Unquestionably one of the city’s most famous landmarks, and quite rightly so, St. Anne’s has a history that starts with the alleged construction in the 14th century of a wooden house of worship on this spot in honour of Ona, wife of Vytautas the Great. The first historical records of a church here date from 1394, but the current Gothic masterpiece is believed to have been built between 1495 and 1500 to a design by the Bohemian architect Benedikt Rejt (1453-1534), who is most famous for designing parts of Prague Castle. Unlike other historical churches in Vilnius, St. Anne’s has managed to escape the ravages of time almost unscathed and is arguably the least changed of them all. Composed of 33 different styles of brick assembled into a delicate and intricate whole, the effect is simply quite stunning. It’s been said the façade incorporates the Pillars of Gediminas, one of the country’s earliest symbols, although this is hardly clear from looking at it. The interior is refreshingly free of ostentation. The separate bell tower has nothing to do with the original design, being built only in 1873. Visiting in 1812, Napoleon famously noted that he wanted to take the building back to Paris on the palm of his hand.
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