History

baznycia1Founded by the Jesuits and dedicated to St. Casimir, construction of the church began in 1604. Povilas Bokša, the assistant provincial and Jan Prockowicz, a Jesuit architect oversaw the work. The church was finished and consecrated in 1635. It burned down in 1655, when the Russian army entered Vilnius. The church was twice more destroyed by fire in 1707 and 1749.
The famous architect and astronomer Tomas Žebrauskas, SJ, headed the reconstruction of the church in 1749-55. His work can be seen in the graded cupola and the main altar. From 1751 to 1753 Hans Kierner, a Prussian sculptor, decorated the interior. Frescos of St. Casimir's life were painted by the Czech artist Joseph Obst.
When the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773 (it was reinstated in 1814), the church was given to the Augustinians. In 1812 the French army turned the church into a grain silo, destroying the altars, statues and paintings. In 1815 the church was given to missionary priests, who cleaned up the interior and added eleven altars.
The missionaries were banished in 1832, and the church remained vacant and unused. In 1839 the Russians turned it into an Orthodox church known as St. Michael's. It was reconstructed in 1864-68 under the architect N. Chiagin, who lowered the steeples, added a larger steeple in the front, and covered all the steeples and the cupola with onion domes. The main facade was decorated in Neo-Baroque; frescos of Orthodox saints were painted in the three niches.
In 1915 the German army turned the church into a Lutheran house of worship for their army. In 1917 the church was returned to the Catholics. The German Jesuit Friedrich Muckermann energetically organized spiritual and social agencies for the people, for which work he was deported to prison in Minsk by the Bolsheviks.
In 1919 Blessed George Matulaitis returned the church to the Jesuits. Its restoration in 1925 was overseen by the architect Jan Borovski.
From 1940 the Lithuanian Jesuits worked in the church. In 1942 the crown on the cupola, a symbol of Lithuanian independence, was restored under the architect Jonas Mulokas.
In 1949 the church was again closed, this time by the Soviets, who stored grain in it. At this time the entire inventory of the church was destroyed, including the altars, organ, and bells. In 1963 the church was turned into a museum of atheism.
The church was returned to the Roman Catholic community in 1988. After intense restoration the church was reconsecrated in 1991, and the Jesuits again work in it.

kripta_bendrasThe Crypt

A large crypt from the beginning of the 17th Century was discovered under the main altar in 1991. It displays beautiful bas-relief pictures in black and dark blue of the crucified and resurrected Jesus and of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as praying monks and calligraphy. Fifteen Jesuits and benefactors were buried in the crypt; the remains of two hundred other people found under the vestibule were transferred to the crypt in 1995.

Music

Since the reconsecration of the church, each Sunday after the midday Mass the best choirs in Lithuania present concerts. The organ is German "Oberlinger".

The Bells

Both towers hold Vladimir Tarasov's installation "Bells for St. Casimir." Each unit has fifteen tones, the bells rung by a disc with a sail moved by even the smallest breeze. The music changes with the wind.

Famous People

Among the Jesuits who have worked in the church and lived near it are many famous men.
Andrew Bobola was ordained in this church in 1622; for a few years he was homilist and confessor in it. He was murdered by Cossacks in 1657 and canonized in 1938. His memorial plaque is in the vestibule.
Konstantinas Sirvydas, a famous author and linguist, preached sermons in Lithuanian for about a decade in the early seventeenth century.
Albertas Vijūkas-Kojelavičius, author of the first history of Lithuania, was superior of the house from 1662-65.
Þygymantas Liauksminas, a famous philosopher, orator, and composer, spent the last years of his life (1665-70) here.
Tomas Žebrauskas, who planned the observatory of the University of Vilnius, headed the Department of Mathematics at the same university and rebuilt the church of St. Ignatius, also lived and worked here.

Architecture and Art

kavaliausko079St. Casimir's church is one of the finest Baroque churches in Vilnius, although it also displays Gothic and Renaissance elements. It was built according to the style of Il Gesu church in Rome, although it differs in having two main frontal towers. Most Baroque churches in Lithuania that have two towers imitated St. Casimir's.
The church is constructed in the form of a Latin cross. Where the central nave and transept meet, a majestic cupola of forty meters rises. Seventeen meters in diameter, it is topped on the outside by the crown of the grand duke of Lithuania. The central nave and transept are twenty-five meters wide. On the inside naves are placed six unconnected chapels.
The church contains three altars in Late-Baroque style. In 1993 Antanas Kmieliauskas adorned the church with pictures of the Resurrection and of St. Casimir (main altar), St. Ignatius (right altar), and St. Andrew Bobola (left altar).
The church contains three altars in Late-Baroque style. In 1993 Antanas Kmieliauskas adorned the church with pictures of the Resurrection and of St. Casimir (main altar), St. Ignatius (right altar), and St. Andrew Bobola (left altar).

St. Casimir

kazimierasSt. Casimir, the son of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Casimir IV, was born in 1458. He was taught by Fr. J.Dlugosz, and from childhood was attracted to a life of holiness, austerity, and charity. At the age of thirteen, convinced the cause was unjust, he refused to seize the Hungary throne, as his father demanded. He also resisted efforts to have him marry and devoted himself to study and prayer. From 1479 to 1483 he served as viceroy. He died March 4, 1484 at the court of Grodno while on a visit to Lithuania. His tomb is in the cathedral in Vilnius. Pope Clemens VIII confirmed his cult as saint. St. Casimir is the Patron Saint of Lithuania.