Marijampole, the district center and largest city in Sūduva you can find at the Šešupė River on a site 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 3 times a year.
10 years later craftsmen and shopkeepers began to settle around the marketplace. 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 formed around the monastery, called Marijampole, outshone Starapolė, and the site grew as a union of both settlements. It became a district center 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 that has survived to this day with its original facade intact, an Evangelic Lutheran church, and an Orthodox church which 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 some Lithuanian cultural and business organizations and a book publishing enterprise. The gymnasium at Kauno Street 5 became a hearth of Lithuanian activity at the end of the 19th - beginning of the 20th century. Future national revival activists Jonas Basanavičius, Jonas Jablonskis, Kazys Grinius, Pranas Mašiotas and others attended the gymnasium.
The Marian Monastery 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. After the 1831 uprising the authorities denied the Marians new members and took away their school.
The last priest
The last Lithuanian Marian priest, Vincentas Senkus, died in Marijampolė in 1911. But one of their school graduates, Jurgis Matulaitis from the nearby village of Lūginė, joined the Order in secret and revived the work of the Marians outside the country.
They returned to Marijampole in 1917 and set up a high school, several trade schools and a printing-house. Renovation of the church took place and new monastery buildings emerged during the inter-war period.
In 1934 the remains of Jurgis Matulaitis returned from Kaunas and were officially re-interred in the church. The chapel on the right side of the church, dedicated to Matulaitis, has his old epitaph sculpture, new sarcophagus, and portrait.
The church and monastery have some valuable artworks from the latter half of the 18th century. These include 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 mark the graves of soldiers from Marijampole, killed in the struggle for Independence. A statue of Marijona Šmulkštytė, a St. Casimir nun, remembers 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 author Žemaitė, “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, killed on January 13, 1991. There is an interesting tombstone (1939) on the grave of colonel Aleksandras Svylas.
Marijampolė played an important role in independent Lithuania. The Kazlų Rūda – Šeštokai railway line from 1923 connected Marijampole with Kaunas and Alytus. It's large ornate train station and new bus station in the center of town testified to the volume of travelers 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 theater.
Marijampole under Soviet rule
Life changed under the Soviets, who drove out the Marian Fathers. They changed the name of the city in 1955 to Kapsukas in honor 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 Street.
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's a monument to Jonas Jablonskis 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)