Chapel of Saint Casimir

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Vilnius Cathedral Chapel of Saint Casimir, Vilnius, Lithuania - Diliff.jpg
Interior of the Chapel of Saint Casimir
General information
Architectural style Baroque architecture
Town or city Vilnius
Country Lithuania
Construction started 1623
Completed 1636
Designations (see Designated landmark)

The Chapel of Saint Casimir is a chapel dedicated to Saint Casimir in Vilnius Cathedral. The chapel was built in 1623–36 after Prince Casimir (1458–1484) was canonized as saint. It was built and decorated in the Baroque style by Italian sculptors and architects commissioned by Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.[1] The centerpiece of the chapel is a faux marble altar which holds the silver sarcophagus with Casimir's remains and the painting Three-Handed St. Casimir.


Resurrection of Ursula

The chapel has two expressive murals by Florentine artist Michelangelo Palloni completed during the restoration work in 1692.[1] The Opening of the Coffin of St. Casimir measures 285 by 402 centimetres (112 in × 158 in) and decorates the east wall. It depicts the opening of St. Casimir's coffin on August 16, 1604 during his canonization proceedings. The body in the coffin was found intact, 120 years after the burial. The saint is wearing a long red robe, decorated with stoat fur, and a ducal crown. Bishop Benedykt Woyna (pl), who wrote to Rome of a wonderful smell after the lid was lifted, has his hands raised to heaven in praise of the Lord.[1] Kneeling at the head of the saint is Gregorius Swiecicki, the canon at Vilnius Cathedral chapter, who was entrusted with Casimir's canonization process. Jan Kazimierz Sapieha who commissioned the painting stands on the right; Virgin Mary and Saint Peter, dressed in clothes of the time, stand on the left. Around them are priests with long candles in their hands.[1] Resurrection of Ursula measures 295 by 402 centimetres (116 in × 158 in) and decorates the west wall. It depicts the first known miracle of St. Casimir. After the death of a young girl Ursula, her father went to the coffin of the prince to pray for her and the girl miraculously resurrected. The artist skillfully depicts surprise and astonishment of the father, other relatives, and clergy.[1]

Sculptures of rulers[edit]

One of the eight sculptures of rulers traditionally identified as John I Albert

The chapel has eight sculptures of rulers that stand in marble niches in the four corners. At about 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) in height, the sculptures are taller than life size.[2] They are carved from wood and plated in silver.[3] They were carved with particular attention to individualized details: attributes of power, clothes, facial details, hand gestures, and poses (they are turned a bit to the left or the right so they face the main altar better).[4] The author, date of creation, and identity of the figures are unknown and are subject to speculation by art historians.

The chapel originally had eight pure silver sculptures that measured about 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in height and that were melted during the Deluge (1655–60), but they stood in the main altar.[3] The marble niches were probably created in 1620s or 1630s[3] but there is no mention that they had any sculptures in them until 1737 when an inventory listed eight wooden sculptures of kings and emperors.[5] According to Marija Matušakaitė, the sculptures are of late Baroque style and should be dated the second quarter of the 18th century.[3] The first claims that the sculptures depict Polish kings were recorded in the 1828 report of canonical visitation and in the 1835 book on Vilnius history by Michał Baliński (pt).[6] This theory of the Jagiellonian kings gained popularity and in 1878 the names were written in gilded letters on the postaments: Władysław II Jagiełło (Jogaila) (reigned 1386–1434), Władysław of Varna (1434–44), Casimir IV Jagiellon (1447–92), Saint Casimir, John I Albert (1492–1501), Alexander Jagiellon (1501–06), Sigismund I the Old (1507–48), and Sigismund II Augustus (1548–72).[7] At some point, Lithuanian historiography replaced Władysław of Varna with Władysław IV Vasa (1632–48).[8] The writings since has disappeared, but these names are often cited.[6]

Not all researchers agree with the traditional identification. Already in 1840 Józef Ignacy Kraszewski proposed that the sculptures depict royal saints[6] but the sculptures have no symbols or attributes of sainthood.[9] The sculptures are too detailed and personalized to depict abstract royals or saints.[9] Matušakaitė suggested that one of the sculptures depicts Vytautas, Grand Duke of Lithuania (1392–1430), and not Władysław of Varna or Władysław Vasa.[10] Mindaugas Paknys noted that two sculptures wear imperial crowns (other researchers considered them grand ducal caps as they are visually very similar)[11] and suggested that they depict Camimir's grandfather Albert II of Germany, elected but not crowned King of the Romans, and Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, who raised orphaned Casimir's mother. According to Paknys, the other six sculptures depict Casimir's immediate family: grandfather Władysław Jagiełło, father Casimir, and brothers Vladislaus, John Albert, Alexander, and Sigismund.[12]



  1. ^ a b c d e "Mural paintings at the Chapel of Saint Casimir of Vilnius Cathedral, Michelangelo Palloni". Europeana 280. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  2. ^ Bielinis (1988), p. 167
  3. ^ a b c d Paknys (2012), p. 154
  4. ^ Paknys (2012), pp. 153–154
  5. ^ Paknys (2012), p. 156
  6. ^ a b c Paknys (2012), p. 159
  7. ^ Paknys (2012), p. 160
  8. ^ Paknys (2012), p. 163
  9. ^ a b Paknys (2012), p. 167
  10. ^ Širmulis (2006), p. 190
  11. ^ Paknys (2012), p. 170
  12. ^ Paknys (2012), pp. 172–173