Time to continue wandering around Vilnius. During my “marathon” on the first day I managed to see quite a lot. Although a non-believer, always with great pleasure I visit churches, what attracts and captivates me is the peace and tranquility prevailing inside. The first sight was the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul in Antakalnis (Vilnius district). The first wooden church on the site was built during the reign of Wladyslaw Jagiello, was burned at the end of the sixteenth century and later rebuilt lasted only until 1655 when it was again destroyed, this time by the Russians. The building in its present form was started in 1668 and completed in 1684, and was founded by Lithuanian hetman Michał Kazimierz Pac. The curiosities worth mentioning are the crystal chandelier in the shape of a boat (a reminder of the sinking of the transport of the main altar with the crystal columns ordered by Pac in Italy) and placed somewhere close to the entrance a large Lithuanian drum (litaur) brought by hetman Pac after the battle of Chocim in 1673 (unfortunately I did not see this as I did not know during my visit about it and I certainly would find a way to see it). The interior is really impressive but I also recommend a walk around the basilica, because there are plenty of Polish traces out there (as in entire Vilnius). In the years 1951-1989 the church served as an art gallery, but it is often encountered situation in Lithuania, that the churches in the communist era were used for other purposes e.g. warehouses.
The next stop was the Adam Mickiewicz Museum, located in the house where our poet lived and worked. I was able to get to the museum in front of a large Polish tour, with which I then “raced” to next sights 🙂 Further proof that you can organize everything yourself and see exactly the same things as on organized trip, without having to be rushed from place to place. But everyone explores how he/she wants.
Gentlemen at the Museum (with a lovely Vilnius accent) asked me if I’m alone (I think groups are more common), to which I replied, yes, but that I do not lose hope 🙂 and then they warned me that if I chose Lithuanian girl, I have to take a skinny one, because, according to the Lithuanian custom, the bride must be carried across the bridge (as indeed I saw near the castle in Kaunas). While visiting museum at the same time as Polish trip, I was listening to their guide, telling various tidbits of life of our poet (in this very house he wrote “Grazyna”). I highly recommend the museum, because admission is not expensive, and you can learn something new. Museum is not very big, so you won’t be bored.
On the way to the image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn I visited beautiful St. Anna’s Church. Napoleon liked this church so much that he wished he could move it to Paris. Founded by Alexander Jagiellonczyk in the late fifteenth century as the Bernardine monastery chapel, the church was rebuilt several times after fires. Beautiful interior stopped me for a while (until the appearance of the Polish tour). Right next to the church is a monument of Adam Mickiewicz.
Finally it was time for the Gate of Dawn. Madame Wala from Sikorski Museum keeps saying that she prays only to the Virgin of Gate of Dawn and I had a strange feeling that Lady of the Gate of Dawn is closer to the people than the one from Czestochowa. There are no wild crowds like in Czestochowa, people passing by kneel and make the sign of the cross. You can approach the image at a very close distance, I felt a little intimidated standing next to it, but the moment of reflection was ruined by another tour wearing sandals and socks…
A short walk away from the Gate of Dawn is St’ Casimir’s Church. Wonderfully restored facade and rich interior meant that I was distracted for a moment and thought about the power of the old Polish Republic, when the aristocracy had the money and the willingness to fund such masterpieces. The church was built in the first half of the seventeenth century, burned down during the Russian invasion in 1655. The fire destroyed the church twice. Napoleon’s army used it as a granary, and from 1839 until 1917, the church was converted to the Orthodox. Since 1963, there was… a Museum of Atheism (an example of Soviet sense of humor). In 1991 large crypt from the early seventeenth century was discovered under the main altar. You can view the interesting black and dark-blue drawing, forming the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and praying monks. Drawings are accompanied by similarly made subtitles in Latin.
That was the end of my tour, I had to run to meet my CS host. Renata took me to a delicious Lithuanian dinner, mushroom soup served in bread and zeppelins – dumplings filled with meat stuffing with bacon (the name comes from the similarity in appearance to the Zeppelin airships). At the end of the day, after a delicious unpasteurized beer, Renata showed me the Presidential Palace, from a less popular among tourists side.
It was a very intense day, I did 25 kilometers on foot and legs almost refused to work at the end. Another episode of Vilnius escapades soon.