Baroque architecture in Vilnius

Baroque architecture is the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late 16th-century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church. It was characterized by new explorations of form, light and shadow, and dramatic intensity. Common features of Baroque architecture included gigantism of proportions; a large open central space where everyone could see the altar; twisting columns, theatrical effects, including light coming from a cupola above; dramatic interior effects created with bronze and gilding; clusters of sculpted angels and other figures high overhead; and an extensive use of trompe-l’oeil, also called “quadratura,” with painted architectural details and figures on the walls and ceiling, to increase the dramatic and theatrical effect. Vilnius is like a textbook of architectural styles. The styles of its old buildings reflect everything – from the late Gothic to Classicism, but mostly Baroque. The Old Town of Vilnius is the largest Baroque Old Town in Central and Eastern Europe. More than 20 churches in Vilnius were either built or renovated in the style, most of which have miraculously survived the tumultuous centuries. Their stucco surfaces and richness of form gave the city a special feeling of warmth and dynamism. Most impressive and majestic baroque buildings in Vilnius: St. St. Casimir’s Church, which construction began in 1604, is different from the others by somewhat awkward lower section and a dome with a crown, Johns’ church with a bell tower built in the second quarter of the 18th century, blending harmoniously with the architectural ensemble of Vilnius University. Also one of the most beautiful is Saint Peter and Paul. Built in the 17th century, it looks rather austere from the outside but the interior walls are crowded with over 2 000 stucco mouldings of biblical, historical, allegorical and mythological figures, plants and animals.