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Cathedral. Crypts. Bell Tower
Cathedral Basilica of St Stanislaus and St Ladislaus
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Vilnius Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in Lithuania. Rebuilt multiple times in its more than 600-year history, it took on its current appearance in the early 19th century (architect Laurynas Gucevičius). The cathedral served believers without interruption from 1387 until the mid-20th century. In the Soviet period, it was closed as a house of prayer from 1949 to 1989. It was ceremoniously reconsecrated on 5 February 1989.
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Sculptures on the Façade of the Cathedral
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The front pediment of the Cathedral is decorated with three monumental statues: St. Stanislaus, St. Helen and St. Casimir. The tympanum portrays the sacrifice of Noah after survival of the flood. Five relief sculptures (made by Tomasso Righi; 1786–1792) recount the events described in the Acts of the Apostles: the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, Peter preaching to the crowd, the cure of a lame man in the name of Christ, Paul reviving a youth who had died, and the unexpected deaths of Ananias and Sapphira who had tried to deceive the Christian community. The niches on the front façade contain statues of Abraham and Moses from the Old Testament. Next to them but closer to the entrance, there are evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who are preachers of the New Testament.
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Southern Façade of the Cathedral
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Seven Roccoco statues of holy rulers can be seen on the southern exterior of the Cathedral. They were created in 1754 and moved here in 1832 from the Church of St. Casimir which was taken from Catholics.
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Northern Façade of the Cathedral
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The north-side exterior of the Cathedral features five Roccoco style sculptures of saints from the Jesuit order made between 1754 and 1768. They were moved here in 1832 from the Church of St. Casimir which was closed to Catholics.
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Interior of the Cathedral
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Over the centuries a rich collection of treasures was accumulated at the Cathedral. Bishops and people with high merits in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were buried in the crypts beneath the Cathedral floor. The sanctuary is known for its chapel with the relics of St. Casimir and for the miraculous Sapiega Madonna image.
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High Altar
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The altarpiece of the Cathedral Basilica’s main altar has three parts. The first, somewhat higher up than the others, bears a symbol of Divine Providence, above which there rises a cross with the figure of Christ. The second part features an elaborate tabernacle.

A tabernacle is an ornate box meant to hold the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Cathedral tabernacle was decorated with the scenes portraying the events of Holy Thursday: the Last Supper, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and his prayer in the Garden of Olives. Above the tabernacle there is a domed niche for a cross or a monstrance, beside which there are the statues of St. Casimir and St. Stanislaus – the patron saints of Lithuania and the diocese of Vilnius.

The new altar, where Holy Mass is now celebrated, was installed in 2007 in line with the indications of Vatican Council II.

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Paintings at the Cathedral
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The paintings of the Twelve Apostles on the pillars of the central nave are by Franciszek Smuglewicz.

The artist Costantino Villani was invited from Italy to create 16 large paintings specifically for the cathedral. It is the most spectacular series of paintings on themes from Holy Scripture in Lithuania.

Facing the altar, scenes from the New Testament are depicted on the left side, and scenes from the Old Testament are depicted on the right.

On the right side, eight paintings representing stories from the Old Testament hang on the walls above the chapels between the pilasters. Walking from St Casimir’s Chapel towards the organ loft, they are: The Creation, Cain and Abel, Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac, Jacob’s Dream, Joseph in Prison, Moses at Mount Sinai, Joshua’s Victory and The Judgement of Solomon.

There are another eight paintings by Costantino Villani on the left side. Walking from the sacristy towards the organ loft, they are: The Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel, The Nativity of Christ, The Massacre of the Innocents, The Adoration of the Magi, The Flight into Egypt, The Baptism of Christ, Jesus is Laid in the Tomb and The Descent of the Holy Spirit.

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Chapel of St Casimir
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The Chapel of St Casimir is a particularly holy site in Vilnius Cathedral, and a special chapel that continues to attract tourists and pilgrims. Casimir (1458–1484) was the second son of Grand Duke Casimir of Lithuania (ruled 1440–1492). He achieved fame both for his ruling skills and for his pious way of life. He died very young, and was buried in Vilnius Cathedral, where believers soon started to witness various miracles. The canonisation process started not long after his death, but it remained unfinished throughout the 16th century. The prince was officially acknowledged as a saint in the early 17th century, a fact celebrated with huge festivities in Vilnius in 1604.

The present chapel was built in 1623–1636, at the initiative of Sigismund III Vasa, the grandson of St Casimir’s brother, and the great grandson Ladislaus IV Vasa. It was designed and built by the Italian architects Matteo Castello and Costante Tencalla. The chapel was the first building in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to be decorated mainly with marble. Its exterior was embellished with slabs of sandstone, which were rare here. The prince’s remains were transferred to the chapel in 1636. In the late 17th century, the dome and the altar were adorned with magnificent works of stucco.

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St Casimir’s Sarcophagus
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St Casimir’s sarcophagus was made in the mid-18th century, presumably by the Vilnius goldsmith Johann Christoph Groneman. In the sculpture, the prince is represented holding a cross, a symbol of faith, in his right hand, and a lily, symbolising purity, in his left hand. The stucco composition behind the sarcophagus (by Giovanni Pietro Perti) depicts the saint’s triumph in heaven: angels and clouds surround the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the Infant Jesus greeting St Casimir.
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Three-Handed St Casimir
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In the earliest (16th century) image of the patron saint of Lithuania, St Casimir is depicted with three hands. Legend has it that the artist decided to change the position of the right hand, and painted another one on top, directed towards the chest, but the over-painted hand shone through the new layer of paint. In fact, the three hands symbolise the generosity of the Holy Prince, and the abundance of grace experienced here. The painting is decorated with a silver frame made in the early 18th century.
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Opening of St Casimir's Coffin
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The fresco by Michelangelo Palloni on the eastern wall of the chapel depicts the events of August 16, 1604, when 120 years after the prince’s death his coffin was opened. His remains were found to be incorrupt and even emitting a pleasant odor. The coffin was opened due to canonization of the prince, which was begun in 1602. The event became yet another testimony to Casimir’s holiness.
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Revival of the Young Girl Ursula
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The scene on the west wall by Michelangelo Palloni of St Casimir's chapel depicts the first-known miracle by St Casimir: Ursula, a girl who was considered dead, was entrusted to St Casimir’s care by her parents, and came back to life by the saint’s coffin.
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Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (Bishops’ Chapel)
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Endowed in the 16th century by bishop John of Lithuanian Dukes, the chapel was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, and later received the name the Bishops’ Chapel, as the crypt beneath it served as the final resting place for bishops of the Vilnius Chapter. Today, the Blessed Sacrament is kept in the tabernacle on the altar of this chapel. Above the tabernacle there is the painting entitled “Christ Is Our Good Hope”. This picture, painted in Spain in 1873 (by Gonzala Nunez), speaks of the Lord’s mercy. It shows Christ redeeming a prisoner in chains.
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Goštautas Chapel and Albertus Goštautas Burial Monument
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Built in the 15th century, the chapel belonged to the Goštautas (Gasztold) noble family, who are buried in the crypt below.

Two valuable 16th century tombstones have survived in the east and west walls of the chapel. The first is dedicated to Albertus Goštautas, the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (by Bernardo Zanobi da Gianotti). This is the oldest memorial sculpture in Lithuania. The influence of both Gothic and Renaissance art forms are obvious. The second tombstone is dedicated to Bishop Paulius (Povilas) Alšėniškis (Pawel Holszański) (by Giovanni Maria Padovano).

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Our Lady of St Michael
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The highlight of the chapel is the painting "Our Lady of St Michael", which is more usually called "The Madonna of the Sapiehas". This image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Franciscan saints Francis and Bernardine has been famous for its miracles since the 16th century. Formerly kept in the Bernardine Church, the painting later belonged to the Bernardine convent’s Church of St Michael the Archangel. The name "The Madonna of the Sapiehas" refers to the name of the family who endowed the convent. Miracles worked in the presence of the painting were recorded, and on 8 September 1750 the image was decorated with crowns sent by Pope Benedict XIV (the frame and the crowns have not survived). It was the fourth holy image in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to be crowned (and the second oldest in Lithuania today).

In 2020, through the efforts of the Cathedral community, the crowns of Our Lady and Infant Jesus were restored and adorn the painting again.

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Chapel of Deportees
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Since 1989 this chapel has been dedicated to the memory of the killed, imprisoned or exiled during the Soviet era. The chapel has three inscriptions commemorating Bishops of Vilnius: Bishop Jan Nepomucen Kossakowski (1755–1808), Bishop Mečislovas Reinys (1884–1953), and Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius (1911–1991).The niches in the walls contain eight sculptures of saints, above which little angels hold symbols of the virtues (work of Pranciškus Smuglevičius). The sculpture of the Crucified Christ was transferred to the chapel from the Church of the Trinitarians, which was closed in 1864.

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Chapel of St Ladislaus
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St Vladislaus was the king of Hungary and Croatia who lived in the 11th century and became the patron saint of Hungary. Jogaila, the ruler of Lithuania and Poland, chose Vladislaus as his baptismal name. That is why when Jogaila built Vilnius Cathedral in 1387 it was decided to name it after both St Stanislaus and St Vladislaus.

Wawrzyniec Gucewicz designed the elliptical Chapel of St Ladislaus (formerly the Chapel of Bishop Abraham Woyna) in the last major remodelling of the cathedral. It used to have mural paintings, of which only fragments can be seen today. The Latin inscriptions that have survived beside the chapel’s altar reveal the theological meaning of the paintings: Zelus (zeal) and Fides (faith). The altar was built in the mid-19th century, and the niche holds a massive plaster sculpture of St Ladislaus holding a cross (1861–1863, by the sculptor Henryk Dmochowski). Until 1905, this sculpture was covered up, by order of the Imperial Russian authorities, as a manifestation of active Catholic missionary work. The chapel’s Latin dedication can be seen in the fresco above the statue of King Ladislaus.

At Christmas, a nativity scene is displayed in the Chapel of St Ladislaus, and a procession with the Blessed Sacrament is conducted to the chapel on Maundy Thursday.

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Wołłowicz (Formerly Royal) Chapel
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The Royal, or Wołłowicz, Chapel was built in the late 15th century by the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Casimir Jagiellon. The crypt of this chapel became the burial place for members of the royal family, including the famously pious Prince Casimir.

When the Church allowed the veneration of St Casimir, Sigismund III Vasa, the ruler of Lithuania and Poland, began to build a new Chapel of St Casimir in the southeast corner, on the site of the former chapel maintained by the Bishop of Vilnius Eustachius Wołłowicz (1572–1630). The two chapels swapped places, and the Royal Chapel became the Wołłowicz Chapel. The chapel was built and decorated by Eustachius Wołłowicz before 1630.

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Crypts of Vilnius Cathedral
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For many centuries the crypts beneath the cathedral were used to bury prominent nobility, rulers, bishops and Chapter members of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The most famous of them were Vytautas the Great, Alexander I Jagiellon, and Barbara Radziwiłł. The historic walls of the Cathedral, crypts, and one of the oldest frescos in Lithuania can be seen in the underground exhibition.

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Crypt of the Chapter
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The Crypt of the Chapter, located beneath the presbytery of the church, is the largest and most picturesque space in the underground exposition. The artefacts which shed light on the reconstructions of the cathedral and its decoration can be examined here today. It is also the place where the sarcophagus meant for the remains of the most famous Lithuanian ruler, Vytautas the Great, is preserved.
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Sarcophagus for the Remains of Vytautas the Great
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Vytautas was the first ruler of Lithuania to be buried in Vilnius Cathedral. He contributed to the reconstruction and decoration of the church.1930 was the year when 500 years since Vytautas death was commemorated. It was hoped that by the time the remains of the grand duke would be recovered and transferred into the newly made sarcophagus. In fact, though, the search for Vytautas remains has not stopped yet.

Sarcophagus for the remains of Vytautas the Great. Czechoslovakia, 1930. National Museum of Lithuania

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Fresco of Jesus’s Crucifixion
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The crypts of the cathedral contain one of the oldest surviving frescos in Lithuania painted in the late 14th or early 15th century. It testifies about a clash between the traditions of Eastern and Western Christianity in the newly baptized country. In the center of the fresco there is the crucified Christ, while beneath the cross stand his mother the Blessed Virgin Mary and his beloved disciple St. John the Evangelist. The drawing itself and the Greek letters in Christ’s halo reflect the influence of Byzantine art, though Jesus is affixed to the cross with three nails, which is typical of Catholic tradition.
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Figurine with the Coat of Arms of the Chapter of the Cathedral
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One of the oldest items found so far is a small silver angel holding a shield with the coat of arms of the Vilnius Cathedral Chapter in its hands. The angel figurine, which was found in a burnt layer from the late 15th century,is thought to be a leg of an ornate reliquary that did not survive. A 3D hologram makes it easier to imagine what the reliquary may have looked like.
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Royal Mausoleum
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The Royal Mausoleum beneath St. Casimir’s Chapel is the burial place of the King of Poland and Lithuanian Grand Duke Alexander I Jagiellon, Queens Barbara Radziwiłł and Elizabeth of Habsburg, and the heart of Władysław IV Vasa.
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Extreme Route
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Since 2019, new routes are open to visitors at the crypts of Vilnius Cathedral in the northern part of the cathedral provide an opportunity for visitors to learn about and see spaces that for years had been literally inaccessible, bricked up and closed off. Visitors taking the extreme tour will be able to see some of the oldest masonry in Lithuania, remains of a 13th-14th century tower and staircase, invaluable historic masonry of Jogaila and Vytautas’s cathedral, crypts and mausoleum that harken back to numerous different burial customs, walls that evidence the cathedral’s reconstruction, , an 18th century drainage system, Gothic bricks and other valuable items arranged over a rather large area of 120 square meters under Vilnius Cathedral.

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Vilnius Cathedral Bell Tower
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The Bell Tower is an important part of the complex comprising Vilnius Cathedral Basilica and the Lower and Upper Castles and the symbol of the city. The history of  Bell Tower dates back to the middle of the 13th century. It acquired its current appearance in the early 19th century. The oldest clock in the city shows time in the upper part of the structure; the tolling of the bells invite people to Holy Mass, and an unexpected panoramic view of Vilnius opens out.

During the Soviet times a decision was made to install a carillon in the Cathedral Bell Tower. Bells of various sizes were brought here from closed churches in Lithuania. But despite drilling, milling and grinding, the efforts to tune the bells failed. In 2009 they were restored in the workshop of the Archdiocese of Cologne. Some of the bells have been returned to the churches from which they were taken, others are on display in the Bell Tower. 

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The large bells toll to invite to Holy Mass and to mark solemn liturgies, commemorations and feasts. Most of the Cathedral old bells perished amid various misfortunes; today only two remain – the ones that accompany the clock advances. In 2002, Archbishop Joachim Meisner of Cologne presented six newly cast bells to Vilnius Cathedral, the tolling of which can be heard at 5 pm.
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Bell St Joachim
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According to an old tradition each bell is given a name, a symbolic mark and an inscription in Latin. The largest bell, which weighs 2,595 kg, was christened with the name of Joachim in honor of the patron saint of Cardinal Joachim Meisner. The anchor which can be seen on the bell symbolizes hope, while the inscription declares: Spes nostra firma (“Our hope is firm”).
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Bell St Casimir
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The second-largest bell weighing 1,505 kg is dedicated to St. Casimir. On its side there is the relief of a lily, which symbolizes chastity, and the words from a hymn the prince was fond of: Omni die dic Mariae (“Daily, daily sing to Mary”). This hymn is very popular in Germany where the bell was made.
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Bell Tower Clock
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The Cathedral Bell Tower clock is the oldest in the city. It is thought to have been mounted there in the 17th century. The mechanism of the bell tower clock is about 350 years old. It only once needed any serious repairs, in 1803. The residents of the city are helped in keeping track of time by the bells which were cast by the well-known craftsmen Jan De La Marche and Gustav Mörk, and which sound every quarter-hour and hour. Two surviving old faces of the clock can be viewed at the top of the Bell Tower.
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Panoramic Views
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The height of Vilnius Cathedral Bell Tower is 52 meters. It is one of the oldest and tallest structures in the Old Town. An impressive panoramic view of Vilnius opens from the top of the tower. The Old Town buildings, Gediminas avenue and the Church of Saints Peter and Paul can be clearly seen. One can also get a very good look at the sculptures that adorn the Cathedral.
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