The best view in Kaunas

  • 2009-04-08
  • By Justinas Vainilavicius

TOP NOTCH: Christ's Resurrection Church offers the best view in town in addition to being a worthy tourist attraction in its own right.

KAUNAS -  Seen from almost everywhere in Kaunas, and almost all of Kaunas is seen from it, Christ's Resurrection Church in the lovely Zaliakalnis (Green Hill) neighborhood is the symbol of the resurrection of the city, of the country, and of freedom.

It doesn't matter if you are religious or not, everyone finds something appealing about the site. For some it is the spotlight of a pilgrimage, others see the church just as a cutting edge example of sharp modern functionalist architecture and yet others visit it for the sights it offers or the history it has.
The structure is the biggest basilica type church in the Baltics and the tallest building in Kaunas, reaching about 70 meters. This monumental structure needed 80 years to be completed because of both the huge amount of money the project demanded and tragic historic circumstances.

The idea of a building that would become a standing example of the modern Lithuanian nation and the principles it stands on, first originated in 1922. Hence, a modern functionalist style of architecture was chosen, which best described the ideals interwar Lithuania followed 's basic, yet grand; domestic, yet global; monumental, yet functional as a house of worship.

Terse lines express the idea perfectly and leave an impression of cleanliness and simplicity, but at the same time carry the imposing aura of antique and classical architecture. The project was chosen and its creator 's Lithuanian architect of Latvian origin Karlis Reisons 's started to fulfill his plans.

The building had to become the symbol of the whole country, the house of the nation, so the construction was carried out very carefully, using only the highest quality materials. The interior had to be exclusive and solemn, becoming something similar to a Lithuanian Pantheon. All this had to wait for better times.

The church slowly took its form, financed by the state and private donations, until the war broke out in the '40s. After that, the Soviets did with the church what they were supposed to with all religious institutions 's turn them into something entirely different in nature, something denying the very idea of such place. In this case Stalin ordered the Resurrection Church transformed into a radio factory named "Banga" (Wave), and the bell tower was engraved with the slogan in Lithuanian and Russian 's "Glory to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union!"

After regaining independence, construction resumed and the church was finally finished. Although many original ideas were left unrealized, both the current interior and exterior are striking in their minimalist approach, which is unusual for the predominantly Roman Catholic worship houses in the country.

One of the details of the interior, uncommon in other churches, is a huge golden altar cross without a crucified Jesus. Clerics of the church say it symbolizes His resurrection and presence among us.
Yet the best part is the amazing view from the roof of the building. For a mere five litas it is possible to use a lift to get there for a breathtaking panorama of the city. The chapel on the roof means that masses are sometimes held there, and the roof is large enough to hold 2,000 people. It has also proved to be a very popular wedding site.

There is no wonder why.