The city of Telsiai (Telšiai) in Lithuania is perched on seven hills and embraces upper Lake Mastis from east to west. Its name comes from the tiny Telše river which flows into the lake, though legend has it that Telšiai was founded by a war-hero named Džiugas (also known as Telšys). The city center is an urbanistic monument and occupies the highest hill, Insula, along the principal Respublikos St. Vilniaus Hills remains on the peripheral east side of the city and was the site of the first Telšiai sanctuary (15th century). A Telšiai estate is mentioned in 1450.
In the beginning of the 17th century Telšiai elder Paul Saphieha invited the Franciscans to the area. They lived in a wooden monastery building until the latter half of the 18th century, when they built the Church of St. Anthony of Padua (1765) and a two-storey residence on Insula Hill. The church was given cathedral status in 1926 with the founding of the Telšiai diocese. The sanctuary has a two-tier central altar, a second floor gallery, and original side altars a pulpit. A painting of St. Anthony hangs on the second tier of the high altar.
The city became the cultural centre of Samogitia during the latter half of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century thanks to the work of the Franciscan friars; their monastery school was especially well-known. With the founding of the diocese, the monastery buildings were converted into a seminary which functioned until 1946, and again from 1989. A neo-classicist bishops’ residence was erected in 1929. The complex was used by various institutions during the Soviet period and returned to the Church after independence.
Modern Day Telsiai
The Samogitian Alka museum stands on the edge of the lake (Muziejaus Street 31). Its collections give a well-rounded introduction to the Telšiai environs – its nature, archaeology, history, folklore and estate culture. At number 88 on the same street is the house, decorated with eastern symbols and ornaments, of artist Alfredas Jonušas. On display in the Japanese corner of his garden are models and copies of famous Japanese monuments. There is also a tea house. A sign further along the street point towards the Samogitian village museum which occupies 15 ha on the edge of Lake Mastis. The museum has 16 buildings from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century with historical exhibits from Samogitian daily life.