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Church of St. John
One of the most impressive baroque churches, located in Vilnius city which is also called the city of churches, is the Church of St. John. Beautifully integrated into composition of Vilnius University architectural complex it distinguishes in its architectural beauty and in including one of the highest structures in Vilnius Old Town – the bell tower.
It took almost 40 years to build the Church of St. John in the 14-15th centuries. It was finished in 1426. This congregational church was founded by Vilnius citizens themselves in 1386 just before Lithuania was christened in 1387.
The first privilege for the newly established Christian parish was given by the former Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila, the new King of christened Lithuania and Poland. The Church of St. John was spoilt with an amiability by later Lithuanian rulers too. The Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas gave the second privilege for the church as soon as it was finished. It was gifted with lands, villages and other goods then. The King Žygimantas Augustas disposed the church for jesuits in 1571 who honestly worked in order to improve the appearance of the church and to widen fields of its` activities. Only in 1660 the Russian tsar Aleksej Michailovič with his Cossack army put the Church of St. John to sack and burnt it.
After Lithuanians liberated Vilnius city, they rebuilt the Church of St. John, although rebuilding works were very slow. But finally, in the beggining of the 18th century it was finished – new altars, organs, sculptures and paintings beautified the church again. However, in 1737 a fire broke out again. It seriously damaged the rebuilt church then: the roof tumbled, the bodies, buried in the basement of the church, burnt. But after the fire, the once again rebuilt interior and exterior of the Church of St. John reached its` apogee. There were no more so beautiful and magnificent churches in all the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Newly bricked organs, 23 altars decorated with marble ornaments (10 of them remained till nowadays), frescos painted on the inside arcs, a new façade build – all these works created an impressive architectural ensemble. However, in the 19th century, the glory of the church started blasting not without a help of Russian invasion. 13 altars were demolished, sculptures were broken, marble decorations truncated, arcs painted over with whitewash. The second disaster happened when in 1948 Soviet government closed the church. Vilnius University got it back only in 1963. Since that time step by step the church is being rebuilt until nowadays.
The Church of St. John nowadays serves as a pray house, a Museum of Science and a place for solemnities and concerts. Its` nowadays façade was designed in the 18th century by a baroque architect Jonas Kristupas Glaubicas. Nowadays the Church of St. John is an architectural monument of late baroque period which does not have analogues in all Europe. It is possible to visit not only the main hall of the church, but also get down to it`s basement nowadays as well as climb into its` loft. Such unusual excursions reveal many facts that are invisible during simple stopping by. In 1993 the church was visited by pope John Paul II. That proves the importance of this church, which has seen many – kings, dukes, wars, fires and thousands of confessants.