Vilnius Cathedral
The Cathedral of Vilnius is the main Roman Catholic Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 of Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

It is situated in Vilnius Old Town
Vilnius Old Town
The Old Town of Vilnius , one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Northern Europe, has an area of 3.59 square kilometres . It encompasses 74 quarters, with 70 streets and lanes numbering 1487 buildings with a total floor area of 1,497,000 square meters...

, just off of Cathedral Square. It is the heart of Lithuania's Catholic spiritual life.
The coronations of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 took place within its confines. Inside its crypts and catacombs, many famous people in Lithuanian and Polish history are buried, among them Vytautas (1430), his wife Anna (1418), his brother Sigismund
Sigismund Kestutaitis
Sigismund Kęstutaitis was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1432 to 1440. Sigismund was his baptismal name; Sigismund's pagan Lithuanian birth name is unknown. He was son of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Kęstutis and his wife Birutė....

 (Žygimantas) (1440), cousin Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila Švitrigaila Švitrigaila (ca 1370 – 10 February 1452; was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1430 to 1432. He spent most of his life in largely unsuccessful dynastic struggles against his cousins Vytautas and Sigismund Kęstutaitis.-Struggle against Vytautas:...

 (1452), Saint Casimir
Saint Casimir
Saint Casimir Jagiellon was a royal prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania who became a patron saint of Lithuania, Poland, and the young.-Biography:...

 (1484), Alexander Jagiellon
Alexander Jagiellon
Alexander of the House of Jagiellon was the Grand Duke of Lithuania and later also King of Poland. He was the fourth son of Casimir IV Jagiellon...

 (1506), two wives of Sigismund II Augustus
Sigismund II Augustus
Sigismund II Augustus I was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, the only son of Sigismund I the Old, whom Sigismund II succeeded in 1548...

: Elisabeth of Habsburg (1545) and Barbara Radziwiłł (1551), as well as others, are interred. The heart of Polish-Lithuanian king Władysław IV Vasa was buried there upon his death while his body is buried at the Wavel
Wavel is a Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Baalbeck in Lebanon. It was originally French army barracks, but in 1948 refugees from the Palestine war found shelter there. In 1952, UNRWA took over responsibility for providing services in the camp....

 Cathedral in Cracow.
Inside, there are more than forty works of art dating from the 16th through 19th centuries; including fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

es and paintings of various sizes. During the restoration of the Cathedral, the altars of a presumed pagan
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 temple and the original floor, laid during the reign of King Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

, 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.
During the Soviet regime initially cathedral was converted into a warehouse. Masses were celebrated again since 1985, although officially still the cathedral was called "The gallery of images". In 1989 the cathedral was restored.


It is believed that in pre-Christian times, the Baltic pagan
Lithuanian mythology
Lithuanian mythology is an example of Baltic mythology, developed by Lithuanians throughout the centuries.-History of scholarship:Surviving information about Baltic paganism in general is very sketchy and incomplete. As with most ancient Indo-European cultures Lithuanian mythology is an example of...

 god Perkūnas
Perkūnas was the common Baltic god of thunder, one of the most important deities in the Baltic pantheon. In both Lithuanian and Latvian mythology, he is documented as the god of thunder, rain, mountains, oak trees and the sky.-Etymology:...

 was worshiped at this location. It has also been postulated that the Lithuanian King Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

 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 buttress
A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall...

es have been discovered beneath the later layers in the late 20th century. After Mindaugas's death in 1263, it again became a place of pagan worship.

In 1387, the year in which Lithuania was officially converted to Christianity, a second Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 style Cathedral with five chapels was begun and eventually constructed, but this cathedral burnt down in 1419. During the preparation for his coronation as King of Lithuania, Vytautas built a significantly larger Gothic Cathedral in its place; the Cathedral had three naves and four circular towers at its corners. Flemish
Flemish people
The Flemings or Flemish are the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Belgium, where they are mostly found in the northern region of Flanders. They are one of two principal cultural-linguistic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons...

 traveler Guillebert de Lannoy
Guillebert de Lannoy
Guillebert de Lannoy , was a Flemish traveler and diplomat, chamberlain to the duke of Burgundy, governor of the fort of Sluys, and a knight of the Golden Fleece....

 noticed its similarity to the Frauenburg
Frombork is a town in northern Poland, on the Vistula Lagoon, in Braniewo County, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. It had a population of 2,528 as of 2005....

 Cathedral. The walls and pillars of this cathedral have survived to this day. In 1522, the Cathedral was renovated, and the bell tower was built on top of the Lower Castle
Vilnius Castle Complex
The Vilnius Castle Complex , is a group of cultural, and historic structures on the left bank of the Neris River, near its confluence with the Vilnia River, in Vilnius, Lithuania. The buildings, which evolved between the 10th and 18th centuries, were one of Lithuania's major defensive...

 defensive tower. After the fire of 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
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...


In 1529, Crown Prince of Poland and future king Sigismund II Augustus, was crowned Grand Duke of Lithuania in the Cathedral. After the fire of 1610, it was rebuilt again, and the two front towers were added. The Cathedral was damaged during the war of 1655. It was renovated and decorated several more times.

Between 1623 - 1636, at the initiative of Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, a monarch of the united Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1587 to 1632, and King of Sweden from 1592 until he was deposed in 1599...

 and later completed by his son Wladyslaw IV Vasa, the Baroque
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

 style Saint Casimir chapel by royal architect Constantino Tencalla was built of Swedish
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

. Its interior was reconstructed in 1691-1692 and decorated with frescoes by Michelangelo Palloni
Michelangelo Palloni
Michelangelo Palloni was an Italian painter of the Baroque period, who worked in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1674 onward....

, the altar and stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

work by Pietro Perti
Pietro Perti
Giovanni Pietro Perti or Peretti was an Italian Baroque sculptor and architect, regarded as one of the leading European sculptors on the verge of the 18th century...

. This chapel contains sculpted statutes of Jagiellon kings and an epitaph with Wladyslaw IV Vasa's heart. More than anything in the Cathedral this chapel symbolizes the glory of Polish-Lithuanian union and common history.

In 1769 the southern tower built during the reconstruction of 1666 has collapsed, destroying the vaults of the neighbouring chapel and killing 6 people. After the damage, Bishop of Vilnius Ignacy Jakub Massalski
Ignacy Jakub Massalski
Prince Ignacy Massalski was a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman.Ignacy was Bishop of Vilnius and one of the initiators of the Commission for National Education. After few years he was removed from the Commission for embezzlement of public funds...

 ordered the reconstruction of the Cathedral. The works started in 1779 and were completed in 1783, and the interior was completed in 1801. The Cathedral was reconstructed to its present appearance according to the design of Laurynas Gucevičius
Laurynas Gucevicius
Laurynas Gucevičius was an 18th century architect born in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and most of his designs were built there....

 in the Neoclassical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 style; the church acquired its strict quadrangular shape and the plan inherent to local public buildings. The main facade was adorned with sculptures of the Four Evangelists
Four Evangelists
In Christian tradition the Four Evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the authors attributed with the creation of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament that bear the following titles:*Gospel according to Matthew*Gospel according to Mark...

 by Italian sculptor Tommaso Righi
Tommaso Righi
Tommaso Righi was an Italian sculptor and stuccator with a practice in Rome. His marble and stucco funeral monument to Carlo Pio Balestra , patron of the Church of Santi Luca e Martina, in the Roman Forum, is probably his most prominent commission...

. Some scholars point to the architectural resemblance of the cathedral to the works of Andrea Palladio
Andrea Palladio
Andrea Palladio was an architect active in the Republic of Venice. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture...

 or see the influence of Gucevičius's tutor Claude Nicolas Ledoux
Claude Nicolas Ledoux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux was one of the earliest exponents of French Neoclassical architecture. He used his knowledge of architectural theory to design not only in domestic architecture but town planning; as a consequence of his visionary plan for the Ideal City of Chaux, he became known as a utopian...

. The influence of the Palladian architecture
Palladian architecture
Palladian architecture is a European style of architecture derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio . The term "Palladian" normally refers to buildings in a style inspired by Palladio's own work; that which is recognised as Palladian architecture today is an evolution of...

 is evident in side facades of the building. The lack of 'purity' of the Classical architecture due to incorporation of Baroque style sculptures and other elements was later criticised by academical architects, notably Karol Podczaszyński
Karol Podczaszynski
Karol Podczaszyński was a Polish-Lithuanian architect, a representative of the neoclassical architecture and a professor of the Imperial University of Vilna, as well as one of the pioneers of industrial design....


Between 1786 and 1792 three sculptures by Kazimierz Jelski were placed on roof of the Cathedral - Saint Casimir on the south side, Saint Stanislaus
Stanislaus of Szczepanów
Stanislaus of Szczepanów, or Stanisław Szczepanowski, was a Bishop of Kraków known chiefly for having been martyred by the Polish king Bolesław II the Bold...

 on the north and Saint Helena in the centre. These sculptures were removed in 1950 and restored in 1997 . Presumably the sculpture of St. Casimir originally symbolised Lithuania, that of St. Stanislaus symbolised Poland, and that of St. Helena symbolised Russia's dominance.

In 2002 work officially began to rebuild the Royal Palace of Lithuania
Royal Palace of Lithuania
The Royal Palace of Lithuania was a palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, built in the 15th century for the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Royal Palace in the Lower Castle evolved over the years and prospered during the 16th and mid-17th centuries. For four centuries the Palace was the...

behind the Cathedral. The newly erected palace building will considerably alter the context of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral and the belfry were thoroughly renovated from 2006 to 2008. The facades have been covered with fresh multicolor paintwork, greatly enhancing the external appearance of the buildings and their elements which had not been renovated since the Restoration of Lithuania's independence in 1990.
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