LEGEND ABOUT VILNIUS
The establishment of the City of Vilnius has a very popular legend. Once upon a time the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas was hunting in the holy woods of the Valley of Šventaragis. Tired after the successful day hunt the Grand Duke settled for night there. He fell asleep soundly and had a dream. A huge iron wolf was standing on top a hill and the sound of hundreds of other wolves inside it filled aall surrounding fields and woods. Upon wakeup, the Duke asked the pagan priest Lizdeika to reveal the secret of the dream. And he told: ”What is destined for the ruler and the state of Lithuania, let it be: the iron wolf means a castle and a town which will be established by the ruler on this site. The town will be the capital of the Lithuania lands and the dwelling of rulers the and glory of their deeds shall echo tthroughout the world.
HOUSES OF GOD
Vilnius was always open to different cultures, customs and nations. The churches of the capital Vilnius, which has an abundance of them, marvelously reflect this fast. As in every medieval city, the cchurches and monasteries have created the city’s unique character while the church towers have created its mood. The decorative churches facades, domes, towers and belfries with their wavy lines harmoniously flow into the hilly rhythm of the surroundings and adorn the Vilnius skyline.
Standing at the foot of Gediminas hill, Vilnius Cathedral is Lithuania’s spiritual and political centre. It is thought that in pagan times this was the location of an altar, an eternal fire, or ever a temple of Perkūnas. King Mindaugas built the original cathedral in 1251 after his conversion to Christianity. In 1387, on the occasion of the official conversion of the whole of Lithuania to Christianity, a gothic style cathedral was built. The ccoronation ceremonies of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania from Vytautas to Žygimantas Augustas took place there. Due to fires,wars and unstable ground, the Cathedral was rebuilt more than once. As a result, gothic, renaissance and baroque styles are reflected in its architectural history.
The most beautiful part of the Cathedral, the baroque chapel of St Casimir, was built in 1623-1636 at the initiative of King Sigismundus Vasa. The chapel contains a unique 18th century goblet-shaped pulpit and 18th century ssilver-plated statues of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and King of Poland .
After the last reconstruction was performed according to the design of Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius, the church acquired the strict quadrangular shape favored by French classicism. The Cathedra was the most monumental building with the purest classical style in the entire territory of the Polish-Lithuanian state (Rzeczpospolita). Now, a tall portico with 6 Doric columns and sculptures by the Italian sculptor, T. Righi, which stand in the niches, decorate the main facade of the Cathedral. The tympanum portrays the sacrifice of Noah.
The interior of the Cathedral is also very rich: there are more then 40 artworks from the 16th-19th centuries inside, both frescoes and small and large pictures. A museum, with and exposition reflecting the history of the building from the pagan temple until the present day, is located in the Cathedral’s catacombs. During the restoration of the Cathedral, the very first floor, laid in the days of Mindaugas, was found in addition to the remains of the Cathedral built in 1387, the altars of a pagan temple,and other archaeological finds. A fresco dated to the end of 14th century, the oldest known fresco in Lithuania, was found on tthe wall of one of the underground chapels.
The Cathedral’s bell tower (57 m or 187 ft ) was built atop a Lower Castle defensive tower. Its oldest underground square section was even built in the 13th century on the bottom of the old riverbed. The bell tower acquired its present appearance after the 1801 reconstruction.
THE GATES OF DAWN
The gates of Dawn are one of the symbols of the city of Vilnius. These gates are a famous Catholic shrine not only in the whole of Lithuania but also abroad. Built on the road to the city of Medininkai and originally called the Mrdininkai gates, they were one of the original five gates of Vilnius built together with city wall. The three-tiered gates stand in the southern part of the Old Town, open onto M. Daukša Street, and are connected to a surviving section of the defensive wall.
The building’s unique renaissance attic is decorated with a décor characteristic of that style. The main façade of the gates is adorned with gryphons bearing the arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Beside it to the east stands part of the city wall. This is the longest section oof all those remaining.
The picture of the Mother of Mercy of the Gates of Dawn is wall known among Catholics worldwide. The image of the Virgin Mary, covered with gold by an unknown 17th century goldsmith, has the features of both the gothic style and icon painting. Painted with tempera on oak boards, it was later repainted with oil paints.
EVANGELICAN LUTHERAN CHURCH
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