The exterior of Vilnius Cathedral is grand and it’s the most important Roman Catholic church in the city. It was also an entire inconvenience to the Soviet authorities during the decades of communist rule, as they made efforts to minimise the influence of the church.
Privately there were a few in the regime who wanted the building demolished, but it was accepted that this could cause potentially devastating levels of anger to be directed at the regime. So, they turned the cathedral into a warehouse and art gallery instead, although they did start some renovations to the building’s structure in the 1980s.
Algirdas Brazauskas, who was the local communist leader who later became the country’s Prime Minister and President, gave the cathedral back to the Catholic Church in December 1988. The decision, which was partly forced as a concession because of the increasing support of the reform movement, was a success and 20,000 people came to celebrate the first mass in the cathedral.
The portico of the cathedral. There has been a religious building on this site since the mid-thirteenth century, although the current building primarily dates to 1801.
One of the six statues under the portico, this is St. Luke.
The nave of the cathedral, which had a large number of worshippers contemplating when I visited. This made it feel more of an authentic religious experience than a building that predominantly just welcomes tourists.
The aisles have some height.
A memorial to Jonas Basanavičius, who is sometimes known as the Patriarch of the Lithuanian Nation.
Behind the main altar, with the marble altar having been renovated in 2007. On the altar is St. Casimir’s reliquary, dating to 1637.
The chapel of Saint Casimir, a prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the fifteenth century. He was canonised in 1521 and he was buried in this cathedral, with the chapel built in his honour in 1636. Given the number of fires and disasters which have befallen this cathedral, this chapel has remained nearly untouched since it was constructed.