Have you heard which of the churches in Vilnius is known as the most picturesque construction site of the century?
Yes, we are talking about the construction of the Gothic Church of St. Johns, which took nearly 40 years and was completed in 1426. The full name of the church is the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.
From here comes the shorter name – the Church of St. Johns.
In 1571, the church was given to the Jesuit Order and has since been considered part of the university complex. The Church of St. Johns and its bell tower are among the most picturesque parts of the university complex.
During Soviet times, it was turned into a warehouse and later served as the University Museum.
Today, it has resumed its primary function. Pope John Paul II visited the church in 1993. The bell tower of the Church of St. Johns is one of the tallest buildings in the Old Town at 68 metres. The most famous baroque architect of Vilnius, Jonas Kristupas Glaubicas, designed the current facade of the Church of St. Johns in the 18th century.
The construction of the church began after the baptism of Lithuania in 1387 and was completed in 1426. It was originally Gothic, although later in the first half of the 18th century it acquired distinct late Baroque features. However, much of the ornate Baroque interior was destroyed in the 1930s.
An eye-catching composition of ten Presbyterian altars, the only one in Lithuania and the Baltic States, is present in the church interior. The organs in this church were the most famous in Lithuania. 18 sculptures stand in the central nave next to the pillars, 12 of which depict Saint Johns.
The most expressive chapels include the Oginskis and St. Ona. There are many memorials in the church: Jeronimo Stroinovskio, Adomo Mickevičiaus, Antonijo Edvardo Odineco, Liudviko Kondratovičiaus – Vladislovo Sirokomlės, Tado Kosciuškos, Konstantino Sirvydo, Simono Daukanto, and others.
Since the times of the Jesuit Academy, professors and students used to pray, host various plays and defend dissertations, while kings were greeted solemnly at the Church of St. Johns. Many traditions remain in the present day: diplomas are awarded here, and various concerts and festivals are held.