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It is thought that the first cathedral of Vilnius may have been built on this site at the time of Mindaugas’s Christianisation. Later it was converted into the Perkūnas temple. However, there is no reliable evidence of this fact. In the 13th century, a square defensive tower of the Lower Castle built for the protection of the gate stood on the site of the present belfry. Despite various historical calamities, almost the entire ground floor of the tower survived underground. It is one of the earliest masonry structures in Lithuania.

In 1387, as the Christianisation of Lithuania took place, Vilnius diocese with the Cathedral was established in Vilnius. The Cathedral building had a simple square plan and a tower on the western side. The Cathedral was approximately three times smaller than the present one. In the second half of the 14th century, a round upward tapering tower was built on the remains of the defensive tower. Loopholes were set up on the second and third floors. Like today, it could be accessed through an entrance on the first floor from the side of the courtyard.

In 1399, the Vilnius Cathedral and the castles burned down. Grand Duke Vytautas took care of the reconstruction of the Cathedral. The new temple, much larger than the former one, was built in the style of High Gothic, and its main construction elements form the skeleton of the Cathedral building today.
After the fire of 1530, the Cathedral was reconstructed in the style of Renaissance. It is thought that at that time, during the reconstruction of the main façade of the Cathedral, the pediment and the portal were rebuilt in the new style. In the first half of the 16th century, the defensive tower was converted into the Cathedral belfry.
After the fire of 1610, the roof of the temple had to be repaired; lateral towers were added during the reconstruction of the façade, and the wooden constructions of the belfry and the Cathedral itself were replaced. In 1623, on the initiative of Sigismund Vasa, the construction of the Baroque Chapel of Saint Casimir began, and in 1636, the relics of the Prince were transferred to the chapel.
From 1752 to 1754, the belfry was reconstructed after the Baroque design by the architect Johann Christoph Glaubitz. The narrower upper part of the belfry was reinforced with buttresses and crowned with a cupola. In 1769, the tower of the Cathedral was destroyed by a storm. After this calamity the Cathedral was closed.
From 1783 to 1801, the Cathedral was reconstructed in the style of Classicism. The sculptures of Saint Helena, Saint Casimir and Saint Stanislaus were erected on the pediment of the façade. In the early 19th century, the Cathedral and the belfry acquired their present appearance.
In 1949, the Cathedral was closed. The sculptures that decorated the Cathedral were destroyed, and the temple was transferred to the Art Museum. In 1985, the Vilnius Cathedral Treasury was discovered; it is currently exhibited at the Church Heritage Museum.
There was a plan to build a carillon in the Cathedral belfry from bells brought from various churches in Lithuania that had been closed, but it did not succeed.
In 1988, the return of the Cathedral to believers was announced. The relics of Saint Casimir were brought back to the Cathedral, and the sculptures of the saints on the cathedral pediment were re-erected.
In 2014, the reconstruction works on the belfry were finished. It is now open to visitors.
13th c.
14th c.
15th c.
16th c.
17th c.
18th c.
19th c.
1940s–1980s
End of 20th c. – 21st c.
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Question

Bells and people are alike not only because they have names. Bells also have a body: a neck, a shoulder and a mouth. What is the clapper of the bell called?

Explanation of right answer

Tongue. The lower rim of the bell is called the lip.

Question

This reliquary is dedicated to a famous Lithuanian saint. He can easily be recognised from princely robes, a cross, and a lily. What is the saint called?

Explanation of right answer

Casimir. He can be recognised from princely robes, a lily, and a cross.

Question

In the interwar period the cathedral was close to collapsing: the walls cracked and the floor sagged. What caused this calamity to happen?

Explanation of right answer

Flood. In 1931, a flood undermined the foundations of the cathedral and the walls began to crack.

Question

What was the original purpose of the cathedral crypts?

Explanation of right answer

Cemetery. Magnates, rulers, bishops and members of the Chapter were buried there.

Question

Only in the 7th century bells began to call the believers to the Mass. What musical instruments were used for that purpose before?

Explanation of right answer

Trumpets.

Question

The tower adjacent to the cathedral became a bell tower in the 16th century. What was its previous function?

Explanation of right answer

Protecting the gate of the Lower Castle of Vilnius.

Question

Saint Helena is the patron of archaeologists and the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine. According to the tradition, during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem she found the cross on which Jesus was crucified. That is why she is represented holding a cross in one hand. What is she holding in the other hand?
 

Explanation of right answer

Nails. Like a cross, it is a symbol of Christ’s suffering.

Question

The treasury of Vilnius Cathedral was discovered in the cathedral in 1985. The discovery was:

Explanation of right answer

Passed over in silence with the aim to protect the treasury.

Question

This window can be seen in Saint Archangel Michael’s Church that houses the Church Heritage Museum. What was its function?
 

Explanation of right answer

Administering the Holy Communion. Bernardine nuns living in a cloister could not participate in the Holy Mass together with lay people. They prayed in the gallery (corridor) adjacent to the church, and were administered the Holy Communion through this window.

Question

St. Archangel Michael`s Church is a mausoleum of a famous noble family of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania. What is the name of this family?

Explanation of right answer

The history of this church is closely related with the Sapiega family. The Sapiegas were buried in a crypt under the chancel of the church.



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