If Vilnius were a sitcom this church, along with St. Anne's, would be twins who didn't get along. St. Anne's would be all beauty, no brains- gorgeous on the outside but simple on the inside, while the Bernardine Church would be the ugly duckling who was plain out the outside (wearing glasses and a ponytail, of course) but complex and interesting on the inside. If Vilnius were Sweet Valley High, the Bernardine Church would be Elizabeth Wakefield to St. Anne's Jessica.
If I didn't make myself clear, this little church has a simple, basic facade but an interesting interior with fourteen elaborate wooden altars and the nation's oldest crucifix. The church is also home to the 11th-century masterpiece painting “St. Bruno. The Miracle in the Church”, which suffered extensive damage while the area was under Soviet rule. This church was once part of the city's fortified wall system.
A Bernardine monastery was founded on the site in 1469. Later on the church was built. It is known that one of the architects at the time of its building in 1500 - 1520 was Mykolas Enkingeris (Enkingeris = engineer?).
After some reconstructions it was transformed in a more Baroque way during the 18th century. It is now undergoing restoration works which are really very much needed in some parts of the church, as you can see on my two last pictures...
Crammed so tightly behind the Church of St. Anne's it could easily be overlooked, but this is a grand church in its own right. The front of the church is in the same red brick Gothic style as its neighbour, but the big giveaway is the more recent Renaissance pediment at the top, branded in coral pink and sporting an even more recent fresco.
The church is a solid building, designed to be as much a defensive structure as a place of worship, though during Soviet times it was converted into a warehouse.
The Bernardine Church, or Church of St. Francis and St. Bernardine as it is also known, is located beside the Church of St. Anne. It contrasts drastically with the tall, spired, Gothic St. Anne's, with it's more subtle, Renaissance styling.
During Soviet times, the Franciscan monks were force to abandon the church and go underground and the church was turned into a warehouse. However, after independence was restored, the monks restores and the church is now, again, a place of worship.
Medieval church with very old inside (pity, but inside is still not reconstructed). Built in XV century and have a Gothic style.
Medieval Gothic church, built in XV century and is nearby St Ann's church. Wars and fires destroyed inside of this church. The interior mostly remained untouched and not reconstructed from that time, but there are some reconstruction works at the moment. Worth visiting to see how church looks after fires, wars and plunders.
It may not strike you at first sight but this, dating back to the 16th century, church badly needs reconstruction. If you look up at its gabled facade, you will notice a number of niches, only one of which is decorated with a fresco of Christ Crucified. Look carefully and you will see the remains of another fresco, but originally frescoes covered them all. The interior though suffered even more damage, emptied of its fourteen 18th century rococo altars and many more treasures. The walls look so dilapidated that only a closer look will let you appreciate the magnificent diversified vaulting dating back to 1579.
The extensive damage results from the church's turbulent history. To begin with, it was burnt down by the Cossacks in 1655, together with the monks and the townsfolk sheltering there. In the 18th century it came under artillery fire of the Muscovites and the rest of the damage was done in the Soviet era. The building served as army barracks, a store of building materials and, later, was presented to the School of Fine Arts, which intended to transform it into its main hall. The School still functions in the monastery buildings but the church itself has been used for worship again since 1994. The church is now being restored but the work requires massive funds and some of its treasures will probably never be recovered.
More pictures of the church can be found in the travelogue. Note the beautiful belfry at the back, which can be seen in the first picture.
St. Francis and Bernardine church is not as famous as it's next door neighbor, St. Anne's, but I thought it was the more fascinating of the two. The church's interior is what makes it so worthwhile. Covering the walls are huge, faded murals dating back several hundred years-- we were told that these were some of the oldest known murals in Lithuania. Not to be missed.
Right next to St. Anne's and I mean next to it is the church of St. Francis and St. Bernardine. After their arrival in Vilnius the Bernardine monks built a wooden church in the latter half of the 15th century and at the end of that century a brick one. In the early 16th century it was reconstructed and afterwards many times renewed, especially after the war with Moscow (1655-61). During the Soviet occupation it was closed and handed over to the Art Institute. At the present the chruch is under restoration.
Built at the end of 15th century in the Gothic style, and rebuilt after the devastating fires of 1560 and 1564, the monastery was closed after the Lithuanian-Polish uprising of 1863 upon suspicion of anti-tsarist sentiments. From 1919 Polish officers occupied it, and during the Soviet era it housed the Vilnius Art Academy. The applied arts faculty allegedly used the organ pipes in their compositions during this time. Restoration work continues.... but is still very beautiful and a must see....
The church is just behind St. Anne church.
The church of St. Francis and Bernardine which forms one complex with St Ann's is completely different. Although Gothic as well, it's much more massive and stern. Deprived of all furnishings in soviet times now it is being renovated. The interior, bare and damaged, makes a gloomy impression.
St. Francis and Bernardine Church is one of the biggest gothic places of worship in Lithuania. It is much higher and more archaic than the St. Anne's Church with which it forms an interesting and unique pair.
It was first built as part of the defensive walls up to the lower castle, but after some restorations in the 17th century it gained gothic style decorations outside, while the interior is mainly baroque.
I couldn't visit this church and the nearby St.Anne because of a wedding, so I really cannot say anything more!
Whenever you go to visit St. Francis of Assisi church don't miss it's southern, internal yard. Well, the area looked very messed with a lot of various old and newer items, building materials etc. stored there. Pay attention to arched passage and highly decorated, metal door which originated from 16th century! They leaded to the sacristy and were closed when I was there in May 2004.
I was lucky to hear Polish speaking guide who visited the Church of St. Francis of Assisi (Bernardinai) with a group of visitors from Poland.
She told that this commemorative plaque (to Stanislaus Radvilla) on my picture was the oldest in Lithuania. It was made in atelier of Wilhelm van der Blocke (Dutch artist) in Gdansk, Poland, in 1618 - 1623 and put on marble gravestone in northern nave of the church.
There were world's unique vaults covered by frescos from the beginning of 16th century inside the Church of St. Francis of Assisi (Bernardinai). They were painted on the walls of the church as well.
Well, they didn't look amazing as they were partly (mostly) destroyed. They depicted scenes from Holy Bible, showed portraits of saints, coat of arms and include floral ornaments.
There was the oldest in Lithuania sculpture of crucified Christ inside the Church of St. Francis of Assisi (Bernardinai). It was located in the chapel just right to the entrance. The wooden and painted sculpture was dated from 15th century.
By the way most of the historical monuments inside the church were from the middle of 18th century.