Mosques, Islamic centre and tourist place

Lithuania – the only of the Baltic states having mosques

In Lithuania the first mosques were being built in the 15th century. The Mosques of Trakai, Vilnius, Naugardukas, Daubutiskes and others were first mentioned in written sources in the 16th century. However wars and the division of the territory of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th and the 19th centuries, as well as the migration of Tatars inside Lithuania and abroad made the impact to the upbuilding of some new mosques and dismantling of the others. There were 25 mosques in the year 1914, but 5 of them were demolished during the First World War.

Currently there are four mosques in Lithuania: one in Kaunas city, two in the district of Vilnius (Nemezis and Keturiasdesimt totoriu village), and one in Raiziai, the district of Alytus. The Muslims’ community of Lithuania is still hoping to build one more mosque in the capital, Vilnius, instead of the demolished mosque of Lukiskes in the year 1968.

The mosques of Prophet Muhammad in Makkah and Madina were taken as the examples by the Muslims of Lithuania for building their mosques in Lithuania. These were small, square shaped buildings having a dual pitched (mosques of Trakai, Lukiskės [until 1866], Keturiasdesimt Totoriu village) or triple pitched (mosques of Raiziai and Lukiskes [after 1867]) roof and a small minaret on the top. By their shape they looked similar to the churches. Lithuanian tatars used timber for the building of the mosques. This resulted in the change of their facade and finish because many of them burnt down and had to be rebuilt few times. The first brick-built mosques started being built only in the second half of the 20th century (mosques of Kaunas and Minsk).

The four distinct architectural features of the mosques:

1.       Square or rectangle shaped building, having a dual-pitched roof (mosque in the village of Keturiasdesimt Totoriu);

2.       Rectangle shaped building having hip roof or longer top;

3.       Hipped roof with a ridge and an elevated minaret at the frontal side of the building;

4.       Building having a dual-pitched or triple- pitched roof and a small minaret on the top of it.

Lithuanian mosques are situated in the villages, except the mosque of Kaunas which is located in the quiet park in the centre of the second largest city of Lithuania. They are surrounded by scenery views and natural landscapes covered by lawn. Usually Muslims’ cemetery called mizar used to be close to or near the mosques.

Except the mosque in Kaunas which is divided into two levels, the prayer halls of the other mosques in Lithuania are divided lengthwise into two parts: one side is for the men and another – for the women. Each side has a separate entrance. There is a glassless window, covered by the curtains, in the wall which divides these two sides of the mosque. This window is made mainly for acoustic reasons. The contemporary mosque of Kaunas has a single entrance but two floors, second of which is a spacious balcony. On the right next to the entrance of the mosque there are stairs to this balcony which is used by the women while men stays and prays in the hall of on the first floor.

In one of the walls of the mosques there is a niche called mihrab which indicates the direction of prayer towards Makkah. To the right side of mihrab you will find a small staircase called minbar from which the imam addresses the congregation and reads khutbah. The walls of Lithuanian mosques are embelished in a very simple way by framed panels with Quranic inscriptions in calligraphic arabic writing style. The floors are usually covered by mats of different sizes or one big carpeting for the Muslims to offer their daily prayer, but benches can also be found for those who are weak or old and find it too difficult to bow down on the floor. Islamic literature, booklets, magazines, books and the Quran versions translation in different languages are stored in the mosques.

  • Kaunas mosque

    Kaunas mosque (LT: Kauno mečetė), Totorių str. 6, Kaunas (54.894436,23.928371)

    The mosque is open everyday for daily prayers. There is also a weekend school "Minaretas" for kids and adults. 

    For more information please contact administration of community  by e-mail: kauno.mecete@gmail.com

    Touristic visits can be organised by the tour guide specialist. Facebook: Turininga.

    kauno_mecete Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    History of Kaunas mosque

    Once upon a time, Kaunas Tatars (an ethnic group that settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the 14th century) had a wooden mosque along the banks of the Nemen (LT: Nemunas) river in the 16th to 19th centuries. However, during the Napoleonic troops’ assault on Kaunas in the winter of 1812, the building was set on fire. Since then, the Muslims had no common place of worship in Kaunas.

    In 1847, along with the entire New Town, Kaunas Old Cemetery was established in accordance with the approved Kaunas city development plan. The plots of the Kaunas Old Cemetery were assigned according to the ethnic and religious affiliation of the inhabitants at that time. Thus, the territory was divided into four parts to Catholic church, Lutherans, Orthodox church and Islam (formerly known as Magometon). Approximately one hectare of land was devoted to this religious denomination.

    When cemetery were assigned, a local Muslim descender of Tatars Mr. Aleksandr Illasevich (LT: Aleksandras Iljasevičius), who was known to be the owner of the famous “Turkish bakery” in Kaunas and also to be the first Lithuanian to perform pilgrimage to Makkah, succeeded to obtain by intercession to the local authorities, the permission to build a mosque in the territory allocated to the Muslims. In 1906, he built a wooden mosque (size: 10x8 m2). This wooden mosque was built as a memorial to his deceased parents who were buried at the Muslims Tatar graveyard. Furthermore, not far of the wooden mosque, was a wooden building divided between Imam’s house and a school for kids. All territory was cared and looked more like a beautiful garden.

    The graves of the deceased members of the local Muslim Tatar community were buried there. Most of them were A.  Iljasevičius family names, who were senior officers and officials. Next to them, their wives were buried. It has been also reported that near the Tatar Muslims graves, about one hundred of Turkish soldiers who died in captivity in Kaunas during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 were buried also there. Later, after the end of the World War I, behind the wooden mosque, German soldiers who died during the conflict were buried there.

    After the end of the First World War, the Republic of Lithuania regained its Independence and restored an independent state, which became Kaunas, the provisional capital of the Republic of Lithuania (Vilnius was occupied by Poland at that time). The city quickly modernized and expanded.

    In 1930 the government of Lithuania was planning to organize many events and build numerous public buildings in order to commemorate an anniversary of the death of Vytautas The Great. Thus, Kaunas Muslims' community got an idea to build a new mosque next to the old wooden mosque. After the approval of the Government of Lithuania, the funds for building of the mosque was provided by the state and the other part of them was collected from Community. The project of the building was prepared by architects Adolfas Netyksa and Vaclovas Michnevicus.

    In 15th July, 1933 its doors were opened. The construction of new mosque lasted for three years. The purpose of the building is highlighted by interlaced historical forms and eastern details in the compact, modest size mosque. Outside: an elliptical dome and small minaret. Inside: the main hall of 90m² for men, 45m² open balcony for women, a corner for performance of rituals for dead people, an utility room, next to it – stairs to the balcony and the minaret. There was Muslims’ graveyard outside, at the corner of Tatars’ street and Traku Street, separated by the fence. The mosque was not radically changed up to these days, but graveyard was demolished.

    During World War II the Mosque was closed and was robbed. Religious activities ran after the war until 1947, when the Mosque's ownership was transferred to the Municipality of Kaunas, following the order of the USSR Communist Party, the Muslim community was completely destroyed.

    During Soviet times, the building was used for a circus and a library. There were plans to establish a museum of Islamic/Oriental art. The Mosque's external appearance is similar to its original appearance, but, all the internal decorations were replaced with the passage of the time. And in 1959 all the cemeteries were demolished and replaced by the "Peace Park". No cemetery is visible today.

    In 1991, after the Independence of Lithuania, the ownership of the mosque and the territory of 0,8405 hectares around it was returned to the community of the Muslims. After long time the first prayers were held therein. Thus, since the independence of Lithuania, the Kaunas City Muslim Religious Community (Kauno Miesto Musulmonų Religinė Bendruomenė) owns the Mosque. 

    Till 2000 The Muslim community of Kaunas did not have an imam. This community was represented by Mr. J. Ridzvanavičius, chairman of the Community. Also, the esteemed professor R. Makaveckas and Mrs. Krinickaitė, as well as several students from Muslim countries, actively worked for the community. The religious service, as a Friday prayer, was conducted in the mosque by an imam from the Raižiai mosque, J. Chaleckas. It is only since 2000 that R. Jakubauskas has been elected chairman and imam of the community.

    In 2007-2008, the Government of Lithuania provided funds to cover the cost of repairing the mosque. The exterior of the minaret, the roof, the exterior painted facade, the heating system, and the carpeting of the prayer halls were repaired and reinforced. After it, in 2009 the mosque of Kaunas has the status of the state protected object of cultural heritage. It is the only brick-built mosque in the Baltic countries. 

    The Lithuanian Muslim community always had close cooperation with the Turkish government since Independence of Lithuania. Turkish imams began to perform religious services at the Kaunas Mosque. For the longest time (2013-2018) these duties were performed by the imam A. Belge from Turkey. And the longtime chairman of Community was replaced in 2017 by  Mr. S. Okat. From 2019 he became an imam of Community as well.

    In 2018, the mosque of Kaunas was completely renovated. This was financed by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). Interior and exterior renovation were realized under the supervision of the Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture.

    Since 2019 Kaunas City Muslim Religious Community is a member of the Council of Lithuanian Muslim Religious Communities - Muftiate.

    At the moment there are about 300 to 500 Muslims living in Kaunas. There are a lot of regular students from countries of the Near East and Muslims’ countries in Kaunas. All these people are the members of the present day mosque of Kaunas. For the Friday prayer mosque is always overcrowded which results in a group of Muslims having to pray outside the mosque. The community is increasing in numbers each year.

    Territory of the mosque

    The land plot of the mosque is a part of the former Kaunas Old Cemetery. The former Kaunas Old Cemetery was established in 1847. The sites were for burial of members of various religious denominations, but it was not forbidden to build schools, prayer houses, etc. This strongly changed the urbanization of Kaunas city.

    Until 1930 there was a small wooden mosque in the mosque area (1906), two dwelling houses with a beautiful garden. Although Kaunas Municipality considered that all the buildings were "outdated, dangerous in terms of fire and unsanitary condition", their demolition terms were postponed until the war. There were also Muslim cemeteries on the corner of Trakai and Totoriu streets. They were enclosed in a fence, according to local Tartars, in 1935, "perfectly tolerant of good looks and standing for any length of time."

    The then Kaunas city government decided to transform the territory of Kaunas Old Cemetery into the “Ramybės Park”. The project included the construction of a cemetery and the construction of new trails.

    1998 a piece of mosque land was leased to the community. In this way it regained its historical plot of 0.8405 ha. The area has tall trees and low-value shrubs.

    2019 archaeological exploration of the entire mosque area was carried out. The conclusion mentions that no burial has been found, so the community plans to fence the entire area with openwork metal fences, clear paths, and set up parking.

    Throughout the mosque, Islamic (Muslim-Sunni) religious canons prohibit dogs, dogs, plants, litter and noise. It is a sacred place for meditation and family recreation.

    Sources:

    Kultūros vertybių registrasKauno mečetės u.k.1151

    Laurinaitis Paulius Tautvydas, Petrulis Vaidas. Totorių mečetė Kaune

    Totorių paminklas Vytautui Didžiajam 

    Kauno apskrities totorių bendruomenė 

  • Raižiai mosque

    Mosque of Raižiai, Raižių k., Alytaus r. (54.479854, 24.187812).

    raiziai-mecete Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    The mosque of Raiziai

     

    The village of Raiziai was founded at the end of the 15th century - the beginning of the 16th century and was inhabited by Tatars. By now it is called the capital of Lithuanian Tatars. During the times of the Duke Gediminas the Tatars army of The Golden Horde were launching attacks on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, therefore some of them were taken as captives. The Duke Gediminas allied himself with these Tatars who served in the Polish-Lithuanian military and some of them settled in the lands of Lithuania. The largest part of Tatars arrived to Lithuania during the reign of the Grand Duke Vytautas (1392-1430) who started to settle them with their families. Some of them inhabited village of Raiziai and built a mosque therein.

    The mosque which was built in the village of Raiziai was first mentioned in 1556. The current mosque itself was built in 1889 and was the only one in Lithuania functioning during the Soviet period. The building of this mosque has the status of the state protected object of cultural heritage.

    The pulpit (minbar) of the mosque of Raiziai is a valuable woodwork made by unknown artists. This sacral art monument of Lithuanian Tatars is dated 1684. At the end of the 18th century of the beginning of the 20th century it was brought from burnt mosque of neighbouring village of Bazorai.

    The mosque of Raiziai is a wooden structure of rectangular shape and folk architecture style. Its jetty in the facade of the apse has a form of pentahedron. It has iron span roof with a small minaret on the top which is not used for its original purpose.

    There are several Tatars cemeteries in the village of Raiziai and one of them is used nowadays for burial of Tatars as well as muslims of other nationalities.

    At the moment 2500 Tatars are living in Lithuania (most of Tatars are muslims) and more than 400 of them are residing in the district of Alytus, mostly in Raiziai, Butrimonys and Alytus.

  • Nemėžis mosque

    Mosque of Nemėžis, Totorių str. 4, Nemėžio k., Vilniaus r. (54.635509, 25.357279).

    Nemėžio mečetė Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    The Mosque of Nemezis Village

    In 1397 Vytautas The Great settled Tatars in the old village called Nemezis, nearby Vilnius. There also was a summer mansion house which belonged to Vytautas the Great and his wife in the 14th century.

    In 1684 a mosque was built in this village and it remained till recent times, but it burned down in 1909. It was rebuilt according to the project of architect A. Soninas. This mosque is wooden, of rectangular plan with hip-roof made of tin. There is an addition to it on the side of Mecca (mihrab), and small gazebo of minaret on the top of the roof. There is an old Tatars’ cemetery next to it.

    During the wars and Soviet era mosque suffered. At the end of The World War II missiles (rocketry) of Soviet Union was installed in the territory of the cemetery of this mosque. They were used to bombard the city. In 1963 the mosque started burning but fire was stopped on time by cutting down the minaret which was on open fire. The government of Soviets wanted to demolish the mosque, but people resisted. In 1968 there was a warehouse of grain, later - a museum of regional studies in the building of the mosque.

    In 1978 the mosque was returned to the muslims’ community. In 1993 it was repaired, in 2009 - renovated. The mosque of Nemezis has a status of cultural monuments of Republic of Lithuania.

  • Keturiasdešimt Totorių

    Mosque of 40 tatars's village, Keturiasdešimt Totorių k., Vilniaus r. (54.562194, 25.170355). keturiasdesimt-tortoriu-mecete Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    Forty Tatars’ village is one of the oldest Tatars’ settlements in Lithuania, which is known until our times. In 1630 there were 42 Tatars’ houses. The mosque which was in this villages was first mentioned in written sources in 1558, but it is thought to be burned down during Napaleon’s march to Russia. Until these days there is a wooden mosque, standing in the middle of this village, which was built in 1815. It is one of the oldest mosques in Lithuania.

    Next to the mosque there is muslims’ cemetery, called mizar, and in the area of the village there are three more Tatars’ old cemeteries. These old cemeteries can be traced back to the times of the establishment of this village. There graves, which are marked by stones, may be of the 14th - 16th centuries. Others with the inscriptions on the back side of gravestones may be dated back to the 17th century.

    The mosque of the Forty Tatars’ Village is of rectangular plan and hip-roof made of tin. There is a small gazebo of minaret on the top of the roof. This mosque is different from other Lithuanian Tatars mosques by one feature - it does not have mihrab (an arch in the wall on the side of Mecca). In Soviet times this mosque was closed, but prayers were held inside illegally. It was returned to the Muslims’ community in 1980. It was repaired and renovated in 1993. The building of the mosque of the Forty Tatars’ Village has the status of the state protected object of cultural heritage.

  • Islamic Culture and Education Center

    PI "Islamic Culture and Education Center". Smolensko str. 19, Vilnius (54.674036,25.259133)

    islamo-kulturos-centras Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    PI "Islamic Culture and Education Center" it was opened in 2013. Participated in the opening the Turkish President Abdullah Gul and the Minister of Culture of Lithuanian Republic Sarunas Birutis. The building was acquired and equiped from funds of the Turkish Republic institutions and organizations.

  • Klaipėda prayer room

    Klaipėda region religious muslim community "Iman". Tilžės str. 49 (2nd floor on the left side), Klaipėda city.

  • Lithuanian Tatars museum

    Address : Totorių buities muziejus V. Krėvės str. 6 - Subartonys, Varėna

    GPS : Latitude: 54.205055 | Longitude: 24.17858

    1-muziejus

    Lithuanian Tatars museum was opened by Tatar Liuse Gaidukeviciene (Milkamanaviciute) and Lithuanian Vladas Gaidukevicius in the village of Subartonys, district municipality of Varena, in their house built in 1939. The owners of this homestead offers not only take a look at exhibits in the museum but also taste Tatars dishes and go for a ride by the buggy pulled by horse in the beautiful surroundings of their village.

    Life in binational family did not change member’s of national minority attitude while the husband who supports his wife in all activities admires Tatars’ nation, their culture and religion. Islam is not only a faith of Tatars’ antecedents but also lifestyle and enshrining of traditions of all muslims. And the most honourable is the most pious.

    In this museum one can see: the hand written Qur’an,  chamail (“pocket” books of prayer), the prewar handbook of religion written in Arabic script, old photos and documents, posters of the heraldry of Tatars noble families, antiques - hand woven linen towel, fur craft tools, items made of leather, household utensils, embroidered housewares and others. Among other things one can also find an old pitchfork for harvesting potatoes made by blacksmith, inherited from the distant relatives. Furthermore, one narrow corner of the museum shows the history of Tatars from the region of Merkine, tells about the officers of Tatars origin who were fighting for the freedom of Lithuania during various time periods.

    Lithuanian Tatars museum is a significant attempt to preserve evidences of this ethnic minority national oneness of the last two centuries.

  • Council Of Lithuanian Muslims Religious Communities – Muftiate (LMRBT-Muftiatas)

    Registration address: Smolenkso str. 3, Vilnius (54.674036,25.259133)

    No photo description available.

    In 2019 the Council of Lithuanian Muslim Religious Communities - Muftiate or LMRBT – Muftiate  was established by the two largest Lithuanian Muslim religious communities – Vilnius Muslim Sunni Religious Community (consists of about 1000 Muslims living in Vilnius City) and Kaunas City Muslim Religious Community (consisting of about 500 Muslims living in Kaunas City and its District).

    The establishment of the LMRBT – Muftiate will help to mobilize and unite Muslims living in Lithuania. One of the main goals is to ensure that all its members are free to nurture their Muslim Sunni religious traditions in communities, regardless of its members’ racial or ethnic origin, citizenship or political guidelines.

    Other  tasks of LMRBT-Muftiate are as follow: representing the public interests of religious communities belonging to this Muftiate in Lithuania and abroad; co-operating on religious issues with state institutions of foreign Islamic affairs or international Islamic organizations.

    The Lithuanian Muslims community is small. According to the 2011 Lithuanian Population Census statistics there are about 3 thousand muslims living in Lithuania. Most of them visit the community centers of Vilnius and Kaunas, where daily prayers and educational activities take place, so the LMRBT-Muftiate also takes care of the organization of Islamic religious ceremonies, the teaching of religion and the dissemination of information about Islam and the fulfillment of other tasks to satisfy the needs of LMRBT-Muftiate religious community members.

    LMRBT – Muftiate mufti Aleksandras Beganskas

    LMRBT – Muftiate mufti Aleksandras Beganskas

    The Council of Lithuanian Muslims Religious Communities – Muftiate is governed by the Assembly and the Board of its Religious Committee, chaired by the Mufti. Currently, LMRBT-Muftiate Chairman of the Board-Mufti is Aleksandras Beganskas.

     

  • Kėdainiai minaret

    Kėdainių minaret – Touristic monument (55.307891, 23.976099)

    kedainiai-minaretas Žiūrėti didesnį žemėlapio vaizdą

    The Minaret of Kedainiai (Kedain)

    The minaret of Kedainiai was built in around 1880 by an Imperial Russian Army general Eduard Totleben, who also an earl of German origin. He owned a manor of Kedainiai. On the west side of minaret there was a mosque - a wooden pavilion with the dome roof, also there was a terrace and a home for the sticker. After The World War I this complex of the minaret started decaying. In 1932 the wooden pavilion with the dome roof was demolished. Only the minaret remained until our days. There are few versions about the purpose of building it. According to one of it, the minaret was built in honor of the earl’s wife, who was of Turkish origin. Another story tells that it only had to be a decoration of the park, commemorating the successful battle with Turks in 1877-1878, and from this minaret Totleben used to show his lands. Also there are stories telling that the tower of the minaret was brought from the mosque of Pleven, Bulgaria as the spoils of the war and the minaret itself was built by Turks, who were prisoners of this war. At the moment the minaret of Kedainiai is an architectural monument of The Republic of Lithuania.

    The minaret has the features of Ottoman architecture: steeple (peaked top), height of 25 metres, with balcony around all the tower and a crescent on the top of the roof. There are two marble panels remained with inscriptions in Arabic and old Turkish languages. One of them recites Quran: “Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His Permission?” (2:255). The other which is on the southeast side of minaret and is in Turkish language has no relation to the minaret itself or its surroundings. As a result of this it is thought that this panel was taken down from unknown sultan Mehmet’s palace in Bulgaria. This inscription tells: “The ridge of high gates raised its peak till the heavens. And flashed like the sun with golden sign. That is a palace of Ottomans’ victory, in which is clearly inscripted a sign of precious victory. May it dominate for the long years and creat few more such excellent, incomparable palaces. His slave Izet wrote the date - a grain of treasury: the generous king of the kings established a famous castle, no demolished or empty place remained during His reign. By His justice He adorned the world and especially this palace, which is enthralling by its charm and is similar to the paradise. Built by His Majesty sultan Mehmet. He jewelled this splendid palace so much that even the heaven had never seen more beautiful and wonderful.”