St. Michael the Archangel church in Kaunas

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St. Michael the Archangel church in Kaunas

St. Michael the Archangel's Church or the Garrison Church (Lithuanian: Įgulos bažnyčia) is a Roman Catholic church in Kaunas, Lithuania, closing the perspective of the Laisvės alėja, the main pedestrian street. It was built between 1891 and 1895 in Neo-Byzantine style for the garrison of Kaunas Fortress.


Construction of "military" or "garrison" Orthodox churches in former partitioned Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth lands, started after the putting down of the January Uprising of 1831 and peaked during the reign of Alexander II. Initially the site of the future Kaunas St. Michael the Archangel Church was intended to be used for a Catholic church, however these plans were abandoned due to the Uprising.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul was designed in 1890 by K. H. Lymarenko; it was authorized for construction on November 10 of the same year. Official groundbreaking was celebrated on June 29, 1891. Later, the initial Lymarenko plan was adjusted by David Grimm from St. Petersburg. The church's ornamentation plan was outlined by Griaznov and implemented by craftsman from Vilnius. Most of the construction was carried out by workers from Chernigov Governorate, while the art work was implemented by craftsmen from St. Petersburg.

As usual for military churches of the period, the construction of Kaunas Cathedral was co-financed by the Military Ministry and donations by army servicemen, in nearly even shares. The Cathedral was completed in four years (unusually fast for its size) and inaugurated on September 17, 1895. Completion of the church finalized the administrative building complex of the Kaunas Fortress and symbolized the might and triumph of Orthodoxy. It was also believed that the church would reduce interdenominational frictions.

After the fall of the Kaunas Fortress during World War I, the Germans cut down the church bells and transported them to Germany. The church stayed closed until 1919. In the interwar period the Cathedral was converted to a Roman Catholic church of the Lithuanian garrison of Kaunas. There were voices urging the demolition of the church as it was labeled as without architectural value. During the Soviet occupation, it was used as an art gallery and nowadays it serves as a Roman Catholic church. The other popular name of the church is Soboras.


Kaunas Cathedral stood out among similar military churches due to its size (it was designed to fit 2,000 worshipers) and unusual architecture employing triple Corinthian columns in an otherwise typical Neo-Byzantine five-dome design. In total the exterior has 266 large and small columns and pilasters. This eclectic spin-off of mainstream Byzantine architecture (the so-called Roman Byzantine style) was hailed by contemporary architectural magazines but never gained popularity.

As built, the Cathedral reached 50 meters height; it was finished in three shades of sandstone color with equal-armed cross ornament. For the interior the structure relied on four load-bearing pylons designed to appear slimmer and lighter than in reality. The space between external and internal shells of the main dome was filled with hollow clay resonators. Cut from granite, floor tesseras were bought from abroad. In the dome above the main altar there were two Archangels – evangelists. The main altar's stained glass portrayed God's entrance to heaven. Smaller domes there used for the bells, one of them was founded in 1681. Just inside the church and to the right is the entrance to the catacombs, that are available to the public.

Museum for the blind

The Kaunas Museum for the Blind is located underneath the church. It originated as a 2005 art installation - "21st century catacombs" – designed for the blind, the visually impaired, and the sighted. The project was overseen by the Lithuanian sculptor Robertas Antinis and architect Linas Tuleikis.

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