Manifestation of the House of Radziwill in the Décor of Vilnius Church of St George the Martyr (Summary)

Jolita Liškevičienė (PDF)

The research looks into the décor in the chancel area of Vilnius Church of St George the Martyr, specifically focusing on the part that emphasises the importance of the House of Radziwill, the main builders of the church. The paper analyses each individual portrait of the persons depicted discussing what they have done for the church and also publishes the inscriptions in Latin together with their translations to Lithuanian carried out by Eglė Patiejūnienė (1964–2017). The analysis of the portraits and biographies of the said people revealed that the initiator of this programme intended to immortalise the House of Radziwill in the church décor had been Barbara Franciszka Zawisza-Radziwiłł (1690–1770) who had had herself depicted as a pious patron, likely sitting for the portrait herself. In addition to the portraits with inscriptions, the décor programme also includes coats of arms, which this noble woman used to show her lineage and the geopolitical orientation of the whole House of Radziwill who at the time supported the political ambitions of the rulers of Saxony. This mini-gallery of portraits consisting of the images of Radziwills, church patrons, and the portrait of king Sigismund Vasa is an integral part of the interior of the Church of St George the Martyr and is a typical form of family representation used by the nobility in mid-18th century. The research also revealed that the inscriptions under the portraits of the Radziwills were based on the representational publication that was also in progress at the same time—a series of engraved portraits by Hirsz Leibowicz Icones Familiae Ducalis Radivilianae… (Nesvizh, 1758)—and the inscription under the portrait of Sigismund Vasa was based on the funding deed conveying the land. The paper includes a separate description of another decorative motif of the chancel area: a red drapery over trompe l’oeil balcony boxes. This motif emphasises multiple layers of meaning, such as remembrance, noble lineage and private space. The research also revealed that the two motifs in the apse (a portrait gallery and the painted balcony boxes) were created by two different artists in two different eras: portraits with inscriptions were painted in 1755 and the balcony boxes in 1850–1900. The chancel décor of the Church of St George the Martyr connects the House of Radziwill, the images of the four Evangelists on the ceiling , and the priest celebrating the Holy Mass creating an integral sacral space of prayer and eternity.

Keywords: Vilnius Church of St George the Martyr, décor, mural, House of Radziwill, portrait gallery, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Vilnius