On one of our business trips a student told us she lived near the most beautiful church in Vilnius, that of saints Peter and Paul in Antakalnis. We’d passed it on several occasions on our visits to the British Embassy just across the road but never been inside.
They also told us that the founder of the church had been buried upright in the doorway until it collapsed when he was relegated to being buried under the entrance that people walked over. Whether or not that is true I don’t know but it’s not mentioned in the rather flimsy guide leaflet we found.
There was a church here in the 15c, according to legend erected on the site of a pagan temple (it seems many churches were). A house for priests was built next to it but closed down by the Russians in 1864.
The current building was erected after the Russian invasion which devastated Vilnius in the mid-17th century. Less than a dozen years later the Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania MykolasKazimieras Pacas embarked on its construction to express his gratitude to God for a miraculous escape during the war.
His picture is present in the church alongside St Mary Magdalene de Paci, an alleged relative, and the Archangel Michael the patron of all christian knights.
The church is decorated by Italian sculptures and has six chapels and there is a 17th century font. In the chapel of the Military Saints is a scene showing St Casimir miraculously inspiring the Lithuanian army to overcome the Muscovites.
There is a chapel, of the Holy Queens, devoted to women who helped the poor and the chapel of St Ursula which commemorates the girls massacred by barbarian soldiers and a monument to the women of Vilnius who suffered during the last occupation.
There was a Fraternity of the Five Wounds of Christ which was established in the 17th century and consisted of fishermen’s communities living in Antakalnis and across the river Neris at the time. That probably explains the boat hanging from the roof.