Vilnius cathedralToday the principal building of the castle complex is Vilnius Cathedral, thought to have been on the site of an altar for a sacred fire and the worship of the god Perkunas (Thunder) in pagan times. King Mindaugas built the first Christian church here in 1251, but the pagan cult revived after his death. Grand Duke Jogaila finally extinguished the sacred fire, and erected a new Christian church in 1387. It was rebuilt by Vytautas the Great after the fire of 1419.Fires continued to damage the gothic form brick edifice, and it was rebuilt and renovated several times. Its reconstruction according to a design by architect Laurynas Gucevičius followed a devastating storm in 1769, and reached completion in 1820 under architect Michael Schulz.

Style of the Vilnius Cathedral

St. Casimir ChapelIncorporated into a strictly rectangular form - a three nave church with rows of side chapels - was the manneristic St, Casimir Chapel in the southeast corner (built and decorated in the 17th century by Italian architects and artists, and the Royal (Wołłowicz) Chapel on the north side by the entrance (traditionally thought to be of the secret betrothal of Sigismund Augustus and Barbara Radziwiłł (Barbora Radvilaitė). The building is of a characteristic neo-classicist style: regular geometric divisions, a typical triangular pediment with six columns accentuating the central entrance , with statues and relief-work in the niches.

The Roman sculptor Tommaso Righi created Abraham, Moses, the four evangelists, and the relief compositions in 1785-1791. Somewhat later, Kazimierz Jelski decorated the corners of the pediment with statues of St. Helen, St. Stanislaus and St. Casimir (demolished during the Soviet occupation, rebuilt in 1997). Statues of Lithuanian dukes (northern façade) came here from the Church of St. Casimir, closed after the 1831 uprising.

Interior of the Vilnius Cathedral

vilnius-cathedral-interiorWhen the Cathedral was returned to the faithful at the end of the 20th century, paintings which had embellished its interior at the end of the 18th century were also returned to their rightful places: Death of St. Stanislaus by Franciszek Smuglewicz onto the high altar, his apostles on the columns, the Italian painter Constantino Villani's scene from the Old Testament in the south nave, and the New Testament in the north nave. The Gasztołd Chapel houses two 16th century tombstones: Great Chancellor of Lithuania Albrecht Gasztołd, and Bishop Paweł Holszański.

The belfry of the Vilnius Cathedral

vilnius-cathedral-and-belfryThe base of the 57 meters high Cathedral belfry is a favorite meeting place in Vilnius. It's thought that the square-shaped subterranean remains of the tower date back to the 13th century; its circular wall is ascribed to the end of the 14th century. Initially designed for defense, the tower converted into a belfry in the 16th century. Its clock was installed in the 17th century, and it has several bells which were cast in the 16th-18th century. A monument dedicated to Grand Duke Gediminas stands at the end of the Cathedral Square. Renovation of the surface of the square in the year 2000 included tile-work designating the outline of former castle buildings.

Old Arsenal Vilnius

The Old Arsenal Vilnius

On display at the Old Arsenal (rebuilt 1986 by a plan of architect Evaldas Purlys) on the banks of the Vilnia is a collection from the Lithuanian Museum of Applied Art, and temporary arts exhibitions. There's an exhibition of Lithuanian pre-history in the north wing of the building, which belongs to the Lithuanian National Museum. The museum courtyard has a lift  (also a cobblestone path on the other side of the hill) for those who wish to see authentic remains of the castle complex - the tower of the Higher Castle.

Address Arsenalo gatve 3, Vilnius

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