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Built in 17th century, The Calvary of Vilnius over the centuries has been a popular pilgrimage destination. The Calvary in Verkiai, near Vilnius was built in thanksgiving to the Lord for the victory over the Russian army. That Calvary was built as a faithful copy of an earthly Jerusalem or so-called New Jerusalem, so pilgrims, who could not afford to visit the Holy Land, could repeat the Lord’s Way of the Cross here.

The mover of Vilnius Calvary and the founder of the Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross was the Bishop of Vilnius Jerzy Biallozor. His heir Bishop Aleksander Sapieha was in charge of construction in 1662- 1669. In 1668 he entrusted care of the Calvary and its pilgrims to local Dominicans from the Convent of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. The Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross was solemnly consecrated on June 9, 1669, the feast of Pentecost.

In 1675, the new Bishop of Vilnius Mikolaj Pac transferred the care of Calvary to Observant Dominicans, who had come from Warsaw. That same year the wooden church, monastery, generally the entire complex, burned down. In care of friars, the masonry church was built in 1700. In 1755, the Calvary was returned to its previous proprietors, the Dominicans of Vilnius, who launched the construction of an impressive new church and built 20 new masonry chapels. The church was consecrated by Bishop of Vilnius Tomasz Zienkowicz at Pentecost in1772.

In 1812 the church and monastery were occupied by the French army. The buildings caught on fire and were badly devastated. The archives with numerous documents written regarding the history of the place perished in the fire. After the Napoleonic wars, all the chapels were refurbished. In 1838, very popular with pilgrims “Guide to the Calvary of Vilnius” was published.

Tsarist authorities closed Verkiai Dominican monastery in 1850: the Dominicans friars were evicted and send to the monastery of Trakai, while the church was left to the custody of diocesan clergy. But popular traditions of visiting Vilnius Calvary were not disrupted by the monastery’s closure. On the contrary, such visits became even more popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

18th century complex, with its church, monastery and 35 Stations of the Cross, remained little changed until Soviet rule. In 1962, according the direction of the Soviet government, the chapel- stations, except the four of them built closest to the church, were dynamited. They were completely demolished in 1963.

After Lithuania regained independence in 1990, work to rebuild the chapels was begun. In a period of 12 years Vilnius Calvary was completely rebuilt and solemnly consecrated at Pentecost in 2002.
 

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