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Information Text: Vilnius 1655, Russian Invasion - Restructuring and Rebuilding the City

It may seem incredible that after several wars, famine and plague, which had destroyed the city in the middle of the 17th century, a new vigorous style of baroque flowered in the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL). This architectural style later developed its own unique features and eventually became known as the “Vilnius Baroque School.” A particularly characteristic element of Vilnius Baroque was church facades with two symmetrical towers. Vilnius Baroque is also connected with the last wave of baroque architecture in Europe.

In should be noted, that Vilnius Baroque not only wasn’t out of step with the evolution of this style in the rest of Europe, but on certain occasions demonstrated splendid courage and ingenuity, as well as a variety of forms. Despite the huge political and economical recession of the middle of the 17th century, Vilnius residents were rebuilding their burnt and destroyed houses in even greater luxury. The gentry of the GDL felt a great disappointment in situation of the state, and this encouraged them to turn to external values. In the middle of the 17th century the foundations of the churches and monasteries were intense like never before. The great patrons of baroque architecture were the kings of Poland and the GDL: Sigismund and Vladislav Vasas. The gentry of the GDL, such as Radvilos, Pacai, Sapiegos and Sluškos were not only founding sacral buildings, but also building and rebuilding their own personal residences.

The most outstanding monuments of baroque architecture in Vilnius are the churches of Saints Peter and Paul, St. Casimir and the Church of St. John. These architectural masterpieces contributed to the European heritage of baroque culture to a large extent.

The magnificence and individuality of Vilnius baroque greatly contributed to the addition of the old town of Vilnius into the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Foundation: Money to be used for the benefit of society; personal wealth to be used for the establishment of a public office.

Patron: An individual who supports (often with money) an artist, musician, writer, form of art, etc.

Hetman: The title of the second highest military commander (after the monarch) used in 16th to 18th century Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The word is probably derived from German Hauptmann, with Haupt meaning "main" or "head" and Mann meaning "man".