True Lithuania

Top 10 Christian locations and activities

Even though Lithuania was the last European country to abandon paganism in 14th-15th centuries, since that time it has found a true devotion to Christ. To enjoy most of these places you don't have to be a pilgrim or even a Christian as many of them are architectural marvels or extremely atmospheric.

1.Listen to crosses chiming in the wind at the Hill of Crosses, a unique-in-the-world place where millions of Lithuanians erected millions of these Christian symbols defying the Russian Imperial and Soviet atheist bans.

2.Immerse yourself inbetween the 2000 "life as a theater" statuettes at the white baroque interior of Saint Peter and Paul church in Antakalnis, Vilnius, easily the prettiest in Lithuania.

3.Pay homage to Virgin Mary at Šiluva, where the Europe's first church-recognised Maryan vision took place in 1608. Šiluva is the heart of Christian Lithuania drawing processions each September 8th-16th festival to its massive square, old basilica, and interwar obelisk-like chapel.

4.Visit Pažaislis monastery, the Northern Europe's "pearl of the Baroque" in Kaunas.

5.Witness the miraculous original Divine Mercy painting in a dedicated Vilnius Old Town church. Painted based on nun's Faustina Kowalska's vivid visions (now she's a Saint) the respect for the painting quickly spread with World War 2 soldiers carrying its copies. Today such copies hang in Catholic and Anglican churches all over the world but the original is still held here in Vilnius, having miraculously survived Soviet destruction attempts. The Divine Mercy is by far the most popular idea that originated in Lithuania.

6.Kneel at the Aušros vartų street to pray for the famous 1600s Virgin Mary painting hanging on the last remaining Vilnius Old Town gates. While the years of Soviet atheism diluted the tradition, pre-WW2 images and videos show masses of people praying there. You'll be less out of place at the annual festival (November 10th-17th). Like the Divine Mercy, this Virgin Mary is being venerated far away with some churches in America dedicated to Our Lady of Vilnius/Vilna/Wilno.

7.Admire the flamboyant facade of Vilnius Saint Ann church which Napoleon is said to have wanted to dismantle and move to Paris.

8.See the romantically dilapidated frescoes of Tytuvėnai monastery cloister, another of the Lithuania's old monasteries that may have had a hard time under Soviet closure but now are definitely a tourist attraction.

9.Hike the arduous 7 km long forested recreation of the Christ's original route to Golgotha at Vilnius Calvary. The praying stations have been rebuilt after Soviet implosion and major religious festivals take place in May 3rd, September 14th and during Pentecost.

10.Visit Žemaičių Kalvarija - the Western Lithuania's main Christian center - at its annual festival (July 2nd-12th) to walk around wooden hill chapels that dot the village and listen to the unique local carols known as "the hills".

Map of the top 10 Christian locations in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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