Capital of Samogitia | True Lithuania
True Lithuania

Telšiai Town

Known as the capital of Samogitia the Telšiai town (pop. 30 000) hugging the coasts of Mastis lake is interesting for its relatively authentic main street and main square.

Like many capitals, Telšiai claims to be built on seven hills. The most prominent hill is crowned by a Neoclassical Telšiai St. Anthony Cathedral (1794), the only two-floored church in Lithuania. 4-story diocesan priest seminary in a former monastery and a bishop's residence stand nearby. Telšiai diocese has been erected in 1926 and covers the whole western Lithuania, including the city of Klaipėda (until 1997 also Šiauliai).

Telšiai's religious importance helped to establish the town as the unofficial capital of Samogitia in people's minds. Locals take a great pride in this designation: ~2,5% of them even reported "Samogitian" as their ethnicity in the 2011 census. Samogitian dialect is widely used, including sculptures and plaques in the well-kept downtown.

Telšiai Cathedral (center) and some of the sculptured plaques that tell Samogitian history in the local dialect at the bottom of the hill. The right plaque in question reminds that the christianisation in Europe ended only in 1413, after Samogitia was christianed (600th anniversary in 2013). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The Main square, its Respublikos street approach and the surrounding side-streets on the bottom of Cathedral hill have the most authentic pre-WW2 buildings. Virgin Mary Assumption church is a former Orthodox church transferred to Catholics in 1932 as it has been built to replace a previous Catholic church. Some derelict industrial buildings stand on Gedimino street further west.

The Telšiai Alka museum that was established in the interwar period is among the best of Lithuania’s provincial museums. It represents art from the Samogitian manors, Samogitian clothes, church art and other things about Samogitia. Most exhibits are good quality making the museum well worth a visit.

~1,5 km southwest of Alka stands the Samogitian countryside museum, which is actually a neat park with authentic buildings dating to ~1900 moved in from Samogitian villages. Farmsteads of varying affluence and a mill could be explored introducing to the traditional Lithuanian peasant life (a smaller alternative to the Rumšiškės museum).

5 km to the southeast of Telšiai stands Rainiai village, where a chapel marks the place of the infamous 1941 Rainiai massacre when Soviets brutally tortured and murdered at least 73 Lithuanian civilians.

This chapel reminds of the Rainiai massacre which took place in the forest behind it. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

English tourist map of Telšiai, Lithuania.

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  1. Precious knowledge to be gained concerning where my father’s people originated. I thank you, Mr. Zemaitis for your generous information. I shall continue to follow your literary descriptions of Lithuania.

    Sincerely, Lisa Martick (Martinkus)

  2. Soy español y mi pareja una chica de Lituania des de 10 años visito la localidad de telsei y mi impresión es muy buena en general algo muy bonito de conocer saludos Víctor

  3. So, where are the birth and family records now that used to be kept in the Catholic Church?

    Would you have contact information?

  4. What is the best way to get to Telšiai from Telšiai

    • I don’t understand the question – Telšiai is Telšiai. Maybe you wanted to ask “some other place” to Telšiai.

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