History of the Cathedral

After the 1863 uprising, the Russian Tsar closed the churches and officially banned the building of new ones. In 1904, with great efforts a permit was finally obtained to build a church in the south-eastern part of Panevėžys. A committee was formed to take responsibility for fundraising. Farmers donated land and the building of the church of St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr was commenced. In 1908, the foundations of the sanctuary were laid under the guidance of the Canon of St. Peter and Paul’s Church M. Chodoravičius. Construction work was stopped due to the Russo-Japanese war, the death of the Canon and then World War I. A temporary chapel was operating in the present Priest House (Cathedral Square 7).

On 4 April 1926, Pope Pius XI declared the Apostolic Constitution “Lituanorum Gente (The People of Lithuania)” and, upon forming an ecclesiastical Kaunas province, established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Panevėžys, nominating the church of St. Stanislaus Bishop&Martyr, which was still under construction,as a future Bishop’s Cathedral, dedicating it with the name of Christ the King (this title was most likely chosen wishing to highlight the historical significance of the Apostolic Constitution). It was supposed to be the church of the second Panevėžys parish, later becoming a Diocesan Cathedral.

On 16 June 1926, the newly formed Panevėžys Conference of Deans decided to impose taxes for building the Cathedral. On 14 September of the same year, Bishop Kazimieras Paltarokas, who made a personal donation of 1000 litas, addressed a pastoral letter to all the faithful of the Diocese of Panevėžys. In this letter, he asked everyone to contribute by donating at least one litas in order that there wouldn’t be any person left in the Diocese who hadn’t contributed to the building of parish churches. When the Prelate P. Strakšas was elected chairman of the construction committee in 1928, building of the shrine was expedited. Fr. Jonas Maciejauskas also took care of construction affairs.

The architect R. Steikūnas and the engineer A. Gordevičius changed the plans of the church started in 1908 as much as possible. The foundations were reinforced, the walls were made higher, wings with columns were added, vaults were constructed. Stucco was used on the outside and inside of the church and it was decorated with cement and plaster ornaments. In this way the Cathedral of Panevėžys was prepared for holding services.

In 1930, the 500th anniversary of the death of Vytautas the Great, the prelate Jonas Mačiulis-Maironis blessed the Cathedral on March 4, the day of Saint Casimir, patron of the diocese and youth. At the request of Bishop K. Paltarokas, Maironis wrote a hymn dedicated to Christ the King especially for that occasion. The hymn was sung when the Holy Sacrament was carried to the Cathedral in solemn procession. The music for this hymn was written by the composer Prelate T. Brazys who also participated in the solemnity.

In the holy year 1933, during theDiocese Eucharistic Congress on 30 June,the Cathedral was consecrated by His Excellency J. Skvireckas, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kaunas. During the offertory in the consecration of the Mass, members of the Cherubim Society from various parishes carried baskets full of flowers to the main service leader.

On the occasion of the consecration ofthe Cathedral, the art critic and author of “The Universal History of Art” Fr. Kazimieras Jasėnas wrote: That interesting shrine has not only sacral significance, but is also to be valued with respect to art. None of our churches show so many Lithuanian motives. All that composition (decorations) of the bishop K. Paltarokas was ably realised by our veteran Mr. J. Mackevičius. <…> Thus it is worth viewing at close range.

In 1935, the churchyard of the Cathedral was surrounded by a brick andmetal fence. In 1938–1939, the painter Povilas Puzinas, with the assistance of father and son Čižauskai, decorated the interior ofthe Cathedral. With the decorations, the painter symbolically expressed humanity’s upwards striving: at the bottom, the walls were painted in darker colours, higher, the colours get lighter and the ceiling is the colour of the sky. The artist painted on canvas eight decorations on the subject of the Holy Script: four Sibyls on the left and four prophets on the right. They are placed above each window of the Cathedral. The artwork was created following the valuable frescoes executed by Michelangelo in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel: the Prophet Isaiah, the Delphic Sibyl, the Eritrean Sibyl, the Prophet Ezekiel, the Kum (Cuman) Sibyl, the Prophet Daniel, the Prophet Jeremiah, and the Libyan Sibyl.

On 11 September 1955, two newbishops, Julijonas Steponavičius and Petras Maželis, were consecrated in this Cathedral.

Major repairs to the Cathedral’s interior were carried out in 1975–1978 under the guidance of the engineer Povilas Andrijauskas. The exterior of the Cathedral was painted in 1988. The long serving pastor of the shrine, Msgr. Juozapas Antanavičius, took care of the interior and exterior of the Cathedral for many years.

In 2012, proclaimed the year of Maironis commemorating the 150th Anniversary of his birth, on 10 December 2012, the second Sunday of Advent, the bishop of Panevėžys Jonas Kauneckas blessed the commemorative medal dedicated to Maironis (Artist K. Krasauskas).

The following bishops served in the Cathedral: Kazimieras Paltarokas, Julijonas Steponavičius, Romualdas Krikščiūnas, Juozas Preikšas, and Jonas Kauneckas. At present, Bishop Ordinary Lionginas Virbalas, SJ is serving in the Cathedral. He was consecrated on 10 August 2013 in the Cathedral of Panevėžys.

The parish of Panevėžys Cathedral of Christ the King celebrates three feastdays: the titular feast of Christ the King (on Sunday before Advent), Saint Casimir’s day (moved to the nearest Sunday) and the feast of Porciuncula at the beginning of August.

Photogalery >


Istorinės fotografijos iš Panevėžio apskrities G. Petkevičaitės-Bitės viešosios bibliotekos Retų knygų ir rankraščių skyriaus, Panevėžio Kristaus Karaliaus katedros, Panevėžio kraštotyros muziejaus ir Panevėžio vyskupijos kurijos archyvų.

Lyrics to the Hymn by Jonas Mačiulis-Maironis
(free translation):

Oh Lord of Heavenly Serenity, who
has stepped down from Heaven to save the Earth,
who clothed His divinity with a human body
for the sins of our ancestors,
may He who showed us so much love,
reign in our hearts.
Having conquered death on the cross
and having returned vitality to our souls,
You, Christ, our Redeemer, King of the Eternal Home,
despite the many enemies of your church,
reign also over all the Earth, we entreat
You, prophet, paragon and parent
declaring peace and love, and obedience,
we beg You –
reign over our inner world.
In spite of our multitude of sins,
We entreat You, rule over our hearts.
Kings reign over the vast earth,
rights are granted by the representatives of nations,
But all of them get their might from You,
You are their light, You are their balm.
But You alone reign by Your law, which is Truth.