The industrial center of northeastern Lithuania and one of the country's oldest settlements, Utena was first mentioned as part of the Selonian territory in a 1261 writ issued by King Mindaugas. The Utenėlė (probably originally called Utena) River which flows through the city is the source of its name. The history of Utena is also connected to the Narkunai fortress hill, site in the 13th century of the castle of prince Daumantas of Nalšia.
Its growth as a town began with the construction in 1835 of the Kaunas-Daugavpils highway. Trade connections improved with the laying in 1899 of a branch of the narrow-gauge Panevėžys-Švenčionys railway line. A small fruit beverage factory (1893) was the start of the present-day beer and soft drink enterprise called "Švyturys-Utenos Alus". The city also has a food processing plant and the "Utenos trikotažas" clothing manufactory.
Highlights in Utena
The historicist Greek style red brick Church of the Ascension (1882-1883), built after a fire destroyed the previous one (the first Christian sanctuary mentioned first in 1500), has a round cupola above the transept, 19th century paintings and a high altar installed in 1901. A wooden tin-sheathed statue of Michael the Archangel carved in the beginning of the 20th century by the local artist Antanas Deveikis decorates the pediment. The building harmonizes well with a belfry made of brick and stone.
Principal monuments along J. Basanavičiaus gatvė, which runs the length of the city, include the fairly well-preserved Kaunas-Daugavpils mail wagon station (1833-1835). The main building, which now houses an art school and gallery, has a four column portico reminiscent of the entrance to a small manor house. There is an abstract composition entitled "Rainbow" (2004, sculptor Vladas Urbanavičius) at the approach of the square in the center of town. In the square itself, a concrete bust of the celebrated national revival activist Jonas Basanavičius (1934, sculptor Boleslovas Plungė).
One of the city's most attractive buildings, the former Utena branch of the Bank of Lithuania (1933, architect Mykolas Songaila, J. Basanavičiaus gatvė 61), continues to act in its role as a commercial enterprise.
Established in 1923 in a former manor-house (outfitted with a second floor in 1930), the red brick Saulės Gymnasium at S. Nėries gatve 20 is a historical monument attended by many prominent 20th century culture and education figures. Information on the city and environs is available at a regional museum in the city's second oldest building (Utenio gatvė 3).
Marija and Aleksandras Žemaitis
In 1992, in commemoration of partisans, the American-Lithuanians Marija and Aleksandras Žemaitis built the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Martyrs on the shore of Lake Dauniškis, beside a small hill bearing crosses erected in 1989-1990, also dedicated to partisans and deportees.
A sculpture called "Sorrow" (1988, Valentinas Šimonėlis) marks the site of the massacre and mass burial in the summer of 1941 of the Jews of Utena and surrounding towns in the Skaistašilis Forest along the road to Užpaliai. The village of Leliūnai, 13 km from Utena in the direction of Kaunas, has a ceramic museum (Topolių gatvė 7), set up by the folk artist Vytautas Valiušis.
Utena Coat of Arms and Numbers
|Utena Tourist Information Center||Stoties Street 39, LT-28134, Utena, Lithuania|
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