Kaunas residents and guests that are now visiting the square of the town hall can enjoy not only the sight of the Christmas tree but also the newly restored façades of the St. Francis Xavier church.
Restorers presented the important and meticulous restauration process of the church for the local community.
The church of St. Francis Xavier, situated in the main square of Kaunas old town, is highly important not only to the religious community and the Jesuit Gymnasium. This XVIIIth century sacral architecture monument of the late baroque plays a significant role in the cityscape of Kaunas, as well as a venue for cultural events. Notably, this church was the first to introduce tradition of tall and slender towers in Lithuania. The church is untypical for its orientation to the north-south but what makes it truly exceptional are the fragments of polychromic paintings on the northern facade.
A few years ago, the interior of the church, and Perkūnas House (part of the ensemble) were finished to be restored, and an observation site was installed on the top of the monastery. However, the façades remained in a very poor condition. In 2014, the Jesuit Rectorate received support of EUR 408 669 from the European Economic Area (EEA) financial mechanism and the State budget of Lithuania under the programme "Conservation and Revitalisation of Cultural and Natural Heritage" that is implemented in cooperation between the Ministry of Culture, the Central Project Management Agency and the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage. The contribution of the Jesuit Rectorate and its partner from Norway, company Step Prosjekt, amounts to EUR 107,000.
The works performed
The funds were used for polychromic research (the authentic façade colour was determined), repair and restoration works, copper tin works, design and installation of a fire alarm system, archaeologic research for setting-up a “breathing” paving. These have been performed by the company “Kaunas Institute of Design, Restoration and Construction” and “Opus Optimum” restoration company. Although most of the works are already finished, the project will be fully completed in spring once the warm weather settles in. Then the northern façade will be painted with an additional layer of paint and the paving works will be completed.
The restored Baroque-style paintings are particularly valuable. These figure compositions depict three saints: St. Francis Xavier (restorers Lina and Marius Rimkevičiai), Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and Saint Stanislaus Kostka (restorers Indrė Valkiūnienė, Jana Grinevičiūtė- Pčalienė, Marius Pčalinas, Viktorija Siverskaja, and Kristina Ustilė). Architect Nijolė Švėgždienė supervised the work. Kaunas City Municipality also made a financial contribution to the restoration of these frescoes. The paintings are characterized by light proportions, plastic, and soft shapes, and rich detail.
The facades were uncovered on the first day of winter once the scaffolding was removed. The restored exterior of the church has clearly improved the look of the central city square. However, the project is much more than just about restoration. Public lectures on archaeological findings in the Jesuit quarter, history of the ensemble, the importance of the object to the city; educational excursion; lectures for cultural heritage specialists were also organized within the framework of the project and had a significant impact on public awareness.
Prepared by Dalia Stabrauskaitė