Vilnius City

Vilnius can and quite rightly does claim to contain the finest examples of Baroque architecture north of Rome, and this alone is reason enough to visit.

  • Vilnius Cathedral - Once the site of a pagan monument, the first Christian church was thought to have been built here in 1251 by Grand Duke Mindaugas. The current construction dates back as far as 1419. Much of what is seen now was created between 1769 and 1820 by the architect Stuoka-Gucevičius in the French-classicist style. The Cathedral was closed by the Soviets in 1950 and used as a picture gallery. It was returned to the Catholic Church in 1990.
  • Gediminas castle - Dating from the 13th century the castle was rebuilt in 1419 by Grand Duke Vytautas following the great fire of Vilnius. In 1610 it was used as a prison for the ruling classes, and during the 1655-1661 Russian occupation the towers and defensive walls were almost completely destroyed, with serious restoration work only beginning in 1930.
  • Statue of The Grand Duke Gediminas - For centuries Vilnius had no monument to honour the city’s founder, but this was set right in September 1996. He stands more or less on the same spot where an iron wolf he saw in a dream induced him to found the city in the early 14th century.
  • Gate of Dawn - The 16th century Gates of Dawn originally formed part of the town fortifications, being built into the original city wall. In 1671 Carmelites from neighbouring St. Theresa’s built a chapel in the gates to house a holy image of the Virgin Mary, reputed for miracle-working powers. The chapel’s interior was refurbished in the neo-classical style in 1829
  • Vilnius University – The oldest university in Eastern Europe encompasses every major architectural style from the last 400 years. The university buildings are among the best preserved in Vilnius owing to massive renovations completed in 1979 in honour of the university’s 400th anniversary. Founded by Jesuits in 1579, the university was run by the order for more than 200 years. In 1832 the Russians closed it and it wasn’t reopened again until 1919. There are 12 courtyards in the university complex
  • Sts. Peter and Paul Church - Sts. Peter and Paul's were commissioned in 1668 by Michael Casimir Pac, Grand Hetman of the Lithuanian armies. His tombstone, inscribed hic iacet peccator (here lays the sinner) is embedded in the wall to the right of the entrance (Pac died in 1682, before the church was fully completed). Despite a rather plain facade, the Baroque interior is breathtakingly beautiful. Over 2,000 stuccoed figures crowd the vaults, representing miscellaneous mythological, biblical and battle scenes. Of particular note is the extraordinary, huge chandelier made from brass and glass beads and fashioned in the shape of a ship, made in Latvia in 1905.