St. Anne's Church is Roman Catholic church in Vilnius Old Town, on the right bank of the River Vilnia. It is a prominent example of the flamboyant Gothic style. The church is a distinguished landmark in the Old Town that enabled the district to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage.
The first church on this site, made of wood, was built for Anna, Grand Duchess of Lithuania, who was the first wife of Vytautas the Great. Originally intended for the use of Catholic Germans and others visiting Catholics, it was later destroyed by a fire in 1419. The present brick church was constructed on the initiative of Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander in 1495–1500; the exterior of the church has remained almost unchanged since then. A reconstruction of the church funded by Mikołaj "the Black" Radziwiłł and Jerzy Radziwiłł, was carried out following severe fire damage, in 1582. Abraomas Kulvietis preached in the church between 1538 and 1541. In 1747, the church underwent a repair under the supervision of Johann Christoph Glaubitz. In 1762, side arches of the main portal were hidden in order to strengthen the support for the facade.
According to a well-known legend, Emperor Napoleon, after seeing the church during the Franco-Russian War in 1812, expressed a wish to carry the church home with him to Paris 'on the palm of his hand'. The church was renovated again in 1902–1909 uncovering the side arches strengthening the walls with iron. In 1960–1970 the towers of the church were restored. On August 23rd 1987 the Lithuanian Freedom League held a rally in a square near the church and around the monument of Adam Mickiewicz to protest against the ongoing Soviet occupation, which was broken up by the Russian police (militia). Most recent reconstruction followed in 2009: the roofing was replaced, facade elements were reinforced and long-missing side spires were rebuilt.
The design of the church is attributed to either Michael Enkinger, the architect of a church with the same name in Warsaw, or to Benedikt Rejt. However, neither of the attributions is attested by written sources. St. Anne's Church is a part of an ensemble, joining the much larger Gothic Church of St. Francis and Bernadine, as well as the monastery.
A novel approach to bricks as a construction material was employed in the church's construction. The main facade, designed in the Flamboyant Gothic style, is the most striking feature. Traditional Gothic elements and shapes were used in unique ways. Gothic arches are framed by rectangular elements dominating a symmetrical and proportionate facade, creating an impression of dynamism. According to Lithuanian architect and art historian Vladas Drėma, patterns from the Pillars of Gediminas are echoed in the church's facade. The church has one nave and two towers. It was built using 33 different kinds of clay bricks and painted in red. The interior is decorated in the Baroque style, as is its altar. The imitative neo-Gothic bell tower, constructed in the 1870s to Chagin's designs, stands nearby.Back
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