True Lithuania Sights, cities, culture, history and more

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 imortance 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.

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 Accension church is a former Orthodox church transfered to Catholics in 1932 as it has been buit 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 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.

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.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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