The Great Fires

Mauritius Pczycki Carmelita, Ignacy Karęga. Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn. Early 19th century. National Museum of Lithuania

In the 18th century, most buildings in Vilnius were made of wood and arranged close to each other. Hence, when a big fire broke out in a house on 2 June 1737 not far from the royal mill, almost half the city burnt down. After a decade, the so-called Great Fire of Užupis broke out, which started in a brewery owned by a Jew, Rubin. When the flames of the fires were finally extinguished, the city lost a total of 469 buildings, 12 churches and Orthodox churches, 15 palaces and numerous smaller buildings.

Over 100 empty plots of land and houses were left behind. A few thousand people, who found themselves without any shelter and food, left Vilnius. But these painful lessons were repeated. When the city was almost rebuilt in 1749, a spark from a kitchen chimney descended on the roof of a building near the Subačius Gate and destroyed 292 residential houses, an Orthodox church and four churches and monasteries.

You can only imagine how many changes were seen by the old buildings of the city that have survived to this day: they have been restored several times and their exteriors have changed. St. Johns’ Church and the Bell Tower, university buildings, the churches of St. Casimir, St. Nicolaus, and the St. Trinity and Dominican Church were also restored but are no longer reminiscent of old buildings.

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