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Special Vilnius route: Russian Heritage tour in Vilnius

Russian Heritage tour in Vilnius

Famous Russian architects, writers, and scholars lived and created in Vilnius. Stone Orthodox churches, which have remained till now, witness Russian architectural and cultural heritage.
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Russian Heritage in Vilnius
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1. Aušros Vartai (Gates of Dawn, Pol. Ostra Brama)
“Since times of old the sanctuary of Aušros Vartai has been a place of special reunion with the Mother of God and for the unity of all people” (words of Archbishop A. J. Bačkis uttered in Aušros Vartai chapel in 1997 during a common prayer with Patriarch Aleksey II of Moscow and all Russia). Pilgrims from all over the world come to see the painting of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of Grace—painted by an unknown artist of the 17th century—in the hope of consolation from the Mother of Grace. Eminent Russian poetess Anna Achmatova prayed in front of the painting of the Holy Virgin Mary, Madonna of Vilnius, having seen her husband off to the war in 1914.

2. Church of the Holy Spirit
The complex of the church and monastery has been opened here since 1567. After its reconstruction between 1749 and 1753 (architect January Kristof Glaubic) the church became the only baroque Orthodox sanctuary in Lithuania. The interior was crowned by a wooden iconostas resembling the Catholic altar, under which a crypt was built for the relics of Orthodox saints Anthony, John and Eustatius. In 1853 the relics were relocated to a new reliquary which became their last resting-place until now. 26 June is annually celebrated as a big Orthodox feast—the day of transferral of relics. The last reconstruction of the church was accomplished on the initiative of N. Muravyov. The monastery complex comprises two monasteries: the friary of Holy Spirit (built at the intersection of the 15th and 16th centuries) and the convent of Holy Mary Magdalene (built at the end of the 16th century). It should be noted that both monasteries managed to remain open during the soviet period. Both buildings (reconstructed in the 19th century) have Gothic fragments.

3. Philharmonic
This is the location where a Gothic inn for Russian merchants was built at the start of the 16th century when mercantile relations extended between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russian Duchies. At the beginning of the 20th century the Town Hall Palace was built in its place (architect K. Koroyedov). Today it is one of the most splendid Historical buildings in Vilnius.

4. Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas
Grand Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (LDK) Constantine Astrozhski built this sanctuary in 1514. In the 18th century the Gothic Orhtodox Church was damaged by fire, and thus, restored in the late Baroque style. Later, by order of General Governor Muravyov, the Orthodox Church was remodelled in the Russian Byzantine style (a marble board in the wall of the chapel is dedicated to Muravyov). Notwithstanding the changes, a number of Gothic elements remained in the facade and interior.

5. Church of St. Paraskeviya (Piatnickaya)
At the end of the 16th century a masonry church was built to replace the wooden one which had burnt down. In 1611 the church and the alms-house devolved to the Uniates—Orthodox Catholics recognising the supremacy of the Pope; unfortunately they did not take care of the buildings. Historical sources inform us that the church was transformed into a tavern, and the alms-house turned into a brothel. The restored sanctuary was given a special honour in the 18th century by Czar Peter I, who during his visit presented a gift of the colours taken from the Swedes in the Great Northern War. A legend spread that it was here the Czar himself christened an ancestor of the poet Alexander Pushkin—Hannibal of African origin (the marble board). In 1864 the decrepit church was rebuilt in the Neobyzantine style (by architect Nikolai Chagin).

6. Church of Holy Mother of God
The origin of this church goes back as far as the 14th century, and is associated with the wife of Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas (Olgierd) Juliana. She is assumed to have been buried in the church, just as the wife of Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander Jagiellon Helena, to whom a gravestone with an inscription in the Cyrillic alphabet and three emblems—that of Moscow, Lithuania and Poland—is dedicated. The church was transformed into a cathedral in 1415. After a devastating fire in Vilnius, Orthodox nobleman Constantine Astrozhski rebuilt the cathedral. The sanctuary was returned to the Orthodox Church after reconstruction in the 21st century (architects A. Riazanov and N. Chagin). It should be noted that there are some remnants of Gothic masonry elements in the lower part of the cathedral.

7. Vilnius University
The history of Vilnius University, established in 1579, is related to the years of Czarist rule, during which—in 1803—it became the centre of the Vilnius education district for the Russian Empire, which at that time numbered eight governorates and nine million residents. In the same year the university fell under the auspices of the Russian Emperor himself, and as a result it became an “imperial” establishment. Vilnius University saw its days of prosperity between 1814 and 1823 after the Napoleonic campaigns; a great number of renowned European professors, such as I. Cherniavsky, I. Loboika, L. Borovsky, etc. were lecturing here at that time.

8. Presidential Palace
Following Lithuania’s subordination to Russia the palace transformed to a temporary residence for the Russian Emperor, dukes and other noblemen. The most splendid and solid palace of those days, it served as the lodgement for Czar Pavel I, as well as accommodation for Stanislov August Poniatowsky, and it was visited by would-be King Louis XVIII of France. In the 19th century the palace became the official residence of the Russian General Governor. M. Kutuzov; M. Muravyov, Russian Czar Alexander I and French Emperor Napoleon found accommodation here in 1812. The palace was last reconstructed in the first half of the 19th century in accordance with the project of the famous Russian architect V. Stasov. The palace, built in a Classical style, still retains its solemn and monumental appearance.

9. Former Residence House of Architect Nikolai Chagin
In 1879 N. Chagin purchased a one-storey brick house in Basanavičiaus Street and reconstructed it into a two-storey building before settling down here. Russian academician and architect Nikolai Chagin arrived in Vilnius to serve as the governorate architect. His buildings were of the Neobyzantine style, occasionally featuring elements of old architectural styles.

10. Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania
This is still an active centre for Russian culture. The first troupe of the Russian theatre was formed in 1864 by the eminent artist of the Imperial Alexandra Theatre in Saint Petersburg P.Vasilyev. The theatre flourished at the end of the 19th century under the guidance of K. Nezlobin. The Russian drama theatre has been carrying out its activities in the building since 1980.

11. Orthodox Church of St. Michael and St. Constantine (aka Romanov Church)
With its luxuriously decorated exterior and fanciful interior, this is one of the most splendid Orthodox churches in Vilnius. The Orthodox Church of St. Michael and St. Constantine, also known as the Romanov Church, was built in 1913. The church was built in commemoration of the 300 years anniversary of the Romanov dinasty.

12. Museum of Alexander Pushkin
The ensemble of the Literature Museum of Pushkin includes the former residential house of the manor; an 18 ha park with ponds, the family graveyard with the chapel of St. Barbara and the monument to Alexander Pushkin created by sculptor B.Vyšniauskas. Gregory Pushkin, the son of renowned poet Alexander Pushkin, with his wife Varvara (Barbara) once lived here.

13. Znamenskoye Orthodox Church
The church was only built in 1903. It represents a sanctuary of splendid Byzantine domes, as though linked to the Cathedral situated at the opposite end of the avenue, with a symbolic cultural-historical strand.

14. Church of the Holy Trinity and Basilian Monastery
The church and monastery, still demonstrating their Gothic, Baroque and Russian Byzantine elements, are regarded as being among the most significant monuments of the late Baroque period (architect January Kristof Glaubic, 1761). Orthodox Nobleman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (LDK) Constantine Astrozhski funded construction of the masonry church in 1514. Under the roof of the neighbouring buildings of the monastery an Orthodox printing-house was located, which in 1596 issued the first publication of the primer of the Eastern Slavs by L. Zizanius.

15. Orthodox–Old Believers’ Cemetery
People have been buried in this cemetery since the end of the 18th century. Vilnius merchant Zajcov built a masonry chapel, while the mausoleum for Russian soldiers was built by order of General Governor N. Muravyov. Renowned Russian intellectual characters found their last resting-place in this cemetery.
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