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The Gate of Dawn
The gate seen from the old town side

The Gate of Dawn (Lithuanian: Aušros Vartai, Polish: Ostra Brama, Belarusian: Вострая Брама) was built between 1503 and 1522 as a part of defensive fortifications for the city of Vilnius, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It has also been known as the Medininkai Gate, as it led to the village Medininkai south of Vilnius as well as Aštra broma, which derivative for the Lithuanian language word aštra meaning sharp.[1] Of the nine city gates, only the Gate of Dawn remains, while the others were destroyed by the order of the government at the end of the 18th century.

Interior of the chapel in 1864

In the 16th century city gates often contained religious artefacts intended to guard the city from attacks and to bless travellers. The Chapel in the Gate of Dawn contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers. For centuries the picture has been one of the symbols of the city and an object of praise of both Roman Catholic and Orthodox inhabitants. Thousands of votive offerings adorn the walls and many pilgrims from neighbouring countries come to pray in front of the beloved painting. Masses are held in Lithuanian and Polish languages.

Litas golden coin featuring Gate of Dawn

On September 4, 1993 Pope John Paul II said Rosary at the Gate of Dawn Chapel. Church festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy—celebrated in the third week of November—is of great importance in the Vilnius Archdiocese.

After World War II the cult of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn prevailed in Lithuanian and Polish communities worldwide and is continued in many shrines to the Virgin Mary in Europe, and the Americas. The largest of the churches devoted to Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn is St. Mary's Church in Gdańsk, Poland.

References

  1. ^ (Lithuanian) Jurginis, Juozas (1987). Aušros vartai. Pokalbiai su tikinčiuoju (2nd ed.). Vilnius: Mintis. pp. 3–37. OCLC 19353894. http://www.laborunion.lt/memo/modules/sections/index.php?op=viewarticle&artid=27.  

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Coordinates: 54°40′28″N 25°17′22″E / 54.67444°N 25.28944°E / 54.67444; 25.28944

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