Gelvonai Blessed Virgin Mary Church and Franciscan monastery

Povilas Spurgevièius

The present-day Gélvonai is a small town having its old history with its historical accent being the church that is fragmentally covered in literature. The archive material presents a wider historical picture of the Gélvonai Manor and the church. Gelvonai and Siesikai had been donated by Vytautas the Great to Daumantai family, and later this privilege had been approved by Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander (Aleksandras). The Gelvonai town in mid 16th c. had already been formed and had a religion centre–the church that in the 17th c. was occupied by the Calvinisits, since Daumantai accepted the Calvine faith. The further fate of the church is unknown. 

The rebirth of the church began in 1686, when the then GDL kuchmistr (lat. magister coquine) and Gelvonai Manor owner Kazimieras Daumantas acknowledged fallacies of his family and delivered a new foundation to the Catholic Church. He invited Franciscan monks to develop church activities. Replenishment of foundations enabled to build a nice wooden church and, later, a two-storied stone monastery. These art monuments turned into the key culture centres of the town and the parish. The activities of Franciscan monks contributed to the development of the Catholic outlook, while their secularity enabled free communication with peasants and noblemen. The interaction of Catholic and traditional cultures is illustrated by a holy stone that was moved into the church. 

The view of the early church showed itself only at the end of the 18th c. This was a decorated wooden church of baroque style, where the faith was stressed by emotionality of art images.

The latest stone and brick-built church is already a symbol of the romanticism ideas. Its architect A. Polozov interpreted the baroque style and matched it to the folk construction traditions. He created a picture of a new class notable for enhanced decorative details. Outside, all this is pointed up by a contrast combination of red bricks and field stones.