True Lithuania

Antakalnis Borough in Vilnius

A former Antakalnis suburb is lined along a single street that starts near Cathedral Square and goes northwards parallel to river Neris. Its most interesting sight is definitely the Baroque interior of the Saints Peter and Paul church (construction began in 1668).

A detail of Saint Peter and Paul church interior with only a small fraction of its 2000 meticulously shaped white figures and reliefs. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Not far away from this church, there are several palaces built by the nobility of years gone by. Some of them well visible from the main street (like that of Vileišiai), others, like that of Sluškos (now Academy of Theater and Music), are hidden behind other buildings.

The architecture of southern Antakalnis is very eclectic with buildings from very different eras standing side-by-side. Saints Peter and Paul church, as well as the Sapiega manor, are a heritage of the 17th century. Sapiega palace is now abandoned, but the single story buildings in its extensive park (now reduced in size) have been reused by a hospital. You may walk around freely in its area.

Many detached private homes of Antakalnis dates to the 19th century or the early 20th century. This includes the elaborate yet compact Vileišiai palace of 1906 (an era when businessmen rather than nobility were building the most impressive residences). Vileišiai family were industrialists notable for promoting Lithuanian language at the time when most of the city‘s elite preferred Polish.

Vileišiai Palace is small in size but not in elaborate details on its facade. The palace is surrounded by larger buildings that were also owned by the Vileišiai businessmen family. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The development of Antakalnis continued in the interwar period when a district of modern white terrace homes was added in front of the Saints Peter and Paul church. The borough was further extended by the Soviets who built many blank apartment blocks amidst Antakalnis‘s older manors and wooden homes. The expansion continues as some new buildings have been constructed in southern Antakalnis since the 1990s while a former military base is now a Museum of Military Technics full of rusting Eastern European war vehicles.

Surrounded by Soviet buildings is St. Faustina home, a former nunnery where sister Faustina received the visions that served as a basis for the world-famous Divine Mercy painting. Now it is a minimalist museum of relics, 1930s Vilnius images, and a religious shop.

The northern part of Antakalnio street (north of the Sapiega palace) is mostly built up by Soviet buildings. At the northernmost end, there is the Saulėtekis district that serves as a pan-university campus. Main campuses of Vilnius University, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University are located here and Mykolas Romeris University also owns a single building partly leased to the Russian language European Humanitarian University owned by the Belarusian opposition. 16 stories tall student dormitories, nicknamed "New York" by those who live there, dominates the scene. Unless you study here there is little to see as the campus is built in the 1960s or later. Modern University library is, however, a pleasant exception: free-to-use and open 24/7 its 4 story reading rooms houses thousands of English books including some travel literature (night-time entry restricted to members).

Vilnius University library (completed in 2013). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Two cemeteries crown the forested hills east of Antakalnis. Antakalnis cemetery serves as the national pantheon for Lithuania's artists, politicians as well as multi-national soldiers and victims of war: the members of ill-fated Napoleon‘s Grande-Armee, the Polish troops of 1919-1920 and those killed by the Soviet invaders in 1991. Nearby picturesque Saulės (St. Peter and Paul) cemetery is much older (19th century), providing a final resting place for the pre-war nobility and ordinary citizens alike.

Map of the southern Antakalnis. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. Dag.

    Ter voorbereiding van een lange reis via Polen de Baltische staten naar tot over de poolcikel lees ik vol aandacht ontzetting en bewondering, – Baltische zielen geschreven door Jan Brokken.
    Van daar mijn interesse,en het voornemen om een bezoek te brengen aan het Pantheon van Antakalnio als laatste eer betoon aan allen en aan Loreta Ansanaviciute in het bijzonder.

    Met vriendelijke groeten.
    Johannes H.Boog.


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