Vilnius Old Town – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Vilnius – the capital of a small country named Lithuania and the greenest city I’ve ever been in. It is the city of architectural division and dynamic with the historical old town and modern industrial part. But tall skyscrapers with picturesque views you can find nearly everywhere nowadays, but not the old town – such places are exceptional.

It is just a pleasure for the soul to be in this city, take long walks through those small cobbled streets, with gorgeous buildings around you, enjoy the nature, the architecture and the view of the warm lights and cosy cafes. Especially in winter, when it is minus twenty degrees outside, you freeze nearly to death, but the falling snow makes it look like a magic place from a fairy tale. Truly fascinating and inspiring place.

The town itself began to develop in Middle Ages, thus you can find many different styles in the architecture of the Vilnius Old Town and here are the most prominent ones: Gothic  It is the architectural and art style of the mature and late medieval periods which was formed in France and reached Lithuania in the late part of the fourteenth century. This style is full of antinomy: symbolic, allegorical content and naturalistic visual detail, spirituality, mysticism and logical structure. In Lithuania, Church of St. Francis and St. Bernard is one of the largest sacral gothic buildings, but the most significant gothic monument is St. Anne’s Church. Both are located right next to each other in The Old Town of Vilnius, but one of them outshines the other. St. Anne’s Church is the most impressive building not only in Vilnius region, but throughout all Lithuania. None of the other gothic buildings can match with its elegance and richness of details, it is truly a masterpiece, which survived a lot of historical moments and was reconstructed multiple times. The St. Anne’s Church and the whole old town of Vilnius has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994, but the Church itself was also brought to the CyArk database in 2010.  Renaissance  “Rebirth” or renaissance is the period in the European history which served as a transition from Middle Ages to modern history, a kind of cultural bridge. It spread throughout Christian Europe in the fifteenth – sixteenth centuries, replacing the medieval gothic style and brought mixed forms into fashion such as arches, columns and pilasters – the slight impact of antient heritage. Renaissance in architecture was brought to Lithuania by Queen Bona Sforza, wife of Lithuanian Grand Duke and King of Poland Sigismund I the Old. As she was an Italian, she was inviting her countrymen architects to Vilnius, who gave the city an Italian Renaissance character. The most popular places to see in Vilnius in this style are The Gate of Dawn, which contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy and it is said that the icon has a miraculous power, which is why many pilgrims from neighbouring countries are travelling to Lithuania to pray in front of the holy painting. Also, the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, The Bastion of Vilnius City Wall, Alumnat courtyard, House of the Signatories and many others.  Baroque Baroque is an art direction which originated in Rome during the late Renaissance and reached Vilnius in between sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It resisted to classicism and rationalism with its bizarre, strange and prone to excesses look and amongst other styles, baroque is an integral part of the architecture of the Old Town of Vilnius. The most outstanding examples of Vilnius Baroque are St. Catherine Church, St. Theresa Church and St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church. And I just can’t not mention Vilnius University. Baroque not only left the architectural heritage, but also left a significant imprint on painting, literature and applied art. It swept across Vilnius with all its power and greatly influenced the appearance of the city and its further development. Classicism 

This is a grand style with its inherent columns, mouldings, pediments and balustrades. Large, bright building, spacious squares with a well-planned gardens and parks. It became popular in Europe only in eighteenth century, but its origin is ancient art. Like during the Renaissance, this is a comeback to the ancient architectural principles – simplicity, clarity, monumentality, rigor, use of classical compositions and ancient harmony.

The most prominent buildings in Lithuania are built in this architectural style such as Presidential Palace, National Museum of Lithuania, Vilnius Town Hall and Vilnius Cathedral.

The Old Town of Vilnius is an eye pleasing place with a great amount of beautiful churches, impressive constructions and architectural masterpieces. No wonder it attracts a considerable number of tourists each year. A truly worth to visit place, and not only in winter. During the summer, there is a lot of street musicians, who will turn your simple evening promenade into the romantic rendezvous.

Vilnius Old Town – UNESCO World Heritage Site
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Vilnius Old Town – UNESCO World Heritage Site
BDC July 2022 issue - 294

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