President of the Republic of Lithuania

The President's gift to the Pope: Freedom Bell

2018-09-21

Friday, September 21, Vilnius – President Dalia Grybauskaitė will present Pope Francis, who will be visiting Lithuania, with a gift: the Freedom Bell of Lithuania and a recording of a unique music piece "Gloria Lietuvai."

The original Freedom Bell was presented to Lithuania by Lithuanian Americans who decided on this gift at their convention held in Chicago in 1919. Donations were collected and the bell was cast in 1920.

According to the President, the historic bell is a herald of freedom, reminding us of the difficult path traversed by Lithuania after it proclaimed independence. Lithuanian church bells speak about our aspirations, hope and faith in homeland. The Holy Father is arriving not only to extend congratulations to Lithuania on its centennial, but also to show his respect for the Lithuanian nation that survived through struggle and suffering and eventually regained peace and statehood.

The iniitial plan was to put the bell in Gediminas Castle, but when the gift reached Lithuania, Vilnius was already occupied. It was rung for the first time by prominent political activist Petras Vileišis and American Lithuanian Julius Kaupas in Kaunas on February 16, 1922. The ceremony was attended by President Aleksandras Stulginskis.

Later, the Freedom Bell was relocated to the tower of the War Museum where it rang every evening. It fell silent during the years of Soviet occupation, like all the other bells across Lithuania. In 1988, the national revival movement brought the bell back to life when the Lithuanian tricolor was raised on the Museum’s tower. Since then, it has been ringing on all major national holidays.

The bell to be presented to the Pope bears a bas-relief of Vytis and an inscription “Ring through the ages / for the children of Lithuania / that unworthy of freedom is he / who fails to defend it.” The author of these words is pre-war Lithuanian diplomat Bronius Kazys Balutis.

The gift bell was cast at Kruszewski Brothers Bell Foundry in Węgrów, Poland. The process was supervised by specialists from Stulpinas Construction and Design Company in Alytus.

Dalia Grybauskaitė will also present the Pope with a recording of a very special music piece "Gloria Lietuvai." It was performed on February 16, this year, as we celebrated the Centennial of Lithuanian Independence. One hundred church bells from across Lithuania resound throughout the musical composition, including the Freedom Bell. 

Press Service of the President

Last updated 2018.09.21 16:11

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