The art heritage in the Degučiai Church of St. Vincent Ferrero 

Aleksandra Aleksandravičiūtė

From the 18th century the Church of St. Vincent Ferrero in Degučiai was an affiliate of the church in Žemaičių Naumiestis. A rather well-survived wooden one-tower triangular plan building and its interior are notable for artistic carved altar ensemble with features characteristic of the Žemaitija (Samogitian) baroque. The interior of the church, furniture and altars with pictures and sculptures is discussed in the article.

From the 18th to 20th centuries, the title of the church changed three times. In the documents of 1763 and 1805 it is called the Virgin Marry Immaculate Conception church; and later, in the 19th century, it was the Trinity Church, and the present day title of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrero appeared in 1870–1920.

Up to now the attempts to find the 18th century original documents were unsuccessful. The 19th century inventories present controversial data about the church constructors and foundation supporters. The inventories had been made for the family of Billewiczs (The Grave was their coat of arms). Two oldest archive sources now available (1805 and 1814) indicate different dates the church was constructed (1735 and 1760). From 1845, the historiography used the date of this church’s construction to be 1757. The present article presents adjusted historical view based on sources, genealogy investigations, and analysis of art works. All this enables to assert that Tadas Bilevičius (Tadeusz Billewicz), who was the elder of Vainutas and, later, a major-general of Lithuanian Principality and Mstislavl castellan, had built the Degučiai Virgin Marry Immaculate Conception church in 1760 and decorated it in 1763. Its foundation supporters were Tadas Bilevičius and Adomas Bilevičius (Adam Billewicz) with his wife Bogumiła Budrikaitė (1775).

The altars of the church and its iconographic programme changed little from the 18th century. Stylistic peculiarities of carved retables and artistic features of paintings confirm the date of church construction determined by means of historical analysis, and it is 1760. Now there are valuable pictures of St. Vincent, St. Judas Tadeusz on the main altar, St. Joseph on the right altar and St. Anthony on the left altar painted by the 18th century artists. In 1840, the Holy Trinity painting was transposed with that of St. Vincent Ferrero that had been on the right altar Ferrero. The paintings of Virgin Marry Immaculate Conception and Holy Trinity created between 1923 and 1938 by the 20th century German school artists were placed instead of baroque paintings under the same titles. The sculptures of St. Barbara and St. Helen renewed significantly in 19th–20th centuries or their prototypes on the main altar embellished the altar from as far as the 18th century.