The Church of the Holy Spirit (Lithuanian: Šventosios Dvasios cerkvė) in Vilnius is the only Orthodox church in Lithuania built as a Baroque church in the shape of the Latin cross. It is the major Russian Orthodox church in the country and affiliated with two Orthodox monasteries: the Holy Spirit Friary (built between the 15th and 16th centuries) and the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene (built in the 16th century) – the only remaining Orthodox monasteries in Lithuania.
Four interesting historical facts about the church:
- In 1597, the first wooden church located on the place of today’s Church of the Holy Spirit was built by the Holy Trinity Brotherhood.
- In 1638, with the permission of Wladislaus IV, King of Poland, a new stone church was built on the site of the old wooden one, with the main altar and chapels.
- In 1749, the church was badly damaged by fire.
- In the years 1749 and 1753, a stone church was built by the Polish architect Johann Christopher Glaubitz, in the Baroque style.
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Holy Spirit Orthodox Church Architecture
The exterior of the building has features of early Baroque architecture. The general outline of the temple is in the shape of a Latin cross characteristic of Catholic churches. Lateral longitudinal naves, divided into separate chapels, create a rectangular volume of the building.
The facade has two towers (typical of Catholic churches), a tall dome (49 meters/ 160 feet high) and 3 apses (typical of Orthodox churches). The western facade is distinguished by the fact that the towers stand on the inner sides of the nave, not on the corners.
The architecture of the church was greatly influenced by the promoted program of the Jesuits, which consisted of a dominated dome and the main altar brightly lit by natural light – it gives a feeling of holiness, allowing believers to feel the presence of God.
The interior of the temple is decorated with a wooden Baroque three-tier iconostasis designed by Johann Christoph Glaubitz in 1749 and 12 icons painted by the Russian artist Ivan Trutnev (1827–1912).
The Three Martyrs of Vilnius, Anthony, John, and Eustathius, were brothers who were tortured and executed during the reign of the last pagan Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas (1345–1377) in the 14th century for becoming Christians. It is claimed that they were Lithuanians, courtiers of the Grand Duke, who privately accepted Orthodoxy. When their bodies were later found to be uncorrupted, the three martyrs were declared saints.
Secretly kept in the crypt since 1661, the relics of the martyrs were found in 1814. Before the German invasion during the First World War, in 1915 the relicts were brought to Moscow and returned to Vilnius in 1946 after the Second World War. With slippers and hats, they lie now in a glass case in front of the main altar.
Address: Aušros Vartų g. 10, 01302 Vilnius, Lithuania
Official website: Православная Церковь в Литве