Lithuania // Vilnius //

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square is dominated by the Neoclassical cathedral, dating from the thirteenth century when a wooden church was built here on the site of a temple dedicated to Perkųnas, the god of thunder. The highlight of the airy, vaulted interior is the opulent Chapel of St Casimir, the patron saint of Lithuania. Next to the cathedral on the square is the white belfry, once part of the fortifications of the vanished Lower Castle. Between the cathedral and the belfry lies a small coloured tile with stebuklas (miracle) written on it, marking the spot from where, in 1989, two million people formed a human chain that stretched all the way to Tallinn, Estonia, to protest against Soviet occupation.

Immediately behind the cathedral stands the Grand Dukes’ Palace (Valdovu rumai), a 21st-century reconstruction of a Renaissance palace that fell into ruin at the end of the eighteenth century. Rebuilt more-or-less accurately by following old paintings and drawings, the courtyard-edged complex now holds a sumptuous collection of furnishings and artworks displayed in over thirty rooms, reflecting the opulent style in which Lithuania’s Grand Dukes might once have lived. Opened in summer 2013, it’s one of Lithuania’s best-labelled and best-presented collections, and also comes with gift shop and café.