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Information Text: The 16th Century, Vilnius as a Multicultural Center - Cultural Life

In the 16th century Vilnius became a flourishing center of European culture. At the beginning of the century, the Vilnius Gothic style encountered new forms of Renaissance art and architecture, and this shift could be said to be the symbolic start of the new cultural life of the city. The synthesis of Gothic and Renaissance styles could be detected in Vilnius long after that.  Artists from the Netherlands as well as Italy developed the art of Renaissance. Apart from the impact from the Italian and Dutch tradition, the style of the Northern Renaissance also took place in Vilnius. This trend became extremely popular among native artists, who had doubtless admired the Northern Renaissance. Especially noticeable were artists from Germany, who spread the manufacturing of jewelry, decorated weapons and printed books with images. The combined diverse elements of various periods, in crafts, art and architecture were particularly specific to Vilnius Renaissance.

Another significant element of 16th century cultural life in Vilnius was the formation of the workshop structure. This element highlighted the relationship between crafts and arts.

Like in the rest of Europe new humanistic ideas spread together with the Renaissance culture. The modern works and the thesis of the eminent humanists reached Vilnius. These ideas were debated among native Protestants and Catholics, which encouraged the further production of humanistic opinions.

During the 16th century the significant cultural change could be noticed in all spheres of life: from the first stonework in Lithuania in the Lower Castle and Royal Palace in Vilnius, as well as the creation of the Vilnius Academy; from the parochial school to the foundation of the university; from the rise of the first printed books to the eminent Renaissance poet, Mathias Casimir Sarbievius, who often was called “the Horace of the North.”

To sum up, in the 16th century there was nothing what could “revive” the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) in the terms of Renaissance, as the GDL itself had just been born. Thus the Renaissance culture in Lithuania and in Vilnius played quite different role than it did in the western part of Europe. During the 16th and 17th centuries the capital of Lithuania made a giant leap and entrenched itself as a strong cultural center.


Mathias Casimir Sarbievius (1595 – 1640): A popular poet of the 16th century, alumnus of the Vilnius academy, he was later a professor at the same academy.

Northern Renaissance: A trend of Renaissance in Northern Europe (north of Italy). The term is applied to describe the German, British, French, Dutch or Polish tradition of Renaissance art and culture.

Manufacture: An enterprise, which is based on handwork and division of labor.