Renewed exhibition of the cathedral crypts 2015 10 02

The Church Heritage Museum has renewed the exhibition in the crypts of Vilnius Cathedral using innovative educational solutions. The exhibition of History and Archaeology was supplemented by video projections and a hologram expanding the history of the cathedral and presenting portraits of the Lithuanian rulers buried there with the help of contemporary technologies. A special hologram has been created for a particularly valuable exhibit of the crypts, a miniature silver statuette from the late 14th century, restoring a hypothetical view of the entire object – a reliquary, to which it originally belonged.  

The exhibition in the crypts starts with amusing historical reconstructions depicting how the buildings of Vilnius Cathedral and the bell tower changed from the 13th century until our days. When Lithuania was christened in 1387, the Lithuanian diocese with a cathedral in Vilnius was established. It is thought that the building had a simple quadrangular plan and a tower on the west side. Quite soon the cathedral burned down and was restored through the efforts of Grand Duke Vytautas. The new church rebuilt in the Gothic style was much larger than the former one, and its basic constructive elements have survived until our days as the carcass of the cathedral. Later the temple was rebuilt several more times due to different reasons and acquired some features of Renaissance, Baroque and, finally, Classicism. The sculptures of the façade, destroyed in the Soviet times, were restored upon the arrival of independence. Illustrations created specially for this project vividly convey the changes in the style and volume of the building.

In the largest and most picturesque room of the crypts, the Chapter Crypt, a 3D hologram created using contemporary technologies can be seen rising above one of the earliest and most valuable exhibits – a miniature 2 cm high silver angel from the late 14th century. It is an allusion to the reliquary that did not survive. This subtle little kneeling angel holding a shield with the coat of arms of the Vilnius Cathedral Chapter is thought to have served as a leg of the reliquary.

The most prominent figures of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were buried in the cathedral crypts. Animated images of the rulers in the Royal Mausoleum under Saint Casimir’s Chapel evoke some of these figures – King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander, Queens Barbora Radvilaitė and Elisabeth of Austria, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Władysław IV Vasa (the mausoleum contains an urn with the king’s heart and inner organs) who are buried in the mausoleum, as well as Vytautas the Great (the location of his remains is one of the most curious mysteries of the cathedral crypts), and Prince Casimir – the holy patron of Lithuania whose relics are held in the chapel above the mausoleum.

Project sponsors: Vilnius Archdiocese, Lithuanian Council for Culture



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