Treasures from Vilnius (Part One)

An absolute priority for any sacred art connoisseur visiting the beautiful city of Vilnius is the fantastic Museum of Church Heritage, founded by Cardinal Audrys Juozas Bačkis in 2005. It occupies the church and monastery of St Michael the Archangel, just across the street from the famous St Ann Church, and holds a vast collection of sacred art preserved during the communist years, ranging from exquisite goldsmithing masterpieces to beautiful embroidered vestments.

This article features a several of these magnificent vestments, with their unique style of embroidery, particular to the Lithuanian and Baltic regions. This style is characterized by bold, large motifs with heavily cushioned gold and silver stumpwork, combining applique, goldwork and painted silk. These pieces frequently present a fascinating combination of oriental and western motifs creating a very unique style.

Three Chasubles. 17th cent. Vilnius Cathedral. Gold and silver stumpwork and silk appliques representing St Casimir and the Immaculate Conception.
Mitre. 17th cent. Silk, gold and silver thread.Vilnius Cathedral. notice the different textures obtained with varying needlework patterns.
Cope and Antependium. 17-18th cent. Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul. note the exotic damask with chevron patterns on the cope.

Chasubles. 17th cent. Vilnius Cathedral. Gold and silver thread on red velvet. Note the cut velvet brocade in green, gold and red of the second one.
An unusual shade of green -- almost turquoise -- silk
Photos: Bažnytinio Paveldo Muziejus, Vilnius and Author.

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