The Church of Saint Paraskeva and the Altar of Ragutis

Unknown late 19th century artist. Orthodox Church of St Parasceve in Vilnius. 1874. Lithuanian National Museum of Art

Paganism in Vilnius is closely intertwined with other religions. This is seen from feasts, customs and even buildings. The Church of Saint Paraskeva in Vilnius is the first Christian church in Vilnius made of stone – it was built in the middle of the 14th century on the initiative of Maria Yaroslavna, the orthodox wife of Duke Algirdas. They say that future saints – martyrs Antanas, Jonas and Eustatijus – were baptised here.

There are some people who believe that one of the oldest orthodox churches in Vilnius was built on the site of a temple dedicated to the the pagan god Ragutis, who was worshiped by mead makers, brewers and vodka makers. In the middle of the 14th century, Ragutis was forgotten, and the temple was abandoned. Today this place is marked by the Altar of Ragutis standing in the square near the church on a round knoll of soil between two linden trees, and was found among the foundations nearby on Latako Street.

In fact, not everybody agrees that it is part of a pagan temple. However, you can see a candle burning near the stone to date – this is how volunteers interested in old religion continue the thousand-year-long traditions of rituals.

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