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Bernardine Church

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Phone No.: +370 682 40216
Email: pranciskonunamai@inbox.lt
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Opening Hours: I-II, IV-V - 7.00-19.00; III - 10.00-19.00; VI - 10.00-19.00; VII - 8.30-19.00
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Church of Francis from Assisi or Bernardine church is located in Vilnius old-town on the bank of Vilnelė river. Church of Francis from Assisi together with St. Anne’s church makes up a very impressive gothic architecture ensemble. Gothic part of the Bernardine church was designed by an architect named Michael Enkinger.

Bernardine monks came to Lithuania in the middle of 15th century. In most of the cases they are called by the name of Franciscan observant. In Lithuania, as well as in mid-Europe countries, they are naturalized as Bernardines. The very first Bernardine church is thought to have been a small wooden building, burned out in 1475. After around 20 years, in 1490, bernardines built a brick church. Nevertheless, they had to dismantle the most of it due to mistakes made during construction. A third church on the same site was built during 1506 – 1516. At this time Vilnius had many construction projects in progress, such as Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, the defensive wall, therefore it is assumed, that well known architects swelled the ranks of Bernardine church developers. Nevertheless, historians are sure only of one external wright – Michael Enkinger from Gdansk.

During 16th century Vilnius had quite frequent fire break-outs, the Bernardine church burned out even twice during this century. All of the interior and equipment was completely ruined, church nearly fell apart because of collapsing arcs.

It took a very long time to rebuild the church. A reconstruction funded by Stephen Bathory, Nicholas Christopher Radziwill and other wealthy citizens lasted even until the middle of 17th century. Two new side-chapels were built during this reconstruction, they are known as St. Michael and St. Florian chapels. The great altar of Bernardine’s church was rebuilt with a Crucifix sculpture. Dating back to 1614, it is an oldest known crucifix sculpture in Lithuania.

The whole ensemble was devastated again during a war against Moscow in 1655-1661. This time it was reconstructed by a person that heavily involved in Vilnius’s defence against Moscow – Michał Kazimierz Pac, the etymon of Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

In 1677 the ensemble of 17 altars was hallowed. All of the altars were black, wooden, and embellished with carvings and paintings.

One of the most famous objects to see Bernardine’s church is the altar of Saint Cross that contains an image of Crucifix. The altar became well-known because of some miracles during the war with Moscow. And also after count Vladislavas Tiskevicius bargained expensive wood of the cross and blood of the Christ relics away to the Bernardine church.

The altars of this church were rebuilt one more time in the end of 18th century. Interior was decorated in baroque style.

When Bernardine monastery was closed in 1864 by the order of Tsar Government, Bernardine church came into the hands of secular priests. Interior of the church was heavily reworked, the organ was carried over to the balcony – exactly where it is standing right now. Unfortunately, during the Second World War, this supreme organ, best in all of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was ruined irreparably and thus far are not used at all.

A belfry was built in 1872.

Bernardine church was closed in 1949. Many years passed while it was completely out of use and not maintained at all. Only when Little Brothers of St. Francis resumed their movement in Lithuania, in 1994 they took care of this fascinating church.

Bernardine’s church is the largest gothic building in Lithuania. Length of the great hall there is 42.2 m, and width – 24.0 m.

A nearby Bernardine monastery was built along with the church. There was a novitiate, seminary of the order and a rich library. Bernardine monks were famous because of their pulpits. The monastery was closed in 1864.


St. Francis of Assisi Church St. Francis of Assisi Church Entrance to St. Francis of Assisi Church St. Francis of Assisi Church Tower

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