Finding churches on the fringes

  • 2009-04-02
  • By Justinas Vainilavicius

Vilnius boasts a huge number of churches. They naturally form the city landscape, define the skyline, and provide some impressive landmarks. Most of them still serve their original duties, while some others have been adopted for different uses.

Some are well known and always crowded with tourists. They come to enjoy the grandeur of the Cathedral or the Gothic masterpiece of St. Ann's Church, the jewel of Vilnius' Baroque crown St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, with its famous stucco moldings interior, or St. John's Church inside the brilliant Vilnius University campus. These are only a few gems, while countless others remain well hidden from prying eyes, waiting to be discovered. The list below presents three churches for those interested in finding some of the beautiful but less well known churches of Vilnius.

The Holy Spirit Church. However splendid the city's Baroque churches are, after a while they all start looking the same if not examined a little more closely. The Church of the Holy Spirit was rebuilt at the end of the Baroque era 's hence the late period of that style dominates the construction. The church is a good example of Vilnius Baroque, with a delicate, modestly elaborated, yet majestic exterior rich in details and an interior leaning toward rococo. The church is also known for its 18th century organs, some of the oldest surviving in the country. But a really intriguing part of this building lies underground.

The Church of the Holy Spirit is the only known place in Vilnius where it is possible to get into the dungeons of the city. It is believed that the dungeons' size does not end at the edge of the known part of it, and that the tunnels stretch below the entire Old Town 's even in places forming more than one level. The true reason and date they were built are unknown and research is limited due to the fact that many passages might have been sealed off, and there is no way of proceeding further without ruining the crypts or walls.

When dungeons were discovered in the 1930s, an alarm was raised that the thousands of mummified bodies found there might be infested with the plague, putting an end to all further investigation. It has since been discovered, however, that those people did not die because of the plague 's at least not those whose bodies have been found. What happened to them remains a mystery.

St. Nicholas Church. A little red brick Gothic church is hidden in the middle of Vilnius' tangled streets. It is not easy to find. The narrow street it is located on, St. Mikalojaus, with its famously colorful houses, is not easy to locate. However, despite its size and austere appearance, the building has a rich and vivid history 's it has been witness to centuries of history. It is the oldest surviving church in Vilnius, and played a big part in the revival of the Lithuanian nation and language in the 19th century.

Lord's Ascension Church. It is also known as the Missionaries Church, because missionaries constructed both the church and the palace, which later became a monastery. This pleasingly graceful building is probably one of the most underrated structures in the city 's it does not gain the attention it deserves, even though its rococo spires dominate the skyline. It is tucked away from the main Old Town areas to the very edge, which generally keeps it safe from sightseers.
The church is not currently working. Even though it lacks a couple of cosmetic renovations, it still looks charming. It is amazing how the structure is so solid looking and light at the same time, revealing the mastery of the architects who worked here 's one of whom was a significant contributor to the Vilnius Baroque School, Johan Christoph Glaubitz.