While on our pilgrimage, we will visit the famous Vilnius Cathedral in the Old Town. This is one of the most beautiful churches in Lithuania and on its walls are some of the most inspiring paintings and frescos in the world.
Vilnius Cathedral is over 900 hundred years old. Unfortunately, the current building is only about 360 years old. A series of terrible fires and floods destroyed the Cathedral numerous times between 1200 – 1750. The Lithuanian Kings constantly ordered that it was re-built each time it was destroyed, but by 1750, the building was in ruins.
Nobody knows when the Cathedral was built. Initially, the building was actually a pagan temple worshiping Perkūnas, who was their god of thunder. In 1251, the King of Lithuania converted to Christianity and ordered the construction of the Cathedral, but this only lasted until the king’s death, and the people returned to worshiping their pagan gods. It would be almost another 120 years before Lithuania would officially convert to Christianity and the Cathedral was re-constructed.
Between 1400-1750, the Cathedral was destroyed by fire or flooding several times and each time was re-build by either the church or state authorities. But by 1750, the red brick building was in ruins and a new architect was commissioned to re-build the church, which is the building you see today. In addition, the three statues of Saint Casimir, Saint Helena and Saint Stanislaus were added on the front of the building.
It remained the centre of Lithuanian Christianity until the Soviets took over Lithuania in 1950. Their anti-Christian policy tried to destroy the meaning of the building and they wanted to turn it into a museum of atheism. After a few years, their plans for a museum had failed and they instead used it as a warehouse. But during the 1980s, as Soviet power was in decline, the Cathedral was renovated into a museum of art, and eventually returned to the church. The Soviets had destroyed the three statues, but these were replaced by 1996.
Today it stands as a historical symbol of the turbulent history of the Lithuanian people and their faith. When you will visit the Cathedral, you will be amazed by the magnificent works of art inside and the immense artistic beauty of the building. The Lithuanians are free to practice their Catholic faith today and the Cathedral in Vilnius is the heart of their faith.
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