7 p.m.
Excursions are not available during the Holy Mass
Monday–Saturday – 8 a.m., 5.30 p.m.
Sunday – 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11.15 a.m., 12.30 p.m., 5.30 p.m.
Sunday – 6.30 p.m.
The Feast of St. Casimir – March 4
The Church of All Saints
Our Lady – The Savior of Souls in Purgatory Madonna with Child
This Church is included as part of the following itineraries: Vilnius Saints
The Church of All Saints was built in Vilnius in 1632 by Vaitiekus Adalbertas Chludzinskis, the secretary to Sigismund III Vasa, the King of Lithuania and Poland. At the time, it was located on the outskirts of Vilnius – near the southwestern city walls and the former location of the Rudininkai Gate. In 1628 the construction of the monastery was completed after the previously existing buildings were joined together. The monastery became one of the main centers for the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. When it was established in 1810, All Saints Church was one of the largest parishes in Vilnius, expanding to more than 12,500 parishioners by 1830.
In 1743, a Late Baroque-style bell tower was added to the left side of the facade of the Church. This tower reflects the Baroque traditions of Vilnius and has become one of the most noticeable buildings of the Old Town. At the end of the 18th century, the Church was renovated as well. It was designed as a three-nave basilica, with a deep presbytery and two side chapels with cupolas. All Saints Church has 18 altars, which are decorated with paintings, brightly colored sculptures, and gold-colored decorative elements.
After the uprisings of 1831 and 1863, monks from other closed monasteries were re-settled at the Carmelite monastery; and a prison for priests was established there as well. In 1886 this was the last Roman Catholic monastery to be closed in Vilnius. The Society of Children’s Orphanages took over the building in 1887, and later the building was remodeled to house apartments and stores. During the Soviet years, the monastery buildings continued to be used as apartments, with stores occupying the first floor, and the Department of Folk Art of the LSSR Art Museum was located there as well. At the same time, the Church was used as a warehouse and as the Vilnius Art Museum exhibition hall between 1975 and 1990.
Hanging above the altars until the Church was closed were eleven paintings with metal coverings attesting to the graces granted to the faithful through these images. In 1991 the Church was returned to the faithful, the Shrine was updated, and some of its paintings were returned. Above the altar, located on the left side of the Church, hangs a painting of Madonna with Child decorated with metal coverings, which previously belonged to the Carmelites; on the other side above the right altar, hangs a treasured 17th century Carmelite iconographic painting of Our Lady the Savior of Souls in Purgatory.
Mother of God – the Savior of Souls in Purgatory and the Carmelite devotion to Mary. The Carmelites considered the Blessed Virgin Mary a perfect example of a prayerful life, showing us the way to God. In Lithuania, the Carmelites popularized the practice of praying for the dead, which was associated with the devotion to Our Lady. At that time purgatory, as a place where souls went to be cleansed of vices and shortcomings before reaching eternal life, occupied an important place in religious beliefs. The Mother of God is considered the most important intercessor and attendant of souls in need of reconciliation with God.
Monday – 3 p.m.–7.30 p.m.
Tuesday–Friday – 11 a.m.–7.30 p.m.
Saturday – 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
Sunday – 7.30 a.m.– 2 p.m.
Monday–Friday – 6.30 p.m.
Saturday – 10 a.m.
Sunday – 9 a.m., 12 p.m. (noon)
Monday–Friday – 5.30 p.m.
Saturday – 9 a.m.
Sunday – 10.30 a.m.
Church of Saint Nicholas
Most Sorrowful Mother of God
This is the oldest Church in Vilnius, mentioned for the first time in historical sources in 1320 when Grand Duke Gediminas invited Christian European craftsmen and merchants to come to Vilnius. In his letter to the Franciscans in 1323, he wrote that a Church was built for them in Vilnius. The fact that the Church was associated with the arrival of merchants in the City is evidenced by its title of Saint Bishop Nicholas of Myra, who was considered a patron of travelers, merchants, craftsmen, prisoners of war, and children.
The Church’s brickwork was completed between 1382-1387. The project was overseen and financed by J. Jaunius (Janulis), the vicegerent of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Vilnius. The archaic Early Gothic architectural lines of the Church confirm this timeframe of the construction. The Church has been reconstructed and renewed several times, and as a result, its interior (vaulted ceilings, altars) represents the Late Gothic style of the 16th century and the Late Baroque architectural forms of the middle of the 18th century.
The Church is divided into three naves by graceful pillars, which uphold starry vaults. Crucified Jesus is above the great altar; above the left altar hangs a painting of St. Nicholas; and the right altar features a wooden painted image of Our Lady of Sorrows, adorned with goldplated metal coverings.
Between 1901-1939, the Church of Saint Nicholas was the only church in Vilnius where worship services were conducted in Lithuanian, so it became known as a source of Lithuanian culture. In 1930, a memorial dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the death of Vytautas the Great, was erected at this Church. In the post-war years, after Vilnius Archcathedral Basilica was shut down, St. Nicholas served as a pro-cathedral. In 1959, a sculpture of the patron saint of Vilnius, Saint Christopher, by sculptor Antanas Kmieliauskas, was erected near the Church. In a way, it was an act of resistance because the City emblem depicting this Saint had been banned by the Soviet regime.
Monday–Friday – 3.30 p.m.–6.30 p.m.
Sunday – 7.15 a.m.–3 p.m.
Monday–Friday – 6 p.m.
Saturday (and national holidays) – 9 a.m.
Sunday – 8 a.m., 10 a.m. (with translation to sign language), 2 p.m.
Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Conventual Franciscans)
White Madonna (The Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception)
Archaeological investigations revealed that the location on Traku Street, where the Franciscan Conventual Friars Church stands, is one of the earliest locations in Vilnius where Catholicism was practiced. Archaeological finds at this location provide evidence that Christian burials at this site predate the construction of the first masonry church, built here at the end of the 13th century. Like most of the churches built by Grand Duke Vytautas and King Jogaila, this Franciscan Church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its name is also written with the appendix “in Arena”, i.e. “Smiltyne” referring to its location in the City.
In 1390, during crusader attacks on Vilnius castles, the Franciscan buildings were burned. In 1421 a new Church and monastery were built. More fragments of valuable monastic architecture, predating the 18th century, can be found in the Church than in the monastery. After the uprisings of the 19th century, the Church and monastery were closed, and the richly stocked library was taken away. Archives were established in the Church during the Soviet years, and in 1998 the Church was returned to the Conventual Franciscan Friars.
Near the fence, at the entrance to the Church and monastery grounds, there is a Baroque chapel of the Suzinu family, which was built to commemorate the residents of Vilnius who were killed by the Cossacks.
The Statue of the White Madonna, also known as the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, was renowned for its graces throughout the City from the 18th century. At that time the statue was displayed in the visitor hall of the monastery. Mary is depicted pregnant, as described in the Book of Revelation. It’s likely that’s why the White Madonna is considered the guardian of families, the peacemaker of dysfunctional families, an intercessor of childless families and the patron of unborn children. In 1864, when the Tsar closed the monastery, the statue of Mary was hidden by plastering it in a recess of the monastery wall. In 1935 the Franciscans moved the statue to the Church and displayed it in St. Lawrence Chapel. During the Soviet years, the Church was converted into a state archive warehouse. No one suspected that the White Madonna had been hidden again, plastered in a niche of the former Chapel. After the Church was returned to the Franciscans, the statue was uncovered once again.
Church of Sts. Philip and Jacob, the Apostles, and the Dominican Monastery
The Mother of God of Lukiskes
Constructed of wood, the Church of Sts. Philip and Jacob, the Apostles, and the Dominican monastery were built in the suburb of Lukiskes in 1642. Among the responsibilities of the Dominican monks were to provide free burial and attend to the spiritual needs of the poor. Prior to the arrival of the Dominicans, the poor had been buried in the city cemetery, which had been located on this site. The wooden Church was burned down during the wars with Moscow. In the 13th century, the Church was reconstructed using masonry materials and remains almost unchanged to this day. During the Soviet occupation, the Church was used as a warehouse for fruit and vegetables, then a storage facility for the Opera and Ballet Theater. A hospital operated in the former monastery until 2004.
The image of the Mother of God of Lukiskes in this Church became renowned as miraculous at the end of the 17th century. This icon was brought back to Lithuania from wars with Russia by Motiejus Korvinas Gosievskis, artillery general of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Soon after, the faithful started experiencing miracles through the intercession of Our Lady of Lukiskes, which were, subsequently, recorded in the book “The Mystic Fountain” published in 1737.
During the Soviet years, it was thought that the miraculous icon was lost, but it was later discovered at St. Raphael Church, located across the river. After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, Sts. Philip and Jacob Church and the image of Our Lady of Lukiskes were returned to the Dominicans. The Dominican general vicarage headquarters for Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were established here. In 2015, the newly-restored Church carillon – a unique 61 bell instrument – rang for the first time. This carillon is the largest in the Baltics.
Monday–Saturday – 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday – 8 a.m.–7 p.m.
Monday–Saturday – 12 p.m. (noon), 6 p.m.
Sunday – 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 6 p.m.
Sunday – 4 p.m.
More information: vilniauskarilionas.lt
Holy Cross Church
Our Lady Health of the Sick (Our Lady of the Snows)
According to written historical sources, in the 14th century Albertas Gostautas, a nobleman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania invited fourteen Franciscans to come to Vilnius. They were subsequently beheaded or crucified by its residents upon the departure of the nobleman. A. Gostautas erected a cross on the martyrs’ tomb, which survived undamaged during the great fire of the City; graces were later received through the intercession of the martyrs. Holy Cross Chapel was built in 1543 on the site of the cross. In 1635 Bishop Abraomas Vaina invited Bonifratres (Lat.: boni fratres – good brothers) monks to Vilnius and entrusted them to care for the old and infirm priests, and poor laity. Though unusual for the time, the Brothers also cared for the mentally ill. Once established in Vilnius, the Bonifratres built a Church and monastery near the Holy Cross Chapel.
The Church was decorated in its current style in the 18th century after a fire devastated Vilnius. The exterior of Holy Cross Church is quite modest, with the only decoration being lattice crosses adorning its square tower tops. The interior of the Church is richer, but somewhat unusual compared to other Vilnius Late Baroque churches. It is important to mention that a spring flows through the basement of the Church, which, it is said, erupted when the Franciscan monks were beheaded. The faithful believe that the water of this spring cures eye diseases.
Holy Cross Church was closed in 1843 after the Bonifratres were expelled from Vilnius. During the interwar period, the Brothers returned and established a home for the elderly and a facility to feed the poor. After the Second World War, the Church was closed again and converted into a sorting warehouse for books that were used to stock libraries. The monastery was converted into apartments and used as living quarters by the residents of Vilnius, while the remainder of the premises housed the Vilnius Lore Museum. In 1976 the Church was carefully restored and adapted for use as an organ music concert hall. In 1995 the buildings were given to the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Poor, and the monastery was reconstructed. Near the Church is the “Holy Cross House” social center, where the Sisters dedicate their time providing care and assistance to people experiencing difficulties.
A painting of Our Lady Health of the Sick, also known as Our Lady of the Snows, is reminiscent of Bonifratres times. The origins of the painting are unknown, but the first mention of it appears in Church inventory documents of the mid-18th century. Tokens of appreciation – metal coverings and votive offerings adorning the painting – attest to the graces granted through the image. The intercession and assistance of Our Lady Health of the Sick is particularly sought by people with health and vision problems. The Church facade is decorated with a copy of this picture.
Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle and Evangelist (Church of Sts. Johns)
Our Lady of Loreto and Our Lady of Consolation
Bl. M. Sopocko worked in the Theology Faculty of Vilnius University from 1927 to 1945. For a time, while the Church of St. Ignatius was in reconstruction, he celebrated Mass here for the military, and on returning from Juodsiliai, where he hid from the threat of detention by the Germans, he took up residence in the Church’s rectory. During the time of Soviet rule, he organized classes on the catechism for laypeople in the sacristy so that they could clandestinely teach the truths of the faith. He also evangelized Russians who were arriving in Vilnius with the Soviet administrative apparatus. Despite the risk of the authorities taking repressive measures against him, he promoted popular devotion to the Divine Mercy. In 1946, Vilnius Archbishop Mecislovas Reinys, at the request of Bl. M. Sopocko, permitted the first celebration of the Feast of Divine Mercy on the Sunday after Easter at the Church of the Sts. Johns.
The start of the construction of the Church is linked with Lithuania’s Christianization. It was Lithuanian Grand Duke and Polish King Jogaila who in 1386 began work on the building, which King Alexander Vytautas completed in 1426. In 1571 the Church was entrusted to the Jesuit College, which is considered the origin of Vilnius University. Historical circumstances led to more than one change in the function of the Church, though it has always been surrounded by the academic community. The Church was closed in 1948 and during the Soviet era housed a museum of science. It was re-consecrated in 1991 and is again tended by the Jesuits.
Founded in 1579, Vilnius University is one of Central and Eastern Europe’s oldest and best-known schools of higher education. It has significantly influenced scientific and cultural life not only in Lithuania but also in neighboring countries. The Vilnius University ensemble is a unique collection of buildings that took shape in the 16th-19th centuries and reflects the main architectural styles that have prevailed in Lithuania: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classicism. The ensemble is known for its 13 small courtyards, the tallest bell tower in the City, and one of Europe’s very first astronomical observatories.
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 Church Heritage Museum. 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.
St. Anne’s Church
Blessed Virgin Mary with Child and St. Anne
St. Anne’s Church is often called a Gothic masterpiece and a gem of the Flamboyant Gothic style. It was built between 1495 and 1500 as a Chapel for the Brotherhood of St. Anne, near the Bernardine Church, which at that time, was constructed of wood. The most important document supporting these facts is the privilege of indulgence, which Pope Alexander VI granted to St. Anne’s Church in 1501, as he encouraged the faithful to maintain and attend the Church in abundant numbers. The Brotherhood of St. Martin operated at St. Anne’s, and in doing so, united Catholics of German origin and Catholics of other countries.
Using the plans of renowned architect Johann Christoph Glaubitz in 1747, three altars were constructed of masonry materials which remain unchanged to this day. Other major renovations were carried out between 1902-1909 and 1969-1971. According to legend, Napoleon Bonaparte was so fascinated by the beauty of the Church that he even commented he would like to put it in the palm of his hand and take it to Paris. However, his army caused significant damage to the interior of the Church by using it as a munitions warehouse and later, to imprison captives.
In the main altar hangs a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Child and St. Anne, from which the title of the Shrine originated. The painting features three generations: the patron of the Church St. Anne, her daughter – the Blessed Virgin Mary and Child Jesus – the Son of Virgin Mary, and the grandchild of St. Anne. Ornate coverings on this image and the prevalence of girls named in St. Anne’s honor attest to a special devotion to this saint in Lithuania.
St. Francis of Assisi and St. Bernardine of Siena (Bernardine) Church
Most Sorrowful Mother of God
As one of their missions, Bernardine monks arrived in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania during the middle of the 15th century. The first wooden church was built in the 15th century by the Vilnius Bernardines – Franciscan Observant Friars, who sought to live guided by the ideal of the monastic life of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). The original wooden church burned down, and its replacement constructed of brick, had to be dismantled due to structural mistakes.
The current Church was built between 1506-1516, and included the presbytery with monastic choir and sacristy, which had been preserved from of the dismantled church. The Church was considered one of the largest and most beautiful buildings in the City. The Bernardine Monastery, which was built together with the Church, had a noviciate, seminary, a scriptorium and a library. Bernardines were reknowned for their ability as preachers and as tradesmen. After the uprisings of the 19th century, the Tsarist government closed the monastery. After the Second World War, the Vilnius Art Institute (now the Academy of Fine Arts) was established in this monastery. During Soviet years the Church was turned into a warehouse for the Institute of Art. Later, Franciscans re-consecrated the Church, which had been returned to them in 1994.
Thirteen wooden altars of Late Baroque style were restored and survive to this day. In the naves of the Church, one can admire Gothic style crystal, cross and star vaulted ceilings. The nave walls are decorated with Gothic polychrome frescoes, consisting of colorful compositions of figures from the Bible, life of St. Francis of Assisi and hagiographic themes. These frescoes were created in the 16th century and are considered unique.
The oldest known sculpture of the Crucified Jesus in Lithuania dating to the 15th century, can be seen in this Church. Today it is located in the right nave Chapel of St. Florian (Three Kings). Bernardine devotion for the suffering of Christ is also evident in the churchyard Calvary construction, which began in the 17th century. Later, the Way of the Cross was erected in the chapel near the Church. Only one station called Scala Sancta, has survived from the old Calvary to this day. In it, there is a replica of the Holy Steps, which St. Helena brought from Jerusalem to Rome. The chapel is accesible through the Neo-Gothic belfry built in 1874.
The image of Our Lady of Sorrows was painted in 1699, when the rights to hold an Indulgence Feast of the same name were granted. The painting, with metal coverings, is hung at the altar of “Sokala” or Russian Mother of God, which is located on the left side of the central altar. This image is one of the most renowned Marian images, which is famed for its graces, and which is related to the Lithuanian and Polish Bernardines.
Monday – 9 a.m.–6 p.m
Tuesday – 7.30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Wednesday–Friday – 7.30 a.m.–7 p.m.
Saturday – 8.30 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday – 8.30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Monday – 12.00 p.m. (noon)
Tuesday – 7.30 a.m.
Wednesday–Friday – 7.30 a.m., 6 p.m.
Saturday – 9 a.m., 6 p.m.
Sunday – 10.30 a.m., 1 p.m. (with translation to sign language), 5 p.m.
Sunday – 9 a.m.
Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Church
Most Gracious Blessed Virgin Mary
Vilnius Sts. Peter and Paul Church is one of Lithuania’s most famous Baroque buildings, with an exterior and interior design that has changed little since its construction. It is one of a few churches in Vilnius, which has operated uninterrupted as a Catholic place of worship. The Canons Regular of the Lateran monks settled at this site in 1625. It is thought, that several wooden churches occupied the site of the current Church from the end of the 16th century until they burned down. The construction of the current masonry Church began on June 29th, 1668, which was also Sts. Peter and Paul feast day. People prayed for the intercession of Mary to bring peace to a war-ravaged Lithuania. This intention is evidenced by the inscription on the facade of the Church “Regina Pacis funda nos in pace” – “Queen of Peace, strengthen us in peace”. This rhetorical Baroque play on words is reminiscent of the benefactor of the Church’s construction – Mykolas Kazimieras Pacas, Voivod of Vilnius and principal commander of the army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His remains rest in the Church’s basement under the threshold.
In 1678 two great Italian sculptors – Giovanni Pietro Perti and Giovanni Maria Galli – came to decorate the Church. This Church is considered Vilnius’s Late Baroque gem due to the Italian artists’ stucco sculptural decor. Iconography within the Church’s interior expresses the fundamental values of the Lateran monks and the principles of its patron, M. K. Pacas, who remained chaste until his death. Those principles include the importance of the Church’s teachings, Baroque humility of the powerful, and fighting and suffering for faith and chastity. They are reflected in the Church’s chapels: St. Augustine, patron of Canons Regular of the Lateran; St. Queens; Holy Knights the Martyrs; and Holy Virgins the Martyrs.
Above the main altar is a painting by Pranciskus Smuglevicius titled “The Farewell of Sts. Peter and Paul”. The Vilnius Fishermen Brotherhood provided the painting, “Five Wounds of Jesus”, which is venerated above the right side altar. A wooden statue of Jesus of Nazareth, which was sculpted in Rome and based upon the miraculous image of Ecce Homo located in Madrid, is also venerated in this Church. Visitation records of 1804 reveal that stamped relics were enclosed within Jesus’s head, which was assembled of two parts.
The painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Gracious (above the altar on the left) is a copy of an image, venerated in the town of Faenza, Italy, which was brought to Vilnius by Samogitian Bishop Jurgis Tiskevicius. The painting depicts Mary breaking the arrows of God’s wrath. During the raging epidemics, Vilnius residents prayed by this painting for the intercession of Mary. Displayed nearby is a later painting depicting Blessed Virgin Mary the Gracious and a scene of Vilnius suffering the plague.
Monday–Sunday – 6.30 a.m.–6.45 p.m.
Monday–Saturday– 7 a.m., 7.30 a.m., 6 p.m.
Sunday – 7.30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11.30 a.m., 6 p.m.
Monday–Saturday – 5 p.m.
Sunday – 8.30 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m.
The Church of the Discovery of the Holy Cross
Our Lady of Sorrows
Vilnius Calvary Way of the Cross was officially dedicated in 1669, as a sign of gratitude to God for the victory against the tsarist Russian army, which had been causing devastation in the Vilnius region for several years. Vilnius Holy Spirit Dominicans were the caretakers of this place, and with the support of noblemen and prominent religious figures, built the Church of the Discovery of the Holy Cross and twenty new chapels here in 1772. Until the 20th century, this ensemble remained mostly unchanged, though some damage was caused by the army of Napoleon. Later, the Church suffered extensive damage during the Soviet occupation. One night in 1962, the Soviet authorities blew up most of the Stations of the Cross, but people’s devotion to Christ’s Suffering did not stop. Members of religious orders operating in secrecy and groups of the faithful continued to walk the Calvary Way of the Cross. Reconstruction of Vilnius Calvary Way of the Cross began after Lithuania regained its independence and was completed in 2002. The current Way of the Cross is 7 km in length and is comprised of 35 Stations.
The Church of the Discovery of the Holy Cross is located at both the geographical and ideological center of Vilnius Calvary. The Church, built on a high hill in Calvary, topographically corresponds to the Golgotha Hill. The main altar, also known as the Crucified Jesus altar, is the most important Station of the Cross, dedicated to the remembrance of our Savior’s Death on the Cross. The sculpture of the Crucified Jesus is considered miraculous by the faithful. At the altar located on the right side of the Church, across from the pulpit and the baptismal font, and under the image of Divine Mercy, a relic of the Holy Cross is displayed. Church walls and vaulted ceilings are decorated with impressive 18th-century frescoes.
Several noteworthy objects include a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is venerated at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as the altar of St. Hyacinth, both located in the left nave. Also notable is a 17th-century painting of Our Lady of the Rosary – typical for Dominican churches – which is displayed above the image of Divine Mercy.
Monday–Friday – 7 a.m., 7 p.m.
Saturday – 7 p.m.
Sunday – 10.30 a.m.(for children), 12 p.m.(noon), 4 p.m.(for youth)
Monday–Saturday – 1 p.m., 6 p.m.
Sunday – 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 1.30 p.m.
Veneration of the relic of the Holy Cross (True Cross) –14th of each month
For faithful walking the Way of Cross indulgence can be obtained from the first Sunday of May till the 14th of September.
Trakai Basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Mother of God – Patron of Lithuania
This Church is included as part of the following itinerary: The Route of Saint John Paul II
St. John Paul II possessed a special devotion to the Mother of God. As his apostolic motto, he chose “Totus Tuus” (“Totally Thine”), a proclamation of love and faithfulness to the Holy Virgin Mary. Trakai Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a testament to the deep Lithuanian tradition of devotion to Mary. The altar is adorned by the image of the Mother of God – Patron of Lithuania and is renowned for its special graces. It was the first image of Mary in Lithuania to be crowned by the pope, and it received the title of the Intercessor of the Afflicted on September 4, 1718.
The Church was built in 1409 due to the initiative of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas and was granted the title of the Visitation of Elizabeth by the Blessed Virgin Mary. In Christian tradition, this event is perceived as an encounter between the old and the new covenant. The interior Church walls, dated to the 15th century, are adorned with Byzantine-style painting, with the first fragments of it discovered in 2006. The frescoes depict scenes from the Old and New Testament. This Church has an enduring reverence for the Rosary. For that reason, the altar of the Virgin Mary in the Church’s northeast corner displays the 17th-century painting of “Our Lady of the Rosary with St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena”. This Church has never been closed, given to another religious denomination, or used for other purposes. Consequently, Trakai Church is an exceptional monument to faith and Lithuanian culture, representing an ecclesiastical and artistic legacy of six centuries.
The Church features a Byzantine-style painting depicting the Mother of God Hodegetria (from Greek: “She who shows the Way”). In it, Child Jesus is wearing a purple tunic and is seated on Mary’s left knee. He’s holding a book in His left hand while reaching His right hand towards three roses held by His Mother, which represent three Mysteries of the Rosary. The Mother of God painting of Trakai is closely associated with the Grand Duke Vytautas. The 17th-century inscription on the back of the painting provides that it was given to Vytautas as a baptismal gift by the Byzantine Emperor Emanuel II Paleologos. Over the years it had served as a reminder of the majestic rule of Vytautas. This image of Mary strengthened the nation, and for that reason, it became a destination for prayer to supreme state rulers, nobles, and people from all over the region.
Monday–Sunday – 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
Monday–Saturday – 6 p.m.
Sunday – 12 p.m.(noon)
Monday–Saturday – 5 p.m.
Sunday– 10 a.m.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 15th of August
The Birth of Our Lady (Trakinės) – from 2nd –till 8th of September