Lithuanian monasteries tell a variety of stories. In some, you will find impressive architectural structures or historic books written by monks. In others, monks and nuns of various orders, clad in their habits, can be seen in their centuries-old cells. They devote their time to prayer, receiving pilgrims, and working with local communities. Visitors can experience these stories and the surrounding wonders of nature where the monks and nuns live to this day.
Not far from the Baltic Sea is the city of Kretinga. It has a population of approximately 18,000, and five functioning monasteries / convents. The city of Kretinga (then called Karolštat), along with a church and monastery, were established by the famous Lithuanian military leader Jonas Karolis Chodkevičius. The elegant architecture of that age can be seen at the Franciscan Monastery, and at the Church of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This structural ensemble was established in the center of Kretinga. Even though the monastery was closed during Soviet times, the monks returned after Lithuania’s independence, and have continued their missionary work there for the last 30 years.
The other monasteries and convents in Kretinga are exclusively for women. St. Clara’s Monastery is the only one of its kind in the Baltic States. The nuns there live a contemplative life and spend their time in prayer, only leaving the premises if absolutely necessary. The Convent of the Sisters of Mother Teresa helps anybody who has lost their physical and spiritual health. At the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Ceaseless Help of God’s Home of the Franciscan Sisters, the nuns receive those who are seeking spiritual rest. The nuns at the Most Sacred Heart Franciscan Missionary Congregation teach religion and take care of abused children, the sick, and the elderly.
Surprising as it may sound, Pažaislis Monastery is quite possibly the most romantic place in Lithuania. A genuine baroque diamond from the 17th century, the monastery was built by the affluent, influential and religious Pacas family. Although the monastery has been devastated multiple times during various wars, artwork by Italian artists Giovanni Battista Frediani, the brothers Pietro and Carlo Puttini, Joano Meri, and Giuseppe Rossi, and the Florentine painter Michelangelo Palloni, all withstood the test of time. The sound of music beneath the arches of the church reveals its beauty as many concerts and music festivals take place here. The silence of the monastery is managed by the order of the Sisters of St. Casimir. In the southern part of the monastery you will find the Sacral Heritage Museum of the Pažaislis Monastery. Next to it is Monte Pacis, a unique dining and hospitality complex where you can experience a contemporary interpretation of historical dishes.
Tytuvėnai Monastery was designed to be well-proportioned, small, and elegant, and to include a family mausoleum. In the early 17th century, Andrejus Valavičius, the standard-bearer of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, began construction of the monastery complex. It was built initially in the Gothic spirit, and then intertwined with Renaissance-style details. However, the largest proportion of the monastery is dedicated to Baroque architecture. Today, this Franciscan monastery is in excellent condition, and is a unique architectural monument located deep in the of heart of rural Lithuania. Nevertheless, it has already been discovered by pilgrims from all around the world.
The Pilgrim Centre located here provides a number of activities for curious visitors to try in order to gain an experience of life as a monk. These include by writing with a goose feather, tasting kvass, and assembling a rosary.