St. Casimir’s Catholic Church – Vilnius
While we are on pilgrimage in Vilnius, you will have an afternoon off for shopping and wonder around the breathtakingly beautiful city of Vilnius. One of the places we strongly recommend you visit is St. Casimir’s Church in the heart of Vilnius.
St. Casimir’s Catholic Church is over 400 years old and probably because of its size and proximity to the centre of Vilnius city centre, it has always played an intriguing part in the turbulent life of the city. The Jesuits began to build this church in 1604.
No sooner than it had been completed in 1635, it was burnt down by the advancing Russian Army in 1655. Although it was restored, it was twice more destroyed by fire in 1707 and 1749. The Jesuit Order was suppressed in Lithuania during the 1770s so the church was given to the Augustinians.
In 1812, as Napoleon advanced towards Russia, the French Army used the church as a grain silo. Then, in 1815, the church was given to some missionary priests, but they were banished seventeen years later and the Russians turned it into an Orthodox Church. Between 1864-68, the church underwent some reconstructions so it could be designed in the Orthodox style.
This lasted until the German’s arrived in Vilnius during World War 1 and turned it into a Lutheran Church for the soldiers. After the defeat of the Germans, St. Casimir’s church was eventually returned to the Catholic Church. In 1919, Blessed George Matulaitis returned it to the Jesuit Order and it was fully restored by 1925. In 1942, a symbol of Lithuanian Independence, called the ‘Crown of the Cupola’, was added to the Church. But unfortunately, after World War 2, the Russian Army once again turned it into a grain silo and destroyed every religious artefact of the church.
It was again returned to the Catholic Church in 1988 and fully restored in 1991. To this day it is one of the most amazing Churches in the world for its long chaotic history and as a symbol of the Catholic Church’s trials and sufferings during the last four centuries in Europe. It is well worth the time and effort to visit this amazing church and spend some time contemplating the Churches fascinating history and the lives of the people who were influenced by this beautiful church.