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Museum of Church Art

Museum of Church Art

In 1650 there was built a small church in Stelmužė. In the same year a German baron Folkerzambo founded there a mission. Inside the church there are artistically made wooden altar and pulpit. An artist V.Bičiūnas once wrote about these works of art: „Both the altar and the pulpit are smartly and lavishly decorated with wood carving. The Crucifix of the altar is excellently done, with an openwork garland of grapes. The foot of the pulpit and the stairs are also carved. At the top of the pulpit a whole flock of cherubs dance with the torture tools of Christ“. The Folkerzambos were Lutherans, while the Valujevs were Orthodox believers. But the church was built not for their needs but for the workers of the estate. Earlier in the estate of Stelmužė there lived and worked Latvians who were Lutheran, and the church was Lutheran, too. Later Lithuanians who were Catholics settled there and since then the church became the chrine for Catholics (1808).

This is what a 90-year-old man told about the church. Once, during the times of serfdom, an unknown lord came to visit the lord of Stelmužė. He liked the big and nice dogs of the manor and so he offered the lord of the manor three serfs for one dog. The lord of the manor accepted the offer and some days later the deal was struck: the lord got six serfs for two dogs. Two days later the serfs escaped to their former lord. The lord of Stelmužė manor pleaded the Jews, who were selling goods in the villages, to find the runaways. They were soon found but shortly ran away again. When they were taken back for the third time and severely whipped, the lord asked them: “Why are you running from me? Is it better for you there than here?’ After those words the serfs fell on their knees and said: „Dear Lord, how can we not run as there is no church in Stelmužė!“. After these words the lord’s heart softened: he gave his word and kept his promise: he moved the church from Lygumos wood to Stelmužė and furnished it nicely.

The interrior of Stelmužė church was upholstered after 1713. There are quite a lot of valuable ornaments of Baroque style: bas-reliefs, high reliefs, sculptures, spiral columns, original wooden ornamentation, old religious paintings. In art critics’ opinion this kind of wood carving is work of professional masters. An art critic Marija Matušakaitė points out that the author of the altar and pulpit of Stelmužė church is unknown.  It is only known that pulpits of this type spread at the end of the XVIIth century – beginning of the XVIIIth c. in Eastern Prussia, and that analogous wood carving is found in Evangelical Lutheran churches in Latvia, Poland and Eastern Prussia.

In 1963 in the church of Stelmužė a museum of folk sculptures was founded and in 1996 by the care of the then dean of Zarasai deanery Vytautas Kapočius the exposition of folk art was moved to Zarasai regional museum.

The inside exposition of the museum is temporary unavailable.

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