Christian PilgrimagePilgrimages in LithuaniaJohn Paul II and Lithuania

Overcome evil with good.
Redos Brazytės fotografija


The church of St Michael the Archangel in Marijampolė is said to have its origins in a wooden chapel built in 1717 by an alderman from Prienai at the Kvietiškis estate, not far from the village of Pašešupis (which was later renamed Marijampolė). A Franciscan priest would come here from Kaunas or Prienai several times a year to celebrate Holy Mass. Then in 1758, Countess Pranciška Ščukaitė Butlerienė built a wooden church here, and alongside it, a wooden monastery.

When that church burned down in 1818, the Marian Fathers oversaw the construction of a new, stone church. Financial support for the project was provided by the Marian Order as well as by parishioners and other sponsors. The new church, blessed in 1824 and dedicated to the Marians’ patron St Michael, was continually enlarged. A presbytery with two sacristies was built in 1830, after which the central nave was lengthened. In 1882, a wooden section with towers and a side chapel were added. A corridor was also built to join the church and monastery. Two towers were built in 1923, while 1939 brought enlargement of the sacristies, the transept and a vestibule in one corner of the presbytery.

The remains of Archbishop J. Matulaitis (1871-1927) were interred in the church’s Sacred Heart Chapel in 1934. In 1949, Soviet authorities closed the Marian monastery, confiscated its buildings and property, and demolished the corridor that had connected it with the church. Because the Soviets tore down Vilkaviškis Cathedral at the end of World War II, the Church of St Michael the Archangel served as pro-cathedral from 1944 to 1949, and again from 1989 to 1998. It received the title of minor basilica in 1992. In 1987, an altar dedicated to Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis was installed.

In 1991, a chapel dedicated to Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis was also built in his native village of Lūginė.