Lithuanian cultural heritage reflects the intricate and unique history of the Lithuanian nation. The legacy of the multinational Lithuanian Grand Duchy with its diversity in religion and traditions has manifested itself in various aspects of cultural heritage. Hundreds of years ago, the religious traditions of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches met on the territory of Lithuania and have happily coexisted here ever since. From the fifteenth century, Lithuania has become home to the Tartars, believers in Islam, as well as the Karaites and Jews, followers of Judaism. Alongside the prevailing Roman Catholic religion, since the sixteenth century Evangelic and Reformed Evangelic churches have been functioning in the country. The input of these ethnic and religious communities into the culture of Lithuania is significant and well displayed in the everyday life of our modern society. More information about the religions in Lithuania here.
Although throughout its history Lithuania maintained strong links to the Orthodox world and Eastern civilization, it was much more influenced by Western culture. This can be witnessed by the Gothic and Baroque architecture of Orthodox shrines, especially by the shape and décor of the Orthodox Church and Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius.
The legacy of Lithuanian Baroque is vast and unique, although, unfortunately, not advertised well enough. The architecture of our capital is proof of the quality and beauty of this legacy. At the same time, the western part of Lithuania is famous for its peculiar specimens of wooden Baroque.
For years Vilnius has been the regional centre for Russian Orthodox and Jewish cultures, with a significance and influence reaching far beyond the boundaries of the country.
Trakai, a town located not far from Vilnius, is known to be the centre of the Karaite community and its culture.
Established in 1579, Vilnius University had a great impact on the development of culture and education not only on the territory of present-day Lithuania, but also in Belarus and the Ukraine.
Nineteenth century Vilnius, with its intensive political and cultural life, became one of the most important places for the rebirth of the Polish, Belarusian and, of course, Lithuanian nations.
The development of the modern nation of Lithuania in the nineteenth and twentieth century contributed to the evolution of Lithuanian national culture. The great Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, our outstanding painter and composer, could be considered one of the fathers of Lithuanian national rebirth. The national style of painting at that time was much influenced by the Polish, German and French schools of painting, while our architects adopted the style and fashion of Italian and Scandinavian architecture. Significant Russian cultural influence could be found in the school of Lithuanian national theatre.
Modern Lithuanian culture is becoming an integral part of European and world culture. Lithuania is represented worldwide by artists and national cultural events. Theatre is the best proof of this tendency. Directors such as Eimuntas Nekrošius, Oskaras Koršunovas, and Rimas Tuminas are familiar names to theatre audiences from Italy, France, the Scandinavian countries, and Russia. German music lovers are familiar with the composer Onutė Narbutaitė, and the film director Šarūnas Bartas is well-known to many cinema enthusiasts all over Europe. Due to the increasing number of translations, books written by younger authors such as Jurga Ivanauskaitė and Sigitas Parulskis are increasingly read outside the borders of our country.
Lithuania can boast of numerous well-known professional symphonic orchestras, chamber groups, choirs, opera singers, and ballet dancers who have graced international stages. Lithuania is also known as a jazz country, where yearly international festivals held in Kaunas, Birštonas, Klaipėda and Vilnius are attended by professional and amateur musicians and jazz lovers.
The Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) in Vilnius is the largest venue for contemporary art in Central and Eastern Europe. It maintains close contacts with other European museums of modern art. Contemporary Lithuanian artists display their works at international art exhibitions held all around the world. The names of Paulius and Svajonė Stanikas, Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas are well known to the international community of artists and art lovers.
Ethnic culture serves as a basis for the development of Lithuanian national culture. The research and preservation of ethnic culture is considered a priority and sponsored by the Government. Ethnic cultural festivals fostering ethnic traditions, crafts and cuisine are organized throughout the country each year.