The Jesuit Church and College, Kaunas
Via Baltica: a Joint Issue of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia;
each country also issued a single stamp of its own feature
The bottom stamp of each (see enlargements below) shows the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier to the left.
LITHUANIA, 1995, Scott 508, LATVIA, 1995, Scott 395, ESTONIA, 1995, Scott 289
LITHUANIA, 1995, the single stamp, Scott 509 and the souvenir sheet stamp, Scott 509c
LATVIA, 1995 Scott 395c and ESTONIA, 1995, Scott 289c
USSR, 19 August 1975, USSR, 16 October 1981, and USSR, 19 November 1987
postal cards showing slightly different views of the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier and adjacent school buildings
RUSSIA (USSR), 22 June 1973, regular and 13 November 1973 air postal envelopes showing Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier and adjacent school buildings
LITHUANIA, 1930, the church may be seen under the tail of the airplane, Scott C43-C44
In 1642 Jesuits opened their first residence in Kaunas in purchased buildings, and in 1649 a Jesuit school (now Kaunas Jesuit School) was founded on a plot of land near the Town Hall Square. It became a collegium in 1702. Completion of the church dedicated to St. Francis Xavier was delayed because of fires and was first completed in 1666, but it burned down again and was finally consecrated in 1759. The residence and school building was completed in 1769. Four years later the Pope dissolved the Jesuit Order, but the Jesuits stayed in Kaunas until 1787, when they turned over their church, college and residence to the Franciscans. In 1824, Lithuania was occupied by Russia, the Russian government gave the church to the Orthodox for their use. In 1923 the Jesuits returned to Kaunas; the first Mass was celebrated in the restored church in May of 1924, and the college was reopened the same year. But the Soviet regime confiscated the school in1940 and the church in 1949. They turned it into a technical schoolthe interior of the church was a sports hall, the crypt a sauna and the church attic a shooting gallery! Finally, as Lithuania was achieving independence the church was returned again to the Jesuits in 1989. In 1991, at the invitation of the education authorities, the Jesuits took over the state school adjoining the church and began the seemingly impossible task of transforming a Soviet-style educational facility into a Christian-based school. In the summer of 1994, the school's president, Fr. Gintaras Vitkus, SJ, announced that in only three years the school had been brought up to grade as gymnasiuma college prep school. It now has seven times more applicants than spaces and is considered the premier secondary school in Kaunas. The twin towers of the church and the white buildings of the school and residence can be cleared seen on the postal stationary above, and in the above airmail stamps the twin towers of the church may be seen under the tail of the airplane; the church is on the south side of the main square, the town hall's towering facade can be seen to the church's right.
House of Perkunas, Kaunas
LITHUANIA, 2011, a souvenir sheet for the 650th anniversary of the Kaunas, Scott 937
The House of Perkunas appears on the bottom right stamp,
and the white towers of St. Francis Xavier Church (above) are visible to the left of the House and also in the selvage to the left of the top stamp
The ancient, Gothic House of Perkunas at 6 Aleksoto Street, in the Old Town of Kaunas, was originally built by Hanseatic merchants, and served as their office from 1440 till 1532. The Jesuits bought the building and established a chapel there in 1643, part of the nearby church and college complex (see above) until the Suppression in 1773. The house fell into ruins and was rebuilt in the 19th century and served as a school, and in 1844 home to the first drama theater of Kaunas. The famous Lithuanian-Polish poet Adomas Mickevicius (Adam Mickiewicz) worked as a teacher there between 1819 and 1823, and the House, restored to the Jesuits in 1923, contains a museum in his honor. At the end of the century a figure, thought to be Perkunas, the Baltic pagan god of thunder and the sky, was found in one of its walls, and the building was renamed "House of Perkunas." More
The Church of St. Casimir, Vilnius
RUSSIA (USSR), 11 July 1990 postal envelope featuring St. Casimir Church
LITHUANIA, 2005, the Jesuit Church of St. Casimir in Vilnius, Scott 797
The Church of Saint Casimir, the first Baroque styled church in Lithuania, was designed by Italian architect Giano Maria Bernardoni, and constructed by Lithuanian builder Jonas Prochovicius, and was built in the center of Vilnius between 1604 and 1618, and consecrated in 1635. But it was burned down in 1655 and again in 1707 and 1749. The Jesuit architect and astronomer Tomas ebrauskas (17141758) headed the reconstruction of the church in 1749-55. His work can be seen in the graded cupola and the main altar. When the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773, the church was given to the Augustinians, and in time passed to the Orthodox. In 1989, even before communism collapsed, St. Casimir Church was given back to the Jesuits. They cleaned out the museum of atheism the Soviets had installed there and went to work.
But there is an old Jesuit school that wraps around the church, and it was not returned at that time. Built in 1751 as the Collegium Nobilium (School for Nobles), the facilities became military property when the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773. Jesuits reopened the school in 1921, only to have the Communist authorities confiscate it in 1940 for the Soviet army. In the intervening years, the Soviets used parts of the building as a school, but it later collapsed through neglect. The new government has offered the Jesuits a challenge: the property would be returned if a school were opened by September 1995. Fr. Jonas Boruta, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits in Lithuania and Latvia, accepted and met the challenge.
The University of Vilnius
and the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist
CENTRAL LITHUANIA, 1920-22, university buildings and the insignia of its rector, Scott J1 and 27 respectively
Central Lithuania was an area around Vilnius seized by the Poles in 1920, absorbed into Poland in 1922, but returned to Lithuania in 1939.
Vilnius had its college and library as early as 1570; it became a university in 1579, and was under Jesuit direction until the Suppression in 1773. Vilnius University itself survived the Suppression. Because many students took part in the uprising in Lithuania and Poland in 1830, Tsar Nicholas I, on May 1, 1832 decreed the closure of the university for fear of revolutionary ideas. On 13 March 1919 Vincas Mickevicius-Kapsukas, one of the organizers and leaders of the Lithuanian Communist Party, signed a decree of the Soviet of People's Commissars to reopen the university, and in 1955 the university was renamed in his honor; by 1989 the old name, Vilnius University, is back.
The Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle began as an ancient Gothic church built in 1387 which was entrusted to the Jesuits when they opened their college in Vilnius. The church was rebuilt in 1571 and since then has been considered to be part of the university campus. The bell tower of the church was added at the beginning of the 17th century. It continued to serve the university after the Suppression of the Jesuits, became a museum of science under the Soviet regime, and returned to cultic use in 1991. It is again served by two Jesuits who are university chaplains.
RUSSIA (USSR), 1970, the 4th centenary of the library of Vilnius University (9 years older than the university), Scott 3772
RUSSIA (USSR), 1979, the 4th centenary of the university and is FDI cancel, Scott 4731
USSR, 8 October 1977, postal card shows the distinctive Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle to the left
LITHUANIA, 1994, Scott 492
LITHUANIA, 1995, special cancel for the library's 425th anniversary (9 years older than the university itself)
LITHUANIA, 1997, Christmas issue, Scott 589
LITHUANIA, 1999, 400th anniversary of the publication of Postilei, from souvenir sheet, Scott 621
GERMANY, 30 March 1992, special cancels for the first Lufthansa flight to land in Vilnius featuring the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle and its bell tower.
LITHUANIA, 2004, the 425th anniversary, featuring King Stephen Bathory, the traditional founder
and Father Peter Skarga, SJ, the first rector, Scott 765 and its FDI cancel
LITHUANIA, 2005, the sesquicentennial of the Lithuanian National Museum, Scott 792b
this stamp features the first exposition in the aula of Vilnius University.
The room where antique books are kept was the dining room for the Jesuit community
and a painting of Our Lady Queen of the Society can be seen on the ceiling of the room
LITHUANIA, 2006, the millennium of Lithuania. The first stamp on the souvenir sheet honors Vilnius University, founded 1579, Scott 816.
LITHUANIA, 2011, honoring the Vilnius Historic Center, including the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle, inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994, Scott 953
RUSSIA (USSR), 19 September 1969, postal envelope, Kapsukas (Vilnius) University building
RUSSIA (USSR), 12 October 1976, postal envelope, Kapsukas (Vilnius) University building and inner yard
RUSSIA (USSR), 29 November 1978, postal envelope for the 4th centenary of Kapsukas (Vilnius) University;
the cancel is the FDI cancel for Scott 4731, also for the 4th centenary of the University
RUSSIA (USSR), 24 April 1973, postal card: Vilnius University rest house in Palanga Lithuania
LITHUANIA, 2002, postal card for the bicentenary of birth of Ignacy Domeyko (1802 - 1889) geologist and mineralogist
the imprinted stamp features Vilnius University and the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle
POLAND, 1938, postal card showing the church
The Poczobut Astronomical Observatory, Vilnius
LITHUANIA, 2003, 250th anniversary of the observatory, Scott 745 and its FDI cancel
LITHUANIA, 2009, Europa Astronomy issue, Scott 893
CENTRAL LITHUANIA, 1921, Scott 40
USSR, 1967, postal card featuring the Poczobut Observatory
Poczobut Observatory, located on top of the main building of Vilnius University, was founded in 1753 by the Jesuit astronomer and architect Tomas Zebrauskas (1714-1758). It was the fourth observatory in Europe and the oldest in Eastern Europe (and the first observatory to appear on a stamp). It was named for another Jesuit astronomer, Marcin Poczobut-Odlanicki (1728-1810), who entered the Society in 1745 until the Suppression of the Society in 1773. He was mathematics professor, rector of the University of Vilnius, and became director of the observatory in 1764 and continued to serve as its director for the next 44 years.