The art heritage in the church of Žemaičių Naumiestis 

Regimanta Stankevičienė

In the course of history, the interior of the Church of St. Michael the Archangel was changing. As the church was built, it was decorated with five illusory painted altars, which had four integrated paintings; one altar on the side had also a sculpture. There was a font placed in the mensa of the altar of St. John the Baptist; the tabernacles of other altars were decorated with mirrors and carvings. At the beginning of the 19th century, four confessionals and two benches had been mentioned, and after two more decades the furniture increased in number, including a set of nave benches. The documents of the first half of the 19th century listed the sacristy furniture, liturgical ornaments and other utensils needed. At that time the inventory of the church had been replenishing. In 1833 the old altar paintings were replaced by six new ones.

The most intense changes in the interior took place in the second half of the 19th century (1850s–1870s), when five wooden architecture altars were built; their composition and carving style enable to distinguish a group of masters unidentified as yet. From mid-19th century this group used to make altars in a wide region covering the western part of the then Žemaitija (Samogitian) diocese. The style of their articles is notable for a structure taken from Late Baroque stone and wooden altars typical of Samogitia of the second half of the 18th century with classicism and historicism elements complemented and ornaments interpreted originally. Similar historicism stylistics is also characteristic of the pulpits, confessionals and the olden catafalque.

The survived movable art pieces reflect all the lifetime of the church. The initial phase of church decorations and its typical Later Baroque stylistics is represented by two art works: a painted portrait of count Mykolas Roniker, a benefactor, and the sculpture of Antakalnio Jėzus (Antakalnis’s Jesus) fixed in photos (sadly, it disappeared in the end-20th century). From the first half of the 19th century, such survivals can be mentioned: two paintings (St. George and St. Laurence) representing combination of classicism and romanticism styles on side altars, a tripod (a part of a candlestick ?) decorated with classicism style carving and the Empire style chandelier. The second half of the 19th c. historicism period is represented by a sculpture of unknown apostle done in provincial Neo-Baroque style and a statue of Jesus (known only form a photo). Wooden art works made for the church at the turn of the 19th–20th centuries are represented by sculptures. Religious academism expression is characteristic of the Crucifix sculpture group on the main altar, statues of the saints on presbytery side altars and one more Crucifix figure–these works had been done at a Lithuanian workshop (Aleksandras Zaborskas ?). The Neo-Gothic relief forms for the Stations of the Cross had been created in a centre of German culture–near (East Prussia) or more distant. About 1940, one more renewal of the interior of the church had been performed, when several fine art works were replaced on the altar. The statues of Jesus and Mary standing in the first space between chapel altars and the figure of St. Francis of Assisi at the pulpit are typical workshop sculpture samples. Two pictures above the presbytery altars and a picture of Good Saviour in the sacristy reflect partly the modernisation of the then Lithuanian art, although they were composed on the ground of prayer print production models. 

In Žemaičių Naumiestis, the most valuable part of the art heritage–the ensemble of altars, pulpit and confessionals–by their Neo-Baroque style and spirit–harmonise well with the Baroque architecture of the church building. The art works decorating the altars of the 1833–1940 period are of different time, style and value, but they match to each other and reflect both the piety of the parish and the art style with the changes in aesthetic criteria. The set of old sacristy things (the liturgical ornaments and other utensils), although rather sparse and none too valuable, accumulated from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries is to be appreciated in a similar way.