Vilnius Cathedral is among the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. It is a classical masterpiece of the capital city of Lithuania. Although during the long course of history Vilnius Cathedral was repeatedly destroyed and burned, until now it proudly stands in the very heart of Vilnius Old Town, at the Gediminas hill slope, and is the most important Catholic shrine all over the country, and a place for the main Christian, ethnic and national festivities.
We, the Lithuanians, preserve Vilnius Cathedral and are excited of owning it. It is a significant part of Lithuania's historical heritage, which hides many secrets.
Now it is hard to say what the history of this majestic building is. Some ancient manuscripts mention that in the past there was a pagan temple for the mighty Thunder God Perkunas in this place, with the burning holy fire, and in the thirteenth century temple was built here by the Lithuanian King Mindaugas.
It is well known that due to frequent fires, wars and soft soil under the foundations the Vilnius Cathedral had to be repeatedly reconstructed and renovated. It acquired its current appearance in the end of the eighteenth century, when the reconstruction works were carried out by the most famous Lithuanian Classical architect Laurynas Gucevicius. He also designed the Vilnius City Hall, Verkiai ensemble and Suderve church. The most important feature of Classicism is a return to the ancient architectural principles: harmony, simplicity, rigor, logical clarity and monumentality.
In Soviet times, the cathedral was closed, its values were stolen, and magnificent sculptures of saints on the roof were knocked down and blown up.
Up until the Cathedral was returned to the congregation in 1988, it hosted a painting gallery, and at one time it was even turned into car repair shop.
The magnificent building patched from the fragments of different styles
The building interiors are filled with ornate frescoes, valuable paintings, sculptures, and tombstones. The Cathedral is one of the most valuable examples of early Baroque – expressively decorated Chapel of St Casimir, which the casket with the remains of St. Casimir. Go down to the Cathedral underground and you will find the oldest Lithuania’s fresco (end of the 16th century), depicting the Christ's crucifixion.
The vaults are a resting place for the famous nobles of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy
Famous people of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Buried in the Cathedral: nobles, bishops, dukes. Among them, the most powerful ruler of Lithuania Vytautas the Great and his wife, Ona, the Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland Alexander is buried in the Royal Mausoleum under the Chapel of St. Casimir. Also the row two queens, two wives of Sigismund Augustus: Elzbieta Habsburgaite and Barbora Radvilaite. There are many legends about the latter, while in the sixteenth century, she was even considered to be the most beautiful woman in Europe.
The most famous Lithuanian square
The nearby Cathedral Square is the historic city centre, the most famous Lithuanian square. Formerly it was the location of the defence wall, towers and the Bishop’s Palace. Now the Cathedral Square hosts concerts, special events, celebrations and appearances of the Lithuanian Armed forces. Every day here you can see people sitting around the one monument to the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas, resting and talking. Spacious Cathedral Square is buzzing day and night: it is loved by bikers, skateboarders, couples of lovers, or just passers-by on a nice summer day.
Bell Tower is the oldest defensive structure
In front of the cathedral stands the bell tower 57 meters tall. It is the former and best preserved tower of Vilnius defensive wall, with ten brass bells, cast in the 16th and 18th centuries by Dutch and German masters. In the beginning of the nineteenth century a clock was installed there, special in that it has no minute hand. Now the bell sounds every fifteen minutes, announces the news of holidays and disasters to the residents of the capital city.
Next to the bell tower, on the pavement, you will find an exclusive tile. It is magical: Vilnius residents say that if you make a wish and turn around three times standing on top of the tiles – your wish will come true. Try it and you may be your inmost desires will come true.
Such is the Vilnius Cathedral – majestic, surrounded by the city's laughter, visitors’ focus and quietly preserving the history of Lithuania forever. If you liked it, then turn around on the magic tile, and make a wish to come back