The exhibition „Traces of the First Christians in Pagan Vilnius“, held in the bastion of the Vilnius defensive wall, displays more than a hundred silver, brass, and gilded jewellery pieces that belonged to the first Christians of the then still pagan Vilnius region.
The exhibition is the culmination of several decades of research by the Lithuanian History Institute. The archaeological excavations in the current territory of the business and leisure complex „Bokšto skveras“ alone took seven years.
It is one of the most extensive excavations ever carried out in Vilnius Old Town. During the course of the excavations, 533 graves were investigated. As a result, the cemetery is the oldest known burial monument in the present-day Vilnius Old Town territory, dating back to the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 15th century.
Archaeologists Rytis Jonaitis and Irma Kaplūnaitė, who led the research, said that the new knowledge has encouraged archaeologists and historians to talk about rewriting the history of the creation of Vilnius.
„It has been established that people were buried in this burial site when the city was still being built.
The crosses found in the graves, the burial on the back in coffins, with the head to the west and the hands folded on the chest, show that Christians lived in the pagan city at that time“, said R. Jonaitis.
The jewellery found in the tombs allows us to trace past cultural influences, migration routes, the development of crafts and the intermingling of cultural influences of different communities living in the emergent city. The jewellery discovered during the research was restored by the restorers of the National Museum of Lithuania (LNM) over more than a decade.
Archaeologist Valdas Steponaitis is convinced that the true beauty and splendour of the jewellery is revealed by the replicas made especially for the exhibition: „This jewellery is several hundred years old, so the silver is already tarnished. The replicas will enable you to imagine their former splendour without much effort of imagination.“
The exhibition „Traces of the First Christians in Pagan Vilnius“ will be on display in the bastion of the Vilnius defensive wall until autumn.