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Cathedral Square

The Cathedral Square is the main square of Vilnius Old Town, right in front of the neo-classical Vilnius Cathedral. It is a key location in city's public life, situated on the crossing of the city's main streets and reflecting the city's diversity. Fairs and gatherings of town people, military parades, religious and official events, attractions and concerts, New Year’s salutes and exhibitions are regularly held at this place. It is not only the most lively and important location in the city, but is also one of the most significant and widely known symbols of Lithuania.

The cathedral square was founded in the 19th century, during the reconstruction and refurbishment of the cathedral. Previously, the area was densely populated and built up with medieval and renaissance houses. Some parts of the area were also occupied by the Lower Castle. Following the creation of a new square it became the main open space of the city's centre. The Russian military parades and the annual St. Casimir's Fair used to be held here. In 1905 a monument to Catherine the Great (by Mark Antokolski) was erected. After the city was occupied by Germany in 1915 and the local Polish administration was allowed to govern the city, the monument was destroyed and the St. Casimir's Fair was moved to the Łukiszki Square (Lukiškės Square). In modern times, fairs and festivities are regularly held at the site. The tallest Christmas tree in the city is annually erected here, as well as a number of other Christmas decorations.

One of the most distinctive features of the square is the Cathedral's bell tower, situated several yards from the cathedral itself, a thing uncommon outside Italy. According to many scholars, the tower belonged in fact to the ancient city of the medieval Lower Castle that once stood near the modern square. According to another version, not supported by modern historians, the base of the tower was in fact a small pagan temple, demolished and then turned into the bell tower. Regardless of its origins, the lower parts of the tower are medieval, with several small loop-holes preserved. Its oldest underground square section was built in the 13th century on the bottom of the old riverbed. Upper parts of the tower were added in the 18th century while the neo-classical finish was added in the 19th century, during the reconstruction of the cathedral.

Other notable feature of the square is the monument to Gediminas, one of the first rulers of Lithuania, by Vytautas Kašuba, uncovered in 1996. Interestingly, the bronze used for the monument was donated by Lithuanian border guards who confiscated it on the border. The marble sockle was a gift of the government of Ukraine, while the sculpture itself was cast free of charge in Tallinn. Nearby is a magical place, a small stone marking the place where, according to a local urban legend, the human chain of Baltic Way was started linking Vilnius with Riga and Tallinn, an event that marked the beginning of national liberation of the Baltic States. It is said that if a person steps on this stone and turns around three times, his or her wish will be granted.

Other notable feature of the square is the monument to the Duke Gediminas, one of the first rulers of Lithuania. It was built by Vytautas Kašuba and uncovered in 1996. Interestingly, the bronze used for the monument was donated by Lithuanian border guards who confiscated it on the border. The marble socle was a gift from the government of Ukraine, while the sculpture itself was cast free of charge in Tallinn. Nearby is a magical spot, a small stone marking the place where, according to a local urban legend, the human chain of Baltic Way was started linking Vilnius with Riga and Tallinn, an event that marked the beginning of national liberation of the Baltic States. It is said that if a person steps on this stone and turns around three times, his or her wish will be granted. The paving of the square underwent an extensive renovation in 2000. The new tiles were made of light granite. Excavated remains of former fortifications of the Lower Castle were highlighted in the paving by using red granite.

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