The Altar in the Lithuanian Chapel.
Mosaic of the Madonna of Mercy
with the cover in embossed silver
small Lithuanian Chapel
was inaugurated on July 7, 1970. The night before, the altar was
consecrated by Cardinal Paolo Marella, the Arch-priest of the Vatican
basilica. The following morning, Pope Paul VI, in the presence of
some 500 Lithuanian pilgrims from different parts of the world,
blessed the chapel and the image of "Mater Misericordiae"
and then celebrated Mass at the main altar of the grottoes.
The image of
the Vergine lituana placed on the back wall, dominates over the
chapel. Below is the inscription: SVB TVVM PRAESIDIVM CONFVGIMVS
MATER MISERICORDIEA (Under your protection we take refuge, Mother
of Mercy). The work in mosaic was realized by the Studio of the
Fabbrica di San Pietro. The silver facing forming the crescent and
the cloak of the Madonna, the crown and the rays around her head,
was made by Angelo Bortolotti from Rome.
The altar faces
the congregation. It is made from a single block of travertine with
the Lithuanian cross on the frontal. The walls of the chapel are
decorated with uneven, rough travertine slabs symbolizing the painful
history of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. The white stucco bas-reliefs
represent some of the most significant personages and events in
the ecclesiastic life of Lithuania.
of King Mindaugas in 1251
in Kraziai, 1893
the left from the entrance is the baptism of Mindaugas in 1251,
crowned as the king of the new Catholic people by Innocent IV. To
the side from the entrance is the coat-of-arms of the pope by Pasquale
Sciancalepre. Next is the symbolic view of the churches built in
Vilnius and Kaunas by King Alexander Vyatautas (d.1430) in the 14th
and 15th centuries. Next is the figure of Vladislaus Jogaila (d.1434),
another evangelizer of Lithuania. Opposite, on the right wall, is
the representation of San Josaphat Kuncevitius the Bishop (1580-1623),
martyred for the unity of the church of Rome; and St Casimirus Patronus
Primarius Lithuaniae (1458-1484). Next is the image of the church
in Kraziai with the date A.D. 1893, when the Russian soldiers killed
the faithful defending the church from being closed by the Tsar.
The figure of the succumbing youth symbolizes the suffering of the
Lithuanian people during numerous persecutions.
Then is the
half-finished profile of a young girl, the other half is formed
by 12 title pages, in 12 different languages, of a prayer book called
"Save Us Mary" that became very famous because it was
written by 4 girls exiled in Siberia for their faith. On this figure
is the only inscription in Lithuanian in this chapel: MARIJA, GELBEKI
MUS (Mary, save us), To the right from the entrance is the coat-of-arms
of Paul VI (by Pasquale Sciancalepre), who granted to the Lithuanian
faithful the privilege of this sacred space in the grottoes.
figure of Christ called Rupintojelis
Marija Gelbeki Mus (Mary, save us)
has a monochrome tonality enlivened by the grand image of the Madonna
and by the artistic paving that appears like a polychrome carpet
with a geometrical design, typical of the Lithuanian art. Among
the precious marbles used to decorate the floor is serpentino and
In the left
wall, close to the entrance, is an opening where ancient architectural
elements are visible. This is a section of the original corridor
leading to the sacred grottoes. Still visible, are some of the frescoes
by Giovanni Battista Ricci da Novara (1617): fake marble with geometrical
patterns, while on the vault is the fresco of the Cross and the
symbols of the Passion together with decorative motifs, similar
to the ones found in the peribolos.
figure of Christ called Rupintojelis or Provider, is very dear to
the Lithuanian tradition. The statue is the link between the ancient
space and the modern chapel. The exhausted Christ is sitting on
a rock, with his face resting on His forearm, in an attitude of
silent suffering. The work was made by Alcide Tico after thorough
studies of analogous Lithuanian models.
space of the chapel is enclosed behind an artistic iron gate by
Alfiero Nena. In the center is the ancient coat of arms of Lithuania
with the figure of the white knight called "Vjtis". The
gate is decoreated with iron plants and flowers from the Lithuanian
symbology with the tulip (youth), rue (innocence), pine (majesty)
and oak (strength).