The Russian Orthodox St. Nicolas' Church (Sv. Mikalojaus Cerkve) was the first church which really drew my attention on our first evening in Vilnius.
It was built in Gothic style in 1514, but burnt down in the 18th century. In 1845 it was restored in late baroque style and Russian Byzantine elements were added later during a russification programme.
The Russian Orthodox St. Nicolas' Church is located at Rotuses aikste (Town Hall
Square) right in the heart of Vilnius' city centre. It shouldn't be mixed up with the Catholic St. Nicolas Church which is Lithuania's oldest Church.
St. Nicolas' Church, Didzioji gatve 12, Vilnius
Founded in 1350 by Julianna, the second wife of duke Olgierd, this is one of the oldest orthodox churches in Vilnius. Re-built in 1514, it is dedicated to St Nicholas, the patron of the distressed, travellers, and traders.
From 1609 until 1839 the church served the Greek Catholics, but not without protests of the faithful. When a Greek Catholic Mass was celebrated for the first time, the bishop was assaulted on his way back to his residence by a young follower of the Orthodox faith and only a thick chain on his chest saved his life.
The church is said to boast a magnificent chapel of St Michael the Archangel but we couldn't visit it. A thick rope hanging at the door forbade entrance to the church so we could only admire the beautiful colourful iconostasis from a distance. No pictures though as the woman at the entrance was adamant (not to say rude) I mustn't take any photographs. A notice said 'Photographs by permission only' so I was trying to explain to her why I needed one or two. If St Nicholas is the patron of travellers he must have turned in his grave at such lack of hospitality.
I liked the look of this well kept church, however we were not given time to view the interior. Like most other buildings in the Old Town they have been magnificently restored since the breakaway from the Soviet Union.
The first Church built was burnt down and later rebuilt as a Gothic church in 1514. Reconstructed after the fire of 1748 it took a Baroque style. During the 19th century the church acquired its present Byzantine appearance.
It is hard to get any kind of information about the Church of St Nicholaus because since it is a Russian Orthodox church, most of it is written in Russian which I do not master. But I know a little:
This is one of the oldest still standing churches in Vilnius, built by Grand Duke Algirdas' (aka Olgerds) second wife Yuliana in 1350 on the site of an older wooden church. It was later restored - in 1514 - after a fire. In 1865 it was once again restored, now in the Byzantine style. It is very beautiful inside.
When I visited there was a rope inside the inner door so I couldn't enter - I don't even know if it is allowed to do so because there came a lady and she was very angry because I had taken one photo (without flash). It might have been prohibited, I don't know, as I mentioned the text was in Russian...I was even not allowed to take a photo of the very short text about the history of the church which was in fact written in English. She started to call to somebody to come but not to come to help me with language problems but to help her to get rid of a visitor - THAT I could understand from her behaviour.
If you are looking for the Church of St Nicholaus you should be aware that there are more than one in Vilnius. There is one in the Sv Mikolajus gatve, the second lane to the left from Vokieciu gatve which starts at the Town Hall. This church is called "baznycia" on the maps, the former one is called "cerkvé" though.
I thought that if there was a sign on the door saying no underwear and no photos, that mean I couldn't go inside if I was wearing underwear and/or taking photos. I thought about taking off my underwear to enter, but I really needed that extra layer of warmth. Vilnius is cold, even in summer. I honestly didn't think the sign prohibited standing well outside of the doorway, with my body and camera fully outside of the building, and taking a photo through the already-open doorway. But apparently it does. Yup, I got chased away from St. Nicolas' Church by a literally broom-wielding old lady who screamed and mocked my apologies. You could tell she had the love, compassion and forgiveness of Jesus Christ in her heart, could you ever. So, I bring you the elusive photo of St. Nicolas' Church, which dates back to the 16th century and is staffed by a mean, mean, mean old lady.
This impressive, nice looking St. Nicolas's Orthodox Church was located in a distance from the main Didzioji street behind the metal fence. There was a house which seperated the church from the street in the past. Well, it was torn down in times of intensive russification of Vilnius that was after bloody put down anti-tzar uprising in 1863-1864. Many (all) old orthodox gothic churches of Vilnius were renovated and rebuilt in Russian-Bysantine style that time. So, what you can see now is mostly from that time although the church was built in 1514, 22 years after discovering of America. The church was closed on Tuesday's late afternoon :-(.
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