Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius, Lithuania

The Cathedral of Vilnius (Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika) is the main Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lithuania and the heart of Catholic spiritual life in Lithuania.

It is believed that in pre-Christian times, the Baltic pagan god Perkūnas was worshiped at the site of the cathedral. It has also been postulated that the Lithuanian King Mindaugas ordered the construction of the original cathedral in 1251 after his conversion to Christianity and appointment of a bishop to Lithuania. Remains of the archaic quadratic church with three naves and massive buttresses have been discovered underneath the current structure in the late 20th century. After Mindaugas's death in 1263, the first cathedral again became a place of pagan worship.

In 1387, the year in which Lithuania was officially converted to Christianity, construction began on a second Gothic Cathedral with five chapels. It was however burnt down in 1419. During preparations for his 1429 coronation as King of Lithuania, Vytautas built a significantly larger Gothic Cathedral in its place. Although the coronation never took place, the walls and pillars of this third Cathedral have survived to this day. The third Cathedral had three naves and four circular towers at its corners, and Flemish traveler Guillebert de Lannoy noticed its similarity to Frauenburg Cathedral. In 1522, the Cathedral was renovated, and a bell tower was built on top of theLower Castle defensive tower. After another fire in 1530, it was rebuilt again and between 1534 - 1557 more chapels and the crypts were added. The Cathedral acquired architectural features associated with the Renaissance.

After yet another fire in 1610, the Cathedral was rebuilt again, and the two front towers were added. The Cathedral was damaged again in 1655 when Vilnius fell to Russian troops in the Russo-Polish War of 1654–1667. It was renovated and redecorated several more times. The Baroque style Saint Casimir chapel was built between 1623 - 1636.

In 1769 the southern tower, built during the reconstruction of 1666 collapsed, destroying the vaults of the neighbouring chapel and killing 6 people. After the damage, Bishop of Vilnius Ignacy Jakub Massalski ordered the reconstruction of the Cathedral. The works started in 1779 and were completed in 1783, and the interior was completed in 1801.

Between 1786 and 1792 three sculptures by Kazimierz Jelski were placed on roof of the Cathedral - Saint Casimir on the south side,Saint Stanislaus on the north, and Saint Helena in the centre. These sculptures were removed in 1950 and restored in 1997.

Inside crypts and catacombs of the Cathedral are buried many famous people from Lithuanian and Polish history including Vytautas (1430), his wife Anna (1418), his brother Sigismund (Žygimantas) (1440), his cousin Švitrigaila (1452), Saint Casimir (1484), Alexander Jagiellon (1506), and two wives of Sigismund II Augustus: Elisabeth of Habsburg (1545) and Barbara Radziwiłł (1551). The heart of the Polish-Lithuanian king Władysław IV Vasa was buried there upon his death, although the rest of his body is buried at the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.

Inside, there are more than forty works of art dating from the 16th through 19th centuries, including frescoes and paintings of various sizes. During the restoration of the Cathedral, the altars of a presumed pagan temple and the original floor, laid during the reign of KingMindaugas, were uncovered. In addition, the remains of the cathedral built in 1387 were also located. A fresco dating from the end of the 14th century, the oldest known fresco in Lithuania, was found on the wall of one of the cathedral's underground chapels.

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Details

Founded: 1429
Category: Religious sites in Lithuania

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Matt Wylde (3 years ago)
Lovely and clean and full of friendly people thank you for having us.
Gosia M Kwiatkowska (3 years ago)
Vilnius Cathedra is truly beautiful outside, inside or rather interesting but not spectacular.
Rob P (3 years ago)
Magnificent mother church of the archdiocese of Vilnius. The chapel of St Casimir (where the saint's remains are interred over the altar) is especially stunning. Be sure to go up the bell tower for a great view. In the bell tower, you can get tickets for a tour of the crypts beneath the cathedral. This is one of the best tours you can get in Vilnius!
Darren Smith (3 years ago)
it was a shame that the front was covered in scaffolding when we visited but the interior made up for it. It is a very grand high ceiling building in white which is very inspiring. Quiet and peaceful even with lots of tourists coming to visit as well as locals worshipping
Stephen Nosalik (3 years ago)
With the outside covered in scaffolding the Vilnius cathedral still evokes a grand scale. The building and it’s history are old. There are foundations of former pagan temples, a crypt with famous polish and Lithuanian aristocracy and its current neoclassical architecture sort hides this antiquity. The cathedral is dedicated in part to St. Stanislaw and St. Ladislaus. Just outside is cathedral square and city bell tower.
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