Since this iconic building is usually included in every “Top 5 things to see in Vilnius” we decided to give St. Anne's church its own list of most interesting facts. Here it goes..
...and no, we are not just saying that, it’s actually true. As the most famous church in Vilnius, St. Anne is surrounded by legends. According to one, Napoleon (yes, he was visiting Vilnius in 1812) expressed a wish to carry it back home 'in the palm of his hand'. Another legend states that St. Anne's church was built by two architects - an elderly master Vaitiekus and his young apprentice, Jonas. Apparently, the master and apprentice disagreed about the building style, so Vaitiekus left the construction of the church for Jonas to complete. And the young apprentice excelled at his job - upon the flat bottom part he built a lighter top with three elegant towers. After seeing the result an old master was overtaken by jealous anger and pushed the apprentice off the roof of newly built St. Anne's church. And that’s why the church is red… A bit creepy isn’t it? We personally like Napoleon legend better. Yet another theory states that if you look at the façade of the church long enough, you will be able to see the hidden symbol there - the Pillars of Gediminas ( one of the earliest symbols of Lithuania and one of its historical coats of arms). Can you see it?
It’s Gothic style...
… even though St. Anne's church was most likely built between 1495–1500, when the rest of the continent was already crazy about Renaissance. Why were Lithuanians stuck with Gothic architecture? Well, most of western style art and architecture came here with Catholic Church. And Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the last pagan country in Europe (baptized only in 1387). So most of European fashions reached Vilnius years (if not centuries) later. Nonetheless, St. Anne's church is still one of the most striking gothic churches in the region and one of the must see attractions in Vilnius Old Town. Architects counted that 33 different kinds of clay bricks were used to create the façade!
It’s part of a bigger ansamble...
... that’s why there is a much larger and more archaic Church of St. Francis looming behind St. Anne's church. Together with the Bernardine monastery, the church of St. Francis is some of the largest sacral buildings in Vilnius Old Town. Fun fact: in the beginning of the 16th century the church was incorporated into the construction of Vilnius defensive wall, so you can spot shooting openings in its walls!
It was never closed during Soviet times…
...and was even renovated between 1960–1970 when the towers were in bad shape! Considering that most of the praying houses in Vilnius were turned into warehouses or cinemas, this renovation was an extraordinary thing. St.Anne's church was also witness to the first anti-Soviet protest in Lithuania. On August 23, 1987, the Lithuanian Freedom League held a rally in a square near the church and the monument of Adam Mickiewicz to protest the ongoing Soviet occupation. This gathering is often cited as one of the first signs of the Lithuanian independence movement. There is a little stone in the square commemorating this event and soon the entire space around it is going to be named “the square of Lithuanian Freedom League”.
It’s open for visitors...
...yes, you can visit St. Anne's church in Vilnius, but the interior is not as impressive as it’s façade. Actually the original altars were destroyed by fires and wars, so right now the inside of the church is decorated in the Baroque style. We suggest visiting the Church of St. Francis (the big one behind St. Anne) instead. The walls of the naves of the church are decorated with Gothic polychrome frescoes, partly uncovered and restored.
Opening hours of St. Anne's church: Tue till Fri: 4.30PM - 7PM, Sat: 10.30AM - 7PM Sun: 9AM - 5PM
Opening hours of Bernardine Parish: Mon: 9AM - 6PM, Tue: 7:30AM - 6PM, Wed till Fri 7:30AM - 7PM, Sat: 8:30AM - 7PM, Sun: 08:30AM - 6PM
Do you feel like St. Anne's church is one the top things to see in Vilnius for you? You can find it here. You can also see St. Anne's church during our Vilnius Free Walking Tour in Vilnius Old Town & Uzupis or book a private Vilnius city tour to get the most of your stay in Vilnius!