Kaunas Basilica

Gorgeous interior
Interior of the Kaunas Basilica

Lithuania only has one Gothic cathedral basilica: Kaunas Archcathedral. It is also the country's largest Gothic religious building. The church, built in the 15th century, has been reconstructed several times and features Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism, Neo-Gothic, and Neo-Baroque styles elements. This archeological, architectural, artistic, historical, memorial, and sacral object is on the list of Lithuanian cultural monuments.

A cathedral is not only the main church in a city, but it is also typically one of the most beautiful and historically significant buildings in the city. Kaunas Archcathedral is no exception, and whenever I visit the city, I always stop by this 15th-century structure to admire its stunningly unique interior. A trip to Kaunas would be incomplete without visiting this historic landmark.



The Roman Catholic Archcathedral Basilica of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul of Kaunas holds the archbishop's throne and frequently hosts the most important national events. Popes John Paul II and Francis have both prayed here.

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Kaunas Old Town Map


The Church's Brief History


First mentioned in historical sources in 1413, Kaunas Archcathedral was built at the beginning of the 15th century by Lithuanian Duke Vytautas the Great to perpetuate the Samogitian baptism.

Originally made of bricks in Gothic style, the church was one of Kaunas' older buildings. Still, at that time, it was not yet like today as its triple naves date back only to 1660.

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, there was a parish school near the church. Two shelters belonging to the parish testified to the charitable activity. Brotherhoods revitalized the church's religious life.

In 1700, according to written data, there were nine altars in the church interior. Two massive typical of that period towers decorated the exterior of the building.

Several wars and fires destroyed the building. In 1771, thanks to Stanislaus II Augustus, Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, it received completed construction. The majestic high altar, survived to this day, dates back to 1775. 

Pope Leo XIII in 1895 granted the church the title of the cathedral. In 1921, on the 500th anniversary of the Samogitian diocese, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed it a basilica. In 1926, Pope Pius XI awarded the church the title of an archcathedral.


Architecture


The Archcathedral Basilica in Kaunas is a rectangular three-nave basilica made of unplastered bricks. Its length is 84 m / 276 ft, width 34 m / 112 ft, height 28 m / 92 ft. Built over many decades with the help of residents and noble foundations, the church acquired its current interior in the latter half of the 18th century.

There is an elongated Gothic presbytery with a three-walled apse on the east side, a sacristy on the northeast, and a Neo-Gothic chapel on the southeast. A massive 55 m / 180 ft high tower stands in the southwest corner. The building exterior and the tower feature Renaissance-style décor.

The highlight of the sacristy is the crystal vaults of the 15th century – one of the widest in Europe! – on the first and second floors. The masonry of this Late Gothic architectural structure is an example of craftsmanship at its finest.

The interior has seven Baroque altars and an 18th-century pulpit. The high altar with the Crucifix and apostle statues is the most expressive. The 17th-century wooden altar of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary with two paintings is also remarkable.

Oil frescoes covering most of the church walls and vaults were created in 1894 by Janas Čajevičius. On the sidewalls of the middle nave above the arches are painted eight large plot paintings dedicated to St. Peter, on the right to St. Paul. Symbolic figurative and floral ornaments in the Neo-Baroque style cover the remaining area of the walls and vaults.

The organ with a Neo-Gothic façade was created in 1882 by Vilnius organ master Juozapas Radavičius. For more than a century, this three-manual keyboard instrument with 63 registers was the largest in Lithuania.


Kaunas Archcathedral Basilica in Pictures

Kaunas Cathedral
View of the cathedral from Aleksotas Hill

Amazing interior
The cathedral's interior

Catholic Cathedral interior
The vaulted right lateral nave with the altar of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – the only surviving wooden Baroque work of the cathedral

Beautiful wall
The cathedral's interior details

Cathedral fresco
One of the plot paintings depicting St. Peter on the sidewall of the middle nave above a vault

Beautiful interior
The cathedral's interior

Confessional
Confessional at the cathedral

Church Organ
The organ

Baroque Altar
Saints' sculptures on the two-tiered brick high altar

How to Get There


Kaunas Archcathedral Basilica stands at the beginning of Vilnius Street, in the heart of the Old Town, near the Town Hall. The building is accessible to people with disabilities.

Address: Vilniaus g. 1, 44281 Kaunas, Lithuania


By Public Transportation

Bus (lines 6, 6A, 20, 22, 26, 31, 31A): Vilniaus g.


Opening Hours & Ticket Prices


There is no admission fee. Please check the church's website for operating hours.


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