About St Peter and St Paul Church – Vilnius
St Peter and St Paul Church in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, was built in the latter half of the seventeenth century.
Its founder, Hetman Mykolas Kazimieras Pacas, intended the church to mark the city’s liberation from Russia.
With its thousands of stucco figures and beautiful interior, St Peter and St Paul Church is considered to be a fine example of Baroque architecture.
History of St Peter and St Paul Church
The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in the world. With over two thousand stucco figures filling the interior, it is doubtlessly the most famous Baroque church in Vilnius.
The church is built upon the site of multiple earlier churches. The first was a church wooden of unknown foundational origin which burned down in 1594, and was rebuilt in 1609-16, forming part of a monastery complex. During the wars with Russia from 1655-61, however, the monastery was burned down and the church destroyed.
The construction of the new church was commissioned by the Great Lithuanian Hetman and Voivode of Vilnius Michał Kazimierz Pac. Though he had not previously been a patron of the church or the arts, it is said that Pac was inspired to rebuild the church after an incident in 1662 where he narrowly escaped death by hiding in its ruins.
The church we know today began construction in 1668 and was consecrated in 1701.
In 1901-05, the interior was restored again, and despite religious persecutions in the Soviet Union, extensive interior restoration was carried out in 1976-87.
The church is part of a monastery complex and is surrounded by thick, high brick walls with four octagonal chapels on each corner. A small cemetery was demolished in the 19th century.
The church is one of the most studied churches in Lithuania, in part because the main author of the internal decoration, which is made up of over 2,000 different elements, is not known.
There are many decorative elements, such as floral, military and household objects, divine and ordinary figures, and coats of arms, as well as sculptures of the twelve apostles, scenes from the life of Christ, martyrs, and knights.
St Peter and St Paul Church Today
Though visiting the church requires travelling outside of the old town, visitors attest to its stunning beauty as one of the most revered and ornamental Catholic churches in the world. The church runs a regular service of events for visitors and worshippers alike.
Getting to St Peter and St Paul Church
The church is a 6 minute drive from the centre of Vilnius, via T. Kosciuškos g, and there is ample parking in the area. There is a bus service – the 2, 1G, 53, and 6G – which runs every 12 minutes. It is also a 25 minute walk from the centre.
Lithuania Historic Sites
As the largest of the three Baltic states, Lithuania has experienced a changeable history under the rule of a variety of political and cultural systems. Here's a selection of 10 of the best sites you shouldn't miss.