Follow by Email

Sunday, November 19, 2017

O'er the bastions we watched...

Jumping for joy at the Artillery Bastion. In the background are the Church of the Ascension and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

We didn't leave Vilnius this weekend, and have no plans for any overnight trips until the Christmas holidays (when we'll be going to Japan for a couple of weeks). With the sun showing itself for the first time in several days on Saturday, and temperatures in the relatively balmy upper Thirties Fahrenheit, it would've been a shame to spend the afternoon indoors, so I was able to persuade my wife to leave the comfy confines of our living room to join my daughter (who doesn't have much of a choice in these matters anyway) and me for lunch at one of the three Gusto Blyninė pancake restaurants in Vilnius:

Afterward Shu-E returned home, but Amber and I made the short walk from the restaurant to check out one of the few remaining city defenses from the days when the Polish/Lithuanian confederation was constantly at war with Sweden or Russia. On the way there I reconstructed for my daughter the fall I took at that exact location on Subačiaus gatvė on Wednesday evening. The lack of streetlights combined with my lack of concentration (I was staring at Google Maps on my iPhone) resulted in a scraped elbow, a pair of banged-up knees and a pronounced limp that managed to work itself out by the end of the following day:

The Artillery Bastion (Artilerijos bastėja) was a fortification constructed as part of Vilnius' defenses in the 17th century, though by the end of the 18th century it'd already fallen into ruin. It was subsequently used as an orphanage, a trash dump, an ammunition storage facility for the German army in World War I and a vegetable storage bin during the early Soviet occupation period before opening as a museum in 1987. A restored section of the old city walls, the Subačiaus gate, is also part of the complex:

The top of the bastion provides good views of Old Town and Užupis:

In addition to the aforementioned armor and weapons, the interior also has recently-excavated archaeological artefacts on display, along with historical maps and drawings:

This rendering of a basilisk was housed in its own dimly-lit room, but there was no information provided as to how old (or new) this sculpture actually was:

The Artillery Bastion shouldn't be too high on anyone's Vilnius bucket list, but it does make for a pleasant diversion if you're in the neighborhood, especially if the weather is cooperative. Winter is a good time to visit as the lack of leaves in the nearby trees allows for better views of the surroundings:

Taking the leisurely route back home, Amber and I passed by the Presidential Palace. The "100" symbols on the exterior refer to next year's anniversaries of the three Baltic republics declarations of independence following the Russian Empire's defeat and subsequent collapse in the First World War, and the flags of Estonia and Latvia are flying alongside that of Lithuania...or would be, if there's more than the gentle breeze that was blowing on Saturday afternoon:

The weather deteriorated on Sunday, so the girls sensibly decided to stay indoors. Lacking sense, I went out for an afternoon walk in the cold drizzle. My feet eventually led me to the Catholic Church of the Ascension, its two towers situated on a hilltop overlooking Maironio gatvė and Užupis. The 1730 Baroque church has been closed for quite some time it seems (or so I thought), as has been the adjoining former monastery buildings, which according to Google were shuttered during large parts of the Tsarist and Soviet periods and have seen use as a war hospital, an institute for young women from noble families and an insane asylum:

Despite being closed, someone is apparently paying attention to the church as I took this photo from under a bank of spotlights pointed directly at the exterior from across the road:

Close by is another house of worship that is no longer functioning as such, the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I could find very little about this place on Google, other than it was built in 1765 and this website that includes an old photograph of the interior. I thought at first the church had been incorporated into the correctional facility that adjoins it, as is the case with the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and Lukiškės Prison, but Google Maps shows they are separate properties:

With nothing but time on my hands, I descended from the hilltop and walked through Užupis and Bernardine Park before huffing and puffing up a long wooden staircase (I've let myself go) on the opposite bank of the Vilnia in Kalnų Park. At the top I looked back toward the two churches in the distances:

From there it was a short walk to the Three Crosses (see here, here and here), where I took in the view of Old Town below as dusk approached:

It was as I was leaving the Three Crosses that I noticed a light was on in one of the towers of the Church of the Ascension:

Apparently, it isn't as closed as it may appear. Vilnius has its secrets...

No comments:

Post a Comment