Gothic architecture in Lithuania

Monastery of St. Francis and Bernhard in Vilnius

Lithuania is not the very centre of Gothic architecture, but it provides a number of examples, partly very different and some quite unique.

Lithuania in the age of Władysławs II. Jagiełło and Vytautas the Great, slight lines = present day borders


Lithuania, situated at the border of Greek[1] and Roman Church had developed by the defence of its paganism, especially against the Teutonic Order to become a state and in the 14th century a major power. The territory of nowaday's republic, except Lithuania Minor, which was ruled by the Teutonic Order, was the Lithuanian speaking part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its Slavic and Orthodox majority of subjects. The centre of power of this large state lay among Kaunas, Trakai and Vilnius.

By the marriage of Grad Duke Władysław II Jagiełło and the polish Queen Jadwiga, the personal union of Lithuania and Poland began. After the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 and by the Treaty of Melno in 1422 the attacks of the Teutonic Order ceased. After the Second Peace of Toruń, the Order was not any more a serious competitor against the two monarchies joined by personal union.


Castles with hard walls

Castles built of stones and bricks, dates og the first complete building after wooden precursors:

Almost all of the Lithuanians medieval castles and forts were built of wood and earth.

Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Vilnius

First churches

Orthodox cathedral of Vilnius

The oldest church in Lithuania, that has been built of bricks, is the Orthodox Cathedral of the Theotokos, Vilnius. It was constructed in 1346, when Renaissance style had not yet arrived in central Europe, and in the Grand Duchy only the Slavic population was Christian. Therefore, its mixture of Gothic and Byzantine design is considered the first example of Belarusian Gothic. The roofs and the design of the outer walls underwent some chenges in the course of centuries. Today, the outer appearance is Neo-Byzantine, and most of the walls are plastered.[3][4]

Brick Gothic

Kaunas Franciscan Vytautas Church

After Władysław II had been baptized to be a Catholic, the country officially became Christian, and churches were built also for the Lithuanian population in the northwest of the Grand Duchy. Soon the most important churches were erected in Brick Gothic:

Late Gothic

Flamboyant style

"House of Perkūnas", Kaunas

In the period of late Gothic, in Lithuania two exceptional buildings wer created, in abundant French Flamboyant style, but realized in bricks.

Belarusian Gothic

Old Church of St-John-Baptist in Zapyškis

Like in neighbouring Belarus, several Churches and other buildings were erected in the first half of the 16th century in a mixed style of Gothic, Renaissance and Byzantine elements, by some people called Belarusian Gothic. Examples are:

  1. As late as 1448, the Russian Church split from the Greek one by choosing a Russian metropolite.
  2. National Museum of Lithuania: History of Gediminas Castle Tower
  3. Triposo: Cathedral of the Theotocos
  4. Вильнюсский Пречистенский Кафедральный Собор
  5. Kaunas Cathedral Basilica of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul
  6. Lithuanian inventory of monuments : Namas, vad. Perkūno
  7. Sightseeing Vilnius: St Anne's and Bernadine's Churches
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