One of the central units of the Vilnius University Museum is the University's architectural ensemble, St. John's Church and the bell tower.
Located in the heart of Vilnius Old Town, the architectural ensemble of the University Palace tells a story of almost 500 years of history, framed by the city's four streets: the University (formerly Bishops'), St. John's, Castle, and Skapo. The ensemble reflects the primary architectural styles in Lithuania: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classicism. The ensemble consists of 13 courtyards.
Over a relatively long historical period, the university courtyards have accumulated a broad historical heritage. The history of the first Lithuanian Jesuit monastery, as well as the life stories of famous personalities such as M. K. Sarbievijus, M. Daukša, S. Daukantas, A. Mickiewicz, O. Šimaitė, M. Olkinaitė, and other Lithuanian creators. The old University building now houses the Faculties of History, Philology, and Philosophy, the Institute of Foreign Languages, the Rector's Office, the University Library, and the Museum.
The oldest part of the VU architectural ensemble is St. John's Church, which was built at the end of the 14th century and consecrated at the beginning of the 15th century. For a time, it was a parish shrine for the townspeople, and in the 16th century, it became part of the University founded by the Jesuits. Although the church's structure is Gothic, the visitor will be struck by the late Baroque architectural details that emerged from the 18th century reconstruction led by the famous architect Johann Christoph Glaubitz. Inside the church, you will see a giant altar in Lithuania, the largest organ. If you arrive in June, you will see the graduates gathered together, as this is the traditional place for the University's graduation.
Exhibition "Vilnius University and the World". Justinas Auškelis photo
After the Jesuits founded the College (1569), near St. John's Church they built the bell tower on the foundations of an old building (presumably a former defensive building). The bell tower is now in the Renaissance-Baroque style and is the same as described in the 1774 inventory. The lower three bays of the bell tower are Renaissance, and the last two are Baroque, built after the fire of 1737 when the bell tower was reconstructed according to the design of Glaubitz. One of the bells in the four windows of the sixth floor still rings today.
Visitors are invited to take the elevator or climb the 193 authentic steps to the observation deck, where they can admire the panorama of Vilnius. The exhibition "Vilnius University and the World" is on the ground floor. On the second floor, you can see a unique object - the Foucault Pendulum, which records the rotation of the Earth around its axis. It is the only Foucault pendulum in the country. There are 16 such pendulums in Europe.
The architectural ensemble of Vilnius University and St John's Church is open to visitors at all times of the year. The bell tower of St. John's Church is available half the year from spring to autumn due to its sensitivity to weather conditions.
St. John's Church and bell tower.