Historical Churches Tour, Vilnius

Historical Churches Tour (Self Guided), Vilnius

As the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Lithuania, Vilnius boasts a wealth of gorgeous churches featuring diverse architectural styles – Gothic, Baroque, to mention but a few. Many of the local churches are historical, having witnessed centuries of events and become iconic landmarks of the Lithuanian capital.

One of the most famous temples in Vilnius is Saint Anne's Church. Known for its intricate Gothic architecture, this building is a masterpiece of medieval craftsmanship. The elaborate red-brick facade has earned it a reputation as a true architectural gem.

The nearby Bernardine Church is another noteworthy religious site. This Baroque-style edifice features ornate decorations and a striking interior, making it a popular destination for both tourists and locals.

The Cathedral of the Theotokos is a symbol of Lithuania's Orthodox Christian heritage. This 14th-century cathedral houses the crypts of many Lithuanian dignitaries and is a place of historical significance.

Also reflecting the Orthodox Christian faith's presence in Vilnius are the Church of Saint Paraskeva, whose colorful interior and eye-catching facade make it a captivating place to explore, and the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church, whose stunning artwork inside is a testament to the city's diverse religious landscape.

Another architectural marvel, known for its Baroque style and elegant interior, is Saint Casimir's Church – dedicated to the late 15th-century Prince Casimir canonized as a saint.

The Gate of Dawn and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn hold immense cultural and religious significance. The Chapel houses a revered icon of the Virgin Mary, which draws pilgrims from far and wide.

Visiting these places of worship in Vilnius provides a unique opportunity to explore the city's rich spiritual traditions. So, if you're planning a trip to Vilnius, make sure to include these historical churches in your itinerary. They are not only architectural marvels but also windows into the city's fascinating history and religious diversity.
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Historical Churches Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches Tour
Guide Location: Lithuania » Vilnius (See other walking tours in Vilnius)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: emily
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. Anne's Church
  • Bernardine Church
  • Cathedral of the Theotokos
  • Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva
  • St. Casimir's Church
  • Holy Spirit Orthodox Church
  • Gate of Dawn and the Chapel
St. Anne's Church

1) St. Anne's Church (must see)

St. Anne's Church is a Roman Catholic church in Vilnius' Old Town, on the right bank of the Vilnia River. It is a prominent example of both Flamboyant Gothic and Brick Gothic styles. St. Anne's is among the historical landmarks of Vilnius Old Town that enabled the district to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The first church at this site, constructed of wood, was built for Anna, Grand Duchess of Lithuania, the first wife of Vytautas the Great. Originally intended for the use of Catholic Germans and other visiting Catholics, it was destroyed by a fire in 1419. The present brick church was constructed on the initiative of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander I Jagiellon in 1495–1500. The exterior of the church has remained almost unchanged since then.

According to a legend, Emperor Napoleon, after seeing the church during the Franco-Russian War in 1812, expressed a wish to carry the church home with him to Paris 'in the palm of his hand".

The main facade, designed in the Flamboyant Gothic style, is its most striking feature of the church. Traditional Gothic elements and shapes were used in unique ways. Gothic arches are framed by rectangular elements dominating a symmetrical and proportionate facade, creating an impression of dynamism. The church has one nave and two towers. It was built using 33 different kinds of clay bricks and painted in red. The interior is decorated in the Baroque style, as is its altar. The imitative neo-Gothic bell tower, constructed in the 1870s, stands next to the church.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bernardine Church

2) Bernardine Church

The Church of St. Francis and St. Bernard (also known as Bernardine Church) is a Roman Catholic church in the Old Town of Vilnius. It is located next to St. Anne's Church. Dedicated to Saints Francis of Assisi and Bernardino of Siena, it is an important example of Gothic architecture in Lithuania.

After their arrival in Vilnius, Bernardine monks built a wooden church in the second half of the 15th century, and at the end of the same century - a brick one. In the early 16th century it was reconstructed and the church was incorporated into the construction of Vilnius defensive wall.

Renaissance and Baroque features were added in the 17th and 18th centuries. The church is much larger than the nearby St. Anne's Church. According to the legend, the Bernardine monks used to tell such good sermons that crowds would come to listen. That is why the church is so large.

During the Soviet time, the church was closed down and used as an art institute. It re-opened as a church in 1994. The church features some mural paintings dating from the early 16th century and are considered unique in the world. The painting's composition and subject matter belong to Renaissance, while their stylistics belongs to the Gothic style.
Cathedral of the Theotokos

3) Cathedral of the Theotokos

The Cathedral of the Theotokos in Vilnius is a significant Orthodox Christian church, serving as the episcopal seat of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Metropolitan of Vilnius and all Lithuania. This ancient church has a rich history that dates back to the 14th century, even before the Christianization of Lithuania. It was a significant spiritual center that served the growing Christian population of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The cathedral was built in 1346 during the reign of Grand Duke Algirdas for his Orthodox second wife, Uliana of Tver. It is one of the oldest buildings in Vilnius and has witnessed many important events in Lithuania's history. The cathedral was the site of the marriage between Grand Duke Aleksandras of Lithuania and Helena of Moscow, daughter of Ivan III, which took place in 1495 in the presence of Saint Macarius. Helena was later buried there in 1513.

The cathedral was abandoned in 1748 after a major fire and was used for various other purposes. It was reconstructed in the Baroque style in 1785, but it was once again destroyed during the Kościuszko Uprising by the Russian army. Despite being damaged during World War II, the cathedral was restored in 1948, although renovations were not completed until 1957.

Today, the Cathedral of the Theotokos belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church and continues to serve as an important spiritual center for Orthodox Christians. Its services are attended mostly by ethnic Russian and Belarusian residents of Vilnius. The cathedral is a testament to the rich history of Lithuania and the enduring legacy of Orthodoxy in the region.
Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva

4) Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva

The Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva in Vilnius, Lithuania, is a significant landmark and an essential part of the country's religious history. It is the oldest Eastern Orthodox church in Lithuania and is one of only two fully Lithuanian-language parishes of the Orthodox Church in the country.

The first Orthodox church of St. Paraskeva was built in 1346 at the request of Grand Duke Algirdas's first wife, Maria Yaroslavna of Vitebsk. This church was constructed on the site of a temple to the pagan god, Ragutis. Unfortunately, this church was destroyed by fire in 1557, and it was later rebuilt only to burn down again in 1611. The church was given to the local Eastern Catholics, but in 1655, it was returned to the Orthodox Church and renovated.

During the Great Northern War, in 1705, the church was visited by the Russian tsar Peter the Great, who prayed there for military victory. During the same service, Abram Petrovich Gannibal was baptized, with the tsar serving as the godfather. Three years later, the victorious tsar decided to grant some of the conquered Swedish flags to St. Paraskeva's church.

In 1748, the building was again destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1795. However, it stood closed during the following forty years, slowly falling into decline. In 1864, on the orders of the Russian local government, it was rebuilt and enlarged in Neo-Byzantine style by Nikolay Chagin.

The church suffered severe damage during World War II, but it was later renovated. However, the Stalinist government didn't allow the Russian Orthodox Church to start holding its services there. Initially, a Museum of Atheism was to be opened there, but in the end, the church was turned into a gallery of Lithuanian folk art. The church was only given back to the Orthodox Church in 1990 and reconsecrated by Metropolitan Chrysostom the following year. Since then, it has been an auxiliary church of the Cathedral of the Theotokos.
St. Casimir's Church

5) St. Casimir's Church

The Church of St. Casimir in Vilnius is a remarkable example of Baroque architecture, and it holds great cultural and historical significance for the people of Lithuania. The church was built in the early 17th century by the Jesuits, with funding from prominent nobles and Chancellor Lew Sapieha, as a tribute to St. Casimir, a holy prince who is revered as the patron of Lithuania. The church's design was inspired by the Church of Jesus in Rome, and it features a stepped lantern cupola with a crown that is unique to the region.

Over the centuries, the Church of St. Casimir has undergone various transformations, including periods of occupation and damage during wars. In the 18th century, architect Thomas Zebrowski oversaw a reconstruction of the church, which resulted in the addition of the impressive cupola. During the Soviet era, the church was closed down and converted into a Museum of Atheism, and it suffered significant damage. However, in 1991, the church was reconsecrated and returned to the Catholic community.

Today, the Church of St. Casimir continues to hold regular services in Lithuanian and Russian, and it is also renowned for its excellent acoustics and organ concerts featuring internationally renowned musicians. The church's interior boasts three late Baroque artificial marble altars, with paintings by Antanas Kmieliauskas depicting scenes from the life of St. Casimir and other saints.

Overall, the Church of St. Casimir is a significant religious and cultural landmark in Vilnius, and it represents an important piece of Lithuania's history and heritage. Its rich architectural and artistic features, as well as its connection to St. Casimir, make it a must-visit destination for tourists and locals alike.
Holy Spirit Orthodox Church

6) Holy Spirit Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius is a stunning architectural monument that dominates the skyline of Old Town. The current church was built in the late baroque style in 1749-1753, on the site of a wooden church and convent that had been erected in 1638. The church's interior features details in the Rococo style, including deep blue and green decor and simulated marble sculptures.

In the 19th century, during the Russian Empire's occupation of Vilnius, Byzantine Revival elements were added to the church, but its essentially Baroque form was preserved. The Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit's interior also features frescoes, an Iconostasis, and a dome that enhance its magnificence.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit is its collection of religious artifacts, including a remarkable crucifix that appears to come to life when the light shines on it. The original painting of the Divine Mercy is enshrined above the altar, and Pope John Paul II visited the shrine and prayed before the sacred image in 1993.

The church's crypt contains the remains of Saints Anthony, John, and Eustathios, and a tradition of the church is to cloak them in black during Lent, in white at Christmas, and in red on other major religious holidays.

Overall, the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Vilnius, and its stunning architecture and rich collection of religious artifacts make it an important cultural and historical landmark.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Gate of Dawn and the Chapel

7) Gate of Dawn and the Chapel (must see)

The Gate of Dawn is a city gate in Vilnius, and one of its most important religious, historical and cultural monuments. It is a major site of Catholic pilgrimage in Lithuania.

The Gate of Dawn was built between 1503 and 1522 as a part of defensive fortifications for the city of Vilnius, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Of the nine city gates, only the Gate of Dawn remains, while the others were destroyed by the order of the government at the end of the 18th century.

In the 16th century city gates often contained religious artifacts intended to guard the city from attacks and to bless travelers. The Chapel in the Gate of Dawn contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers. For centuries the picture has been one of the symbols of the city and an object of veneration for both Roman Catholic and Orthodox inhabitants.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Vilnius, Lithuania

Create Your Own Walk in Vilnius

Create Your Own Walk in Vilnius

Creating your own self-guided walk in Vilnius is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Vilnius Old Town Walking Tour

Vilnius Old Town Walking Tour

The historic and present-day capital of Lithuania, Vilnius is known for the architecture in its Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.

The name of the city originates from the River Vilnia (which is the Lithuanian for “ripple”). According to legend, Grand Duke Gediminas (c. 1275–1341), having hunted near the confluence of the Vilnia and Neris rivers, saw a dream in which a...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Užupis District Walking Tour

Užupis District Walking Tour

A tiny isolated area and a former suburb, which now forms part of the Old Town of Vilnius, the Uzupis district is often compared, for its bohemian and laissez-faire atmosphere, to Montmartre of Paris and Freetown Christiania of Copenhagen. Similarly to the latter, in 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic; the tongue-in-cheek constitution of the self-proclaimed “republic”,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles