True Lithuania

Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance Architecture in Lithuania (13th – 16th centuries)

The first stone or brick buildings in Lithuania were Romanesque, but this style was mostly limited to the castle architecture and very few of it survived to this day. You can see Romanesque Medininkai castle ruins near Vilnius.

In the 14th century, the first gothic buildings were constructed making Grand Duchy of Lithuania the world's easternmost outreach of this architectural style. The Saint Nicholas Catholic Church in Vilnius Old Town is dated to 1320 when it was completed for German merchants (as the Lithuanians were still worshipping pagan gods and goddesses at the time). Like other early gothic churches, it is quite small and simple.

The most elaborate gothic buildings have been constructed later. The Saint Ann church in Vilnius Old Town (1500) facade is a true masterpiece. It is joined by a larger yet plainer Saint Francis of Assisi church (1516) in a single religious complex.

Flamboyant Saint Ann church in Vilnius Old Town. According to a legend Napoleon wanted to bring it to France because of its beauty. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Of the few gothic buildings that survived most did in Vilnius and KaunasKaunas Old Town has a fair share of 15th-century gothic churches, including the Kaunas Cathedral, the Vytautas church, and the Saint Gertrude church. There are also some gothic townhouse facades left in these two largest cities. A small brick Zapyškis church (near Kaunas) built when most Lithuanian villages were completely wooden is also famous.

Renaissance buildings are also few and far between, but the Vilnius University’s extensive main campus is a real gem. Šiauliai Cathedral is probably the best known Renaissance church in Lithuania.

Vilnius University main campus. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Most of the buildings in Lithuania's smaller towns that look Gothic, Romanesque or Renaissance are in fact dating to the 19th century (see "Historicism Architecture in Lithuania").

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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