Basilian Music Chapel Active in Vilnius Area in the Eighteenth Century

Alicja Dacevič (PDF)

Vilnius was a unique city in the whole Commonwealth of the Two Nations, being home to probably the largest numbers of monks. The reform of the Orthodox monasteries which had accepted the Union of Brest in 1596 made the establishment of the new Eastern (Greek) Catholic Order possible. It was the monastery of Vilnius and some other monasteries of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that formed the Basilian Order (the Congregation of the Holy Trinity) which was established on 20-26 July 1617. The Church and the Monastery of the Holy Trinity of Vilnius established in the 17th century was the initium (beginning) of the Order of Saint Basil the Great (329-379).

The role of Vilnius Basilian chapel in the musical culture of Vilnius has not yet been thoroughly investigated and evaluated by historians researching Lithuanian musical culture, and the research of Ukrainian and Polish scholars would benefit from being supplemented. Therefore, there was a need for a more detailed review and description of various aspects of the activities of Vilnius Basilian Chapel in the 18th century, especially in Vilnius area.

At present, we do not know the exact date when Vilnius Basilian chapel began to function. However, in 1709, a recommendation was made during the 6th session of the XXVI Basilian Chapter held in Biała Podlaska to maintain the music chapel at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Vilnius, “from which the monastery would benefit considerably” (probably financially). Thus, at the beginning of the 18th century, Vilnius Basilian Chapel was already functioning.

It is difficult to determine how the composition of Vilnius Basilian chapel changed throughout the 18th century, although some instruments have been mentioned in Basilian manuscripts starting from the first half of the 18th century. Furthermore, it is difficult to compare the number of members of the Basilian chapel with other Vilnius monastic chapels due to lack of data.

This publication provides the list of potential members and leaders of Vilnius Basilian chapel. This is an attempt to collect and organise information obtained from scientific literature and manuscripts currently at the author’s disposal. Despite the fact that the list consists of almost 70 people, it is not a full list, and certainly not exhaustive.

All that is known is the complete composition of the chapel in 1752. In the 18th century, Vilnius Basilian chapel performed not only at different churches of Vilnius, but also in the auditory spaces of the city. The northern gate of the Basilian Monastery of Vilnius is one such place. The chapel used to perform not only at religious ceremonies but also at secular festivities. The financial books of Vilnius Magistrate Office mention the occasions when the Basilian chapel was commissioned to perform. I hope that further research into Vilnius Basilian chapel will also reveal the repertoire it used to have.

Key words: Vilnius, 18th century, Basilians, vocal-instrumental chapel, instruments, members, composition, repertoire, ceremonies, Vilnius City Hall, Basilian Gate