May They All Be One: 400th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St Josaphat Kuntsevych

2023 09 27 The international exhibition will be inaugurated on September 29 at the Church Heritage Museum. This exhibition serves as a commemoration of the saint’s martyrdom, coinciding with the 700th anniversary of Vilnius. The city of Vilnius holds a special place in the history of St Josaphat, as it marks the beginning of his monastic journey and the unfolding of his pastoral activities. It was in the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilnius that St Josaphat, alongside Josyf Veliamin Rutski, initiated reforms in monastic life and established the Basilian Order. Thus, it is fitting to honour St Josaphat as a saint of Vilnius. Since the 17th century, he has been revered as the patron saint of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, often depicted alongside Lithuania’s patron saint, St Casimir, in iconography.

Ioann Kuntsevych was born in 1580 in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, present-day Ukraine. As he reached adulthood, he moved to Vilnius, where, at his father’s insistence, he was expected to learn the trade of a merchant. Taking on the name Josaphat, he embraced the life of an Orthodox monk in 1604 and settled at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilnius, where he lived a pious and ascetic life. During the early 17th century, the once-empty and abandoned monastery was revived and started to flourish through Josaphat’s efforts and the compelling example of his own life. The monastery became the spiritual nucleus of the reformed Eastern Christian monastic community known as the Congregation of the Holy Trinity, and the monasteries in Minsk, Zhirovichi, Byten, and Navahrudak that joined the union rallied round the monastery. In 1618, Josaphat became the Archbishop of Polotsk. Tensions ran high between the supporters and opponents of the union, and in 1623, he fell victim to a brutal murder in Vitebsk. Through his life and the circumstances of his martyrdom, Josaphat Kuntsevych earned the esteemed status of a saint. He was beatified in 1642 and canonized in 1867, becoming the first saint of the Greek-Rite Catholic (Uniate) Church established in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Today, amidst the ongoing war, the commemoration of St Josaphat᾽s martyrdom takes on special significance as a symbol of unity with Ukraine and a reminder of our shared history.

The exhibition not only illuminates the life and activity of St Josaphat but also sheds light on the historical backdrop of his era, the circumstances surrounding the Union of Brest that laid the foundation for the Greek-Rite Catholic (Uniate) Church, and the establishment and activities of the Basilian Order. This commemoration of the saint’s anniversary presented a valuable opportunity to bring together the lesser-explored legacy of the Uniate Church in Lithuania. The exhibition presents a unique collection of seventeenth-century liturgical vestments of the Eastern rite and a gallery of portraits of Uniate bishops from the National Museum of Lithuania, reliquaries containing the relics of St Josaphat, the first images of the saint in early publications, early editions of his biographies, and documents that trace the various stages of his canonization. 26 exhibits have been brought from Lviv, most of them being unique images of St Josaphat revealing the evolution of the saint’s veneration since his canonization in the 17th century until the images from the 20th century.

On the opening day, admission to the exhibition is free, and complimentary guided tours will be available. A series of lectures titled “Readings of Kyivan Christianity in Vilnius” will be offered, along with guided tours, educational activities, and an outdoor exhibition showcased on the side facade of Vilnius Cathedral.

Exhibition patrons: Archbishop Metropolitan of Vilnius Gintaras Grušas, Major Archbishop of Kiyv-Halych Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

Exhibition curators: Rita Pauliukevičiūtė, Birutė Valečkaitė, Vaiva Vasiliauskaitė.

Consultants: Ivan Almes, Liudas Jovaiša, Ina Kažuro, Jolita Liškevičienė.

Architects – ŠA atelier. Designer – Ugnė Balčiūnaitė. Conservator – Indraja Kubilytė. Editor – Audra Kairienė. Translator – Aušra Simanavičiūtė.

Coordinators: Violeta Indriūnienė, Karolina Koroliova-Barkova, Akvilė Melkūnaitė, Vidmantė Narvidaitė, Livija Salickienė, Sandra Stonytė, Milda Tičkaitė.

Major partners: A. Sheptytski National Museum in Lviv, National Museum of Lithuania, Ukrainian Catholic University. 

Partners: Lithuanian art collection of Jaunius Gumbis, Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, Lithuanian National Museum of Art, Lithuanian State Historical Archives, Lviv Historical Museum, National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Vilnius University Library, Šiauliai “Aušros” Museum.

Churches of the Vilnius Archdiocese and the Kaišiadorys Diocese: Church of St Anne in Dūkštos, Church of St James in Joniškis, Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mickūnai, Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, in Norviliškės, Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Family, in Pabradė, Church of St Casimir in Pavoverė.

Sponsors: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania, Vilnius Archdiocese, Vilnius City Municipality, UAB “Domus Maria”, UAB „ Baltisches Haus“.

Media sponsors:, bookshops “Vaga”, Lithuanian National Radio and Television, UAB “Media Traffic”, magazines Artuma, IQ, Kelionė, Magnificat.

The exhibition is part of the programme

More information: email, tel. +37052697800.



Vilniaus Akivyskupija          

Informational sponsors        


       Domus Maria