True Lithuania

Rokiškis Town and Manor

Rokiškis (pop. 15 000) is among the most appealing towns of northeastern Lithuania (Aukštaitija). It is centered around a very large rectangular main Nepriklausomybės (Independence) square. The square connects the Saint Matthew church (a neo-gothic masterpiece) on its western side to an extensive 18th century Tyzenhauzai family manor in the east.

The manor consists of 16 buildings. Its main palace and the nearby servant buildings restored and housing a municipal museum. Some other buildings are still crumbling, separated from the palace by Soviet streets, but the entire complex is impressive nonetheless.

The palace of Rokiškis manor (1801). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The key exhibits of the Rokiškis manor museum includes the meticulously recreated interior of the manor building itself and the collection of Lionginas Šepka wooden sculptures. Šepka, although having lived 1907-1985, spent his life very archaically, lacking electricity. He devoted himself to the old traditional art of "Godmaking" (creating religious sculptures), however, his creations departed from the folk style and he created a style of his own, where every surface of every figure is decorated in patterns and Lithuanian words/sentences/stories, often having a secretive meaning.

1 kilometer separates the palace from the St. Matthew church, also funded by the Tyzenhauzai family (1877). The church and the palace are visible from each other through a straight urbanistic axis that consists of the 400 m long square, 400 m long Tyzenhauzų alley between two ponds and 200 m long paths of the palace garden.

A composition by Lionginas Šepka intended to adorn his brother's grave. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The church has fine exterior and equally interesting interior.

The northern and southern sides of Nepriklausomybės square are full of 19th-century buildings. Despite some modern additions, the area managed not to lose the atmosphere of an early 20th-century town center. The square is well kept with new streetlights and benches. There are two monuments in the square, the new one is for Rokiškis while the old one (built in 1928) is dedicated to the decennial of Lithuania's independence. Unlike nearly all other such monuments, it somehow survived the Soviet occupation. Depicting mythological and allegorical figures, it also has a Baltic swastika inscribed.

The western end of Nepriklausomybės square, with the Saint Matthew church and the independence decennial monument visible. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Streets immediately surrounding the square tend to have some old buildings as well, but if you wander further north or south, the magic of Rokiškis downtown will be quick to wane.

English tourist map of Rokiškis. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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