A Short Visit


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Catalog of the Exhibition

Aušros Vartų Švč. Mergelės Marijos paveikslas Although Lithuania, in the 14th century, was the last European country to accept Christianity, Catholic religious literature, music, and, first and foremost, art and architecture, represent almost 80% of its cultural heritage. In opening itself up to "the Good News", Lithuanian society also opened itself in general to the entirety of western art, science, justice, politics and economics. Unwilling to yield superiority to the Christian world, Lithuania's aristocracy developed their own artists and extended invitations to eminent foreigners as well. As the Reformation and other changes manifested themselves, bishops and monastic abbots creatively transplanted customs popular in other lands, such as pilgrimages and processions, and established "Calvaries" --Stations of the Cross progressing amongst outdoor chapels -- and "Lourdes" - chapels or grottoes commemorating miraculous apparitions or locations of healing springs. Consequently, Lithuania's church architecture, religious art and sculpture, and Lithuanian religious devotion followed the most important European trends in worship and religious art. Pažaislio bažnyčia

Gothic buildings are rare in Lithuania, but legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte was so enchanted by the small and elegant St. Anne's Church in Vilnius, that he declared he wished he could take it home to France on the palm of his hand. 
The facades and cupolas of baroque sanctuaries are a striking panoramic feature of many cities and towns. Šv. Jono Nepomuko skulptūra The ensemble of Pažaislis church and convent is the most important of several examples, held to be masterpieces of the uniquely Lithuanian baroque. Vilnius Arch Cathedral, the country's oldest and most important sanctuary, was given today's classical form at the end of the 18th century, by the distinguished Lithuanian architect, Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius. Very many houses of worship were built between the 19th and 20th centuries, when neogothicism was predominant. An especially artistic expression of this particular style was given to the Rokiškis Church, by talented master artists and generous donors.

The most original form of Lithuanian religious art is folk sculpture. Wood carvers known as "god-makers" have beautified the land, every village and cemetery, with crosses and chapels. Representations of Pieta, Rūpintojelis, St. John Nepomuk or statues of other saints, wished travelers well at each crossroads, and at many bridges, forests and homesteads, until they were destroyed by the atheists. The work of a few self-taught "god-makers" is recognizable at first glance. For example, the monumental wooden sculptures of Vincas Svirskis (19th c.) and Lionginas Šepka (20th c.) are unique and original, evidence of inspiration arising from the depths of the people and their faith. Kryžių kalnas

The Hill of Crosses at Šiauliai, distinguished by its thousands upon thousands of crosses, is unique, not just in Lithuania, but in all the world. Crosses have been raised here in times of freedom and oppression, as a sign of deep faith and great hope.

Zemaičiu Kalvarijos hymn "Gracious Queen" a fragment. Performed by the folklore ensemble "Ula" (leaders J. Bukantaite and E. Virbashius) and the Kretinga St. Anthony institute of religious studies folklore ensemble (leader A. Motuzas)
Instruments: birbyne, lamzdelis, kankles and triubos. 1993 recording.

This web sheet is a short visit. Text and illustrations provided by publishers "Aidai" and the Catholic Internet Service.

Ekskursija During this excursion you will learn what the Holy Father John Paul II said, having been fascinated by the Hill of Crosses, and will have a close look at ten religious masterpieces.
Presented by: Publishers "Aidai", 1999. This Website managed by Catholic Internet Service

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