Marijampole, the district center and largest city in Sūduva you can find at the Šešupė River on a site which was still covered in forest in the 16th century. The embryo of the city was the hamlet of Pašešupys, noted in Kaunas district tax registry in 1667. In 1717 the residents built a church. A Franciscan priest from Kaunas visited the church three times a year.
Ten years later craftsmen and shopkeepers began to settle around the marketplace, and Pašešupys became Starapolė. In 1750 countess Franciszka Buttlerowa, wife of the Prienai elder, invited the Marian Fathers to the area and built them a monastery. The settlement which formed around the monastery was called Marijampole outshone Starapolė, and the site grew as a union of both settlements. It became a district centre in 1808, and came to life in 1829 after constructing the Kaunas – Warsaw highway.
The city had several synagogues, including a historicist style one built in 1870 (P. Butlerienės St. 5) that has survived to this day with its original façade intact, an Evangelic Lutheran church (1841; Kauno Street 11), and an Orthodox church (1896; Vytauto Street) which was converted into the Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul after the First World War.
What to see in Marijampole
At the beginning of the 20th century Marijampolė acquired a number of Lithuanian cultural and business organizations, and in addtion a book publishing enterprise take on by a branch of the Dirva company which had been founded in 1918. The gymnasium at Kauno Street 5 became a hearth of Lithuanian activity at the end of the 19th - beginning of the 20th century and was attended by future national revival activists Jonas Basanavičius, Jonas Jablonskis, Kazys Grinius, Pranas Mašiotas and others.
The Marian Monastery (J. Bendoriaus Street 3) was also an important cultural and social center. At the beginning of the 19th century the monks rebuilt the fire damaged monastery, and constructed the Church of St. Michael the Archangel (1824). After the 1831 uprising the authorities denied the Marians new members and took away their school.
The last Lithuanian Marian priest, Vincentas Senkus, died in Marijampolė in 1911. However, one of their school graduates, Jurgis Matulaitis from the nearby village of Lūginė, had secretly joined the Order and revived the work of the Marians outside the country. They returned to Marijampolė in 1917 and set up a high school, several trade schools and a printing-house. The church was renovated and new monastery buildings were erected during the inter – war period.
In 1934 the remains of Jurgis Matulaitis were brought from Kaunas and officially re – interred in the church. The chapel on the right side of the church is dedicated to the beatified Matulaitis and has his old epitaph sculpture (1934, Juozas Zikaras), new sarcophagus (1987, sculpt. Vladas Vildžiūnas), and portrait (Vytautas Ciplijauskas). The church and monastery have a number of valuable artworks from the latter half of the 18th century, including portraits of the monastery founder Stanislovas Papčinskis and its benefactor Franciszka Buttlerowa, a painting of St. Anthony, and one with silver raiment of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus.
Marijampole and the struggle for Lithuanian independence
Rows of small crosses in the old cemetery (P. Armino Street 38a) mark the graves of soldiers from Marijampolė who were killed in the struggle for Independence, and a statue (1928) of Marijona Šmulkštytė, a St. Casimir nun, commemorates the death of local “ateitininkai” (members of a Catholic organization focused on the moral and patriotic upbringing of young people). Also buried in the cemetery are the remains of the Lithuanian classic author Žemaitė, the writer and “aušrininkas” (member of a group of patriots and activists concentrated around the periodical Aušra) Petras Arminas – Trupinėlis, Suvalkija historian and priest Jonas Totoraitis, and Rimantas Juknevičius who was killed on January 13, 1991. There is an interesting tombstone (1939) on the grave of colonel Aleksandras Svylas.
Marijampolė played an important role both culturally and economically in independent Lithuania. The Kazlų Rūda – Šeštokai railway line built in 1923 connected the city with Kaunas and Alytus, and its large ornate train station (1924, architect Edmundas Frykas) and new bus station in the centre of town testified to the volume of travellers during that period. In 1921 the nuns of the Congregation of Charity started an agriculture school in the wooden manor – house (P. Armino Street 92) of the former Kvietiškis estate, and in 1931 the Lithuanian Sugar Company built a factory (P. Armino St. 65) at the southern edge of the estate. The city had many other small enterprises, shops, a district hospital and a theatre.
Life changed drastically under the Soviets, who drove out the Marian Fathers, and changed the name of the city in 1955 to Kapsukas in honour of Vincas Mickevičius – Kapsukas, the Bolshevik creator of Litbel (union of Lithuania – Belarus); after Independence Kapsukas regained its former name, and the Marian congregation its monastery and high school buildings on J. Bendoriaus St. (1991).
Several buildings on Bažnyčios and Vytauto streets have architectural monument status: Bažnyčios St. 23 houses an exhibition dedicated to the history of the Vilkaviškis diocese and the life of Lithuanian president Kazys Grinius, and the former district municipal building at Vytauto St. 31 is now a regional museum.
There is a monument to Jonas Jablonskis (1992, sculpt. Petras Aleksandravičius) in a park near the high school, a chapel (1994) commemorating the Tauras district partisans on Tylioji St., and a cemetery dedicated to the victims of the Soviet terror in 1944 – 1952 on Varpo Street – on the site where the tortured people were buried, with poleshrines (1990) erected in their memory.
More Information About Marijampole
Marijampole is the seventh largest town in Lithuania according to size, the number of inhabitants is 48,700. The city has been the regional center since 1994. The city covers an area equal to 2,050.7 hectares. The Sesupe river divides the city into two parts connected by 6 bridges. The city is a connection point to Poland and has an international bus station and a train station.
Sister Cities of Marijampole:
- Bergisch Gladbach (Germany)
- Cherniachovsk (Russia)
- Kokkola (Finland)
- Kvam (Norway)
- Piotrkow (Poland)
- Rogozmo (Poland)
- Suwalki (Poland)
- Viborg (Denmark)