Historical Churches Tour, Vilnius

Historical Churches Tour (Self Guided), Vilnius

Vilnius is well-known as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vilnius. Here you will discover a large number of gorgeous religious buildings designed in different architectural styles such as Gothic, Baroque, and several other designs. Take this self-guided tour to explore the most prominent historical churches in Vilnius.
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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.

Operation hours: May - September: Tuesday - Sunday 10 am - 6 pm;
October - April: half an hour before masses (they take place at 5.30 pm on weekdays and on Sundays and holidays at 9am and 11am in the Lithuanian language).
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 the main Orthodox Christian church of Lithuania. It is the episcopal seat of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Metropolitan of Vilnius and all Lithuania.

The Cathedral of the Theotokos is one of the most ancient churches of Vilnius, built before the christianization of Lithuania when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the last pagan state in Europe. It became an important spiritual center for the growing Christian population of the duchy.

The cathedral was built during the reign of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas for his Orthodox second wife Uliana of Tver in 1346. In 1495 the marriage between Grand Duke Aleksandras of Lithuania and Helena of Moscow, daughter of Ivan III, was held in the cathedral in the presence of Saint Macarius. It was there that Helena was buried in 1513. In 1748, the cathedral was abandoned after a major fire and the building was used for various other purposes. It was reconstructed in the Baroque style in 1785. The cathedral was once again destroyed by the Russian army during the Kościuszko Uprising.

The cathedral of the Theotokos was damaged during the Second World War but was restored in 1948, although its renovations were not completed until 1957. Today the cathedral belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church and was once again renovated in 1998. Its services are attended mostly by ethnic Russian and Belarusian residents of Vilnius.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva

4) Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva

St. Paraskeva Church is an Orthodox church in Vilnius. The first Orthodox church of St. Paraskeva was constructed on demand of prince Algirdas' first wife, a Russian princess Anne, who was subsequently buried there in 1346. According to the legend, the church was built on the site of a temple to the pagan god, Ragutis.

This church was completely destroyed by fire in 1557 and rebuilt three years later, but burned down again in 1611. Although ruined, it was given to the local Eastern Catholics. In 1655, it was given back to the Orthodox Church and renovated.

During the Great Northern War, in 1705, with Vilnius invaded and pillaged by the Muscovite army, the church was visited by the Russian tsar Peter the Great, who prayed there for the military victory. During the same service, Abram Petrovich Gannibal was baptised, 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 was devastated during the World War II. Although it was renovated again, the Stalinist government didn't allow the Russian Orthodox Church to start holding its services there.

At first, 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 given back to the Orthodox Church only in 1990 and reconsecrated by Metropolitan Khrisostom the following year. Since then it has been an auxiliary church of the Cathedral of the Theotokos.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
St. Casimir's Church

5) St. Casimir's Church

St. Casimir's Church was named after the patron saint of Lithuania, Prince Casimir Jagiellon. It was founded in 1604 by the Jesuits. St.

The Church of St. Casimir is one of the earliest exemplary Baroque buildings in the city; however it also displays Gothic and Renaissance elements. Its spatial composition and facade were designed along the line of the famous Il Gesù church in Rome. The shape of the building was modeled after the churches in Kraków and Lublin, with additional towers. The author of the design was Jan Frankiewicz, a pupil of architect Giovanni Maria Bernardoni.

In the middle of the 18th century the church was reconstructed by architect Thomas Zebrowski. Under his supervision a stepped lantern cupola with a crown was erected. This large and impressive cupola is unique in the entire region of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Under Russia's occupation the church of St. Casimir was converted into a Russian Orthodox church. In 1915 Vilnius was occupied by the Germans and the church was converted into the Evangelical Lutheran prayer house of the Vilnius Garrison. In 1919 the church of St. Casimir was returned to the Catholics, but was damaged again during the Second World War, closed down and in 1963 converted into a Museum of Atheism. The church was reconsecrated in 1991.

The church is known for excellent acoustics and organ concerts with renowned international musicians.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Holy Spirit Orthodox Church

6) Holy Spirit Orthodox Church

The cupola of the Holy Spirit Church rises above Old Town and is easily recognized from the surrounding streets. The church was built in 1408 and is now considered an architectural monument of late baroque in Lithuania. Holy Spirit Orthodox Church houses a remarkable crucifix, "brought to life" by the incoming daylight. The original painting of the Divine Mercy is enshrined above the altar. Pope John Paul II himself visited the shrine and prayed before the sacred image in 1993.

The site of the present church used to be occupied by a wooden church, following the form a Latin cross, erected in 1638, when Vilnius was part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and was known as Wilno. Associated with the church was a convent, opened in 1567.

After a fire gutted the wooden church in the 18th century, a stone church was erected in 1749–1753 in the Baroque style, with details of the interior in Roccoco style. It was designed by Johann Christoph Glaubitz, an architect of German descent who was noted for developing a Lithuanian school of Baroque architecture, known as Vilnian Baroque.

In the 19th century, when Vilnius was part of the Russian Empire, several Byzantine Revival architectural elements were added to the church, but it nevertheless retained its essentially Baroque form. Indeed, the added Orthodox frescoes, Iconostasis and dome enhanced its magnificence, as did the addition of deep blue and green interior decor. Unusual in an Orthodox church are the Scagliola (simulated marble) sculptures. A new reliquary was added in 1853.

In the crypt lie the remains of Saints Anthony, John, and Eustathios. 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.
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.
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
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