Christian PilgrimagePilgrimages in LithuaniaJohn Paul II and Lithuania

The shrine in which the heart of the Lithuanian nation beats.
John Paul II
Antano Lukšėno fotografija

The Sapiega Madonna

In 1989, while the recently recovered Cathedral was being decorated with sacred art, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with St Francis and St Bernardine was hung in the chapel that formerly belonged to the Goštautas Family. The so-called Sapiega Madonna was taken at that time from the Lithuanian Art Museum, where it had ended up after the closure of the Vilnius Church of St Michael, the family mausoleum built by Leonas Sapiega (1557–1633). Before being moved to St Michael’s, the painting hung in the Bernardine Church, where it was long renowned for special graces. The register of miracles related to the image begins in the 16th century. Crowns sent by Pope Benedict XIV were placed on the painting on September 8, 1750, making it one of the very first pictures of saints to be crowned in Lithuania. (Unfortunately, the painting’s crowns and decorative cover have been lost.)

At one point during the Soviet era, this famous image seemed to have disappeared. It was found, however, rolled up in the attic of the Vilnius Cathedral, where the Lithuanian Art Museum had placed it for safekeeping. Upon rediscovery, the image once again captured the hearts of believers. Today the 16th century painting draws crowds of devout souls begging graces from the Mother of God. The votive offerings displayed on either side of the painting are tokens of appreciation left by those who have experienced special graces.