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Christianization of Lithuania

Christianization of Lithuania

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The Christianization of LithuaniaChristianization
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 that took place in 1387, initiated by the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila
Jogaila
Jogaila, later 'He is known under a number of names: ; ; . See also: Jogaila : names and titles. was Grand Duke of Lithuania , king consort of Kingdom of Poland , and sole King of Poland . He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis...

 and his cousin Vytautas, that signified the official adoption of Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 by Lithuanians
Lithuanians
Lithuanians are the Baltic ethnic group native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,765,600 people. Another million or more make up the Lithuanian diaspora, largely found in countries such as the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Russia, United Kingdom and Ireland. Their native language...

, one of the last pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 nations in Europe. This event ended one of the most complicated and lengthiest processes of Christianization in history.

History



Early contacts with Eastern Orthodox Christianity


Lithuanians' contacts with the Christian religion had been extensive since the early period of the formation of their state
Duchy of Lithuania
Duchy of Lithuania was a state-territorial formation of ethnic Lithuanians, that existed from the 12th century until 1413. Most of the time it was a constituent part and a nucleus of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania...

. The first mention
Name of Lithuania
The first known record of the name of Lithuania is in a 9 March 1009 story of Saint Bruno recorded in the Quedlinburg Chronicle . The Chronicle recorded a Latinized Slavic form of the name Lietuva: Litua pronounced [litvā]...

 of Lithuania in 1009 (in Annals of Quedlinburg
Annals of Quedlinburg
The Annals of Quedlinburg were written between 1008 and 1030 in the convent of Quedlinburg Abbey. In recent years a consensus has emerged that the annalist was a woman.The annals are mostly dedicated to the history of the Holy Roman Empire; they also contain the first written mention of the name...

) is related to the Roman Catholic missionaries led by Bruno of Querfurt
Bruno of Querfurt
Saint Bruno of Querfurt , also known as Brun and Boniface, is a sainted missionary bishop and martyr, who was beheaded near the border of Kievan Rus and Lithuania while trying to spread Christianity in Eastern Europe...

 traveling not far from the border of Lithuania, when a few Yotvingian rulers were baptised. However, Lithuanians had more active contacts with the Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 and subsequent Eastern Slavic
East Slavs
The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples.-Sources:...

 states, which had Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 as their religion since the Christianization of Kievan Rus'.

The dukes of Lithuania, extending their dominion eastwards, experienced an influence from Slavic states. Their subordinates and the people followed their example, borrowing, for instance, many of the East Slavic versions of Christian names in the 11th - 12th centuries. This borrowing became increasingly widespread among the pagan population in Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija is the name of one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The name comes from the relatively high elevation of the region, particularly the eastern parts.-Geography:...

, though much less in Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

. The influence of Orthodox Christianity on pagan Lithuanian culture is evidenced in about one third of present day Lithuanian surnames which are constructed from baptismal names
Saint's name
A saint’s name is the name of a saint given to individuals at their baptism within the Catholic Church. The custom of giving the name of a saint originated in France and Germany during the Middle Ages...

 are Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

 in origin. In addition, the Lithuanian words for "church", "baptism", "Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

" and "fast
Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...

" are classed as 'loanwords from Russian rather than Polish.'

Baptism of Mindaugas


The emergence of a monastic state of the Livonian Order
Livonian Order
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435–1561. After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen , the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights...

 around the Lithuanian borders made it rather urgent to choose a state religion. The first Lithuanian Grand Duke to adopt Western Christianity
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

 was Mindaugas
Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

, although his nephew and rival Tautvilas
Tautvilas
Tautvilas was Duke of Polatsk and one of the sons of Dausprungas and nephews of King of Lithuania Mindaugas. Tautvilas together with his brother Edivydas and uncle Vykintas waged a civil war against Mindaugas...

 had done that earlier, in 1250. The first translations of Catholic prayers
Prayer in Christianity
Prayer has been an essential part of Christianity since its earliest days. Prayer is an integral element of the Christian faith and permeates all forms of Christian worship...

 from German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 were made during his reign and have been known since.

In 1249, Tautvilas' ally Daniel of Halych
Daniel of Halych
Daniel I of Galicia or Daniel Romanovych or Danylo Halytskyi was a King of Galicia , Peremyshl , and Volodymyr...

 attacked Navahradak, and in 1250, another ally of Tautvilas, the Livonian Order, organized a major raid against Nalšia
Nalšia
Nalšia or Nalšėnai was an ancient land in the early stages of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It is mentioned in written sources from 1229 to 1298. The references to it cease as it was fully incorporated into the Grand Duchy...

 land and Mindaugas' domains in Lithuania proper
Lithuania proper
Lithuania proper refers to a region which existed within Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and spoke Lithuanian language. The primary meaning is identical to the Duchy of Lithuania, a land around which Grand Duchy of Lithuania evolved...

. Attacked from the south and north and facing the possibility of unrest elsewhere, Mindaugas was placed in an extremely difficult position, but managed to use the conflicts between the Livonian Order and the Archbishop of Riga
Archbishop of Riga
The Archbishopric of Riga was an archbishopric in Medieval Livonia, a subject to the Holy See. It was established in 1186 as the bishopric of Livonia at Üxküll, then after moving to Riga it became the bishopric of Riga in 1202 and was elevated to an archbishopric in 1255.- Archbishops of Riga :The...

 in his own interests. In 1250 or 1251, Mindaugas agreed to receive baptism and relinquish control over some lands in western Lithuania, for which he was to receive a crown in return.

Mindaugas and his family were baptised in the Catholic rite in 1250 or 1251. On July 17, 1251 Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV , born Sinibaldo Fieschi, was pope from June 25, 1243 until his death in 1254.-Early life:...

 issued a papal bull
Papal bull
A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it....

 proclaiming Lithuania as Kingdom
Kingdom of Lithuania
The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed from 1251 to roughly 1263. King Mindaugas was the first and only crowned king of Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was lost after Mindaugas' assassination in 1263. Other monarchs of Lithuania are referred to as Grand Dukes, even...

 and the state was placed under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome. Mindaugas and his wife Morta
Morta
Morta was the Grand Duchess of Lithuania and later Queen of Lithuania . There is very little known about her life; even her pre-Christianised name is unknown...

 were crowned at some time during the summer of 1253, and the Kingdom of Lithuania
Kingdom of Lithuania
The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed from 1251 to roughly 1263. King Mindaugas was the first and only crowned king of Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was lost after Mindaugas' assassination in 1263. Other monarchs of Lithuania are referred to as Grand Dukes, even...

, formally a Christian state, was established. Even after becoming a Catholic, King Mindaugas did not cease sacrificing to his own gods. After Mindaugas repudiated Christianity and expelled all the Christians from Lithuania in 1261, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 lost its status as a Western Christian state. Despite the ruling family's baptism, Lithuania had not become a truly Christian state, since there were no fruitful efforts to convert its population; Lithuanians and Samogitians
Samogitians
Samogitians are a part of the Lithuanian ethnicity inhabiting the region of Samogitia in Lithuania. Many speak the Samogitian dialect of the Lithuanian language.-History:...

  stood firmly for their ancestral religion
Lithuanian mythology
Lithuanian mythology is an example of Baltic mythology, developed by Lithuanians throughout the centuries.-History of scholarship:Surviving information about Baltic paganism in general is very sketchy and incomplete. As with most ancient Indo-European cultures Lithuanian mythology is an example of...

.

Vacillation between East and West


Mindaugas' successors did not express enough interest in following in his footsteps. There were decades of vacillation between the Latin and the Orthodox options. "For Gediminas and Algirdas
Algirdas
Algirdas was a monarch of medieval Lithuania. Algirdas ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1345 to 1377, which chiefly meant monarch of Lithuanians and Ruthenians...

, retention of paganism provided a useful diplomatic tool and weapon... that allowed them to use promises of conversion as a means of preserving their power and independence". Grand Duke Algirdas had pursued an option of 'dynamic balance'. Throughout his reign he teased both Avignon
Avignon Papacy
The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven Popes resided in Avignon, in modern-day France. This arose from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown....

 and Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 with the prospects of a conversion; several unsuccessful attempts were made to negotiate the conversion of Lithuania.

To avoid further clashes with the Teutonic Order, in 1349, Lithuanian co-ruler Kęstutis
Kestutis
Kęstutis was monarch of medieval Lithuania. He was the Duke of Trakai and governed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1342–82, together with his brother Algirdas , and with his nephew Jogaila...

 started the negotiations with Pope Clement VI for the conversion and had been promised royal crowns for himself and his sons. Algirdas willingly remained aside of the business and dealt with the order in the Ruthenian part of the state. The intermediary in the negotiations, Polish King Casimir III
Casimir III of Poland
Casimir III the Great , last King of Poland from the Piast dynasty , was the son of King Władysław I the Elbow-high and Hedwig of Kalisz.-Biography:...

, made an unexpected assault on Volhynia
Volhynia
Volhynia, Volynia, or Volyn is a historic region in western Ukraine located between the rivers Prypiat and Southern Bug River, to the north of Galicia and Podolia; the region is named for the former city of Volyn or Velyn, said to have been located on the Southern Bug River, whose name may come...

 and Brest in October 1349 that ruined Kęstutis' plan. During the Polish-Lithuanian war for Volhynia, King Louis I of Hungary offered a peace agreement to Kęstutis on 15 August 1351, according to which Kęstutis obliged himself to accept Christianity and provide the Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 with military aid, in exchange of the royal crown. Kęstutis confirmed the agreement by performing a pagan ritual to convince the other side. In fact, Kęstutis had no intentions to abide the agreement and ran away on his way to Buda
Buda
For detailed information see: History of Buda CastleBuda is the western part of the Hungarian capital Budapest on the west bank of the Danube. The name Buda takes its name from the name of Bleda the Hun ruler, whose name is also Buda in Hungarian.Buda comprises about one-third of Budapest's...

.

By the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 had emerged as a successor to Kievan Rus in the western part of its dominions. Although its sovereign was pagan, the majority of the population was Slavic and Orthodox. To legitimize their rule in these areas, the Lithuanian royalty frequently married into the Orthodox Rurikid aristocracy of Eastern Europe. As a result, some Lithuanian rulers were baptised into Eastern Orthodoxy either as children (Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila Švitrigaila Švitrigaila (ca 1370 – 10 February 1452; was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1430 to 1432. He spent most of his life in largely unsuccessful dynastic struggles against his cousins Vytautas and Sigismund Kęstutaitis.-Struggle against Vytautas:...

) or adults. The first one was Vaišelga, son and heir of Mindaugas
Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

, who took monastic vows at an Orthodox monastery in Lavrashev near Novgorodok and later established a convent there.

Christianization by Jogaila and Vytautas


The final attempt to Christianize Lithuania was made by Jogaila. Jogaila's Russian mother urged him to marry Sofia, daughter of Prince Dmitri of Moscow
Dmitri Donskoi
Saint Dmitry Ivanovich Donskoy , or Dmitry of the Don, sometimes referred to as Dmitry I , son of Ivan II the Meek of Moscow , reigned as the Prince of Moscow from 1359 and Grand Prince of Vladimir from 1363 to his death. He was the first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Mongol authority in...

, who required him first to convert to Orthodoxy and to make Lithuania a fief of the Grand Duchy of Moscow
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The Grand Duchy of Moscow or Grand Principality of Moscow, also known in English simply as Muscovy , was a late medieval Rus' principality centered on Moscow, and the predecessor state of the early modern Tsardom of Russia....

. That option, however, was unrealistic and unlikely to halt the crusades against Lithuania by the Teutonic Order. Jogaila chose therefore to accept a Polish proposal to become a Catholic and marry Queen Jadwiga of Poland
Jadwiga of Poland
Jadwiga was monarch of Poland from 1384 to her death. Her official title was 'king' rather than 'queen', reflecting that she was a sovereign in her own right and not merely a royal consort. She was a member of the Capetian House of Anjou, the daughter of King Louis I of Hungary and Elizabeth of...

. On these and other terms, on 14 August, 1385, at the castle of Krėva
Kreva
Kreva is a township in Hrodna Voblast, Belarus.-History:The Kreva Castle, constructed of brick, was built by the Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania at the borderland of Lithuanian ethnic lands. After his death in 1341, Kreva became the patrimony of his son and successor, Algirdas...

, Jogaila agreed to adopt Christianity, signing the Act of Krėva
Union of Krewo
In a strict sense, the Union of Krewo or Act of Krėva was a set of prenuptial promises made in the Kreva Castle on 14 August 1385 by Jogaila, Grand Duke of Lithuania, in exchange for marriage to the underage reigning Queen Jadwiga of Poland...

.

Jogaila was duly baptised at the Wawel Cathedral
Wawel Cathedral
The Wawel Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Stanisław and Vaclav, is a church located on Wawel Hill in Kraków–Poland's national sanctuary. It has a 1,000-year history and was the traditional coronation site of Polish monarchs. It is the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków...

 in Kraków
Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

 on 15 February 1386 and became king of Poland. The royal baptism was followed by the conversion of most of Jogaila's court and knights, as well as Jogaila's brothers Karigaila
Karigaila
Karigaila was a son of Algirdas, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and his second wife Uliana of Tver. He became the ruler of Mstsislaw after he captured it from the Principality of Smolensk. He is sometimes mistaken for his brother Constantine, who was the founder of the House of Czartoryski...

, Vygantas
Vygantas
Vygantas was Duke of Kernavė. He was one of the sons of Algirdas, Grand Duke of Lithuania , and his second wife Uliana Alexandrovna of Tver....

, Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila Švitrigaila Švitrigaila (ca 1370 – 10 February 1452; was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1430 to 1432. He spent most of his life in largely unsuccessful dynastic struggles against his cousins Vytautas and Sigismund Kęstutaitis.-Struggle against Vytautas:...

 and cousin Vytautas. Jogaila sent Dobrogost, Bishop of Poznań
Poznan
Poznań is a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland, with a population of 556,022 in June 2009. It is among the oldest cities in Poland, and was one of the most important centres in the early Polish state, whose first rulers were buried at Poznań's cathedral. It is sometimes claimed to be...

, as ambassador to Pope Urban VI with a petition for the erection of an episcopal see at Vilnius
Archdiocese of Vilnius
The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Vilnius is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Lithuania. Established as the Diocese of Vilnius in the 14th century, it was elevated to the rank of a metropolitan archdiocese by Pope Pius XI on October 28, 1925...

 and the appointment of Andrzej Jastrzębiec
Andrzej Jastrzebiec
Andrzej Jastrzębiec , also known as Andrzej Wasilko or Andrzej Polak, was a Polish Catholic priest and diplomat, a first bishop of Seret and of Vilnius. Little is known of his youth and he might have been born to a peasant family...

 to fill it.

Jogaila returned to Lithuania on February 1387. The baptism of nobles and their peasants was at first carried out in the capital Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

 and its environs. The nobility and some peasants in Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija
Aukštaitija is the name of one of five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The name comes from the relatively high elevation of the region, particularly the eastern parts.-Geography:...

 were baptized in spring, followed by the rest of the Lithuanian nobility.
The parishes were established in ethnic Lithuania and the new Vilnius Cathedral
Vilnius Cathedral
The Cathedral of Vilnius is the main Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lithuania.It is situated in Vilnius Old Town, just off of Cathedral Square. It is the heart of Lithuania's Catholic spiritual life....

 was built in 1387 in the site of a demolished pagan temple. According to the information of disputed accuracy provided by Jan Długosz, the first parochial churches were built in Lithuanian pagan towns Vilkmergė, Maišiagala
Maišiagala
Maišiagala is a historic town in Vilnius district municipality, Lithuania. It is located about northwest of Vilnius near the Vilnius–Panevėžys highway. According to the 2001 census, it had population of 1,634.-History:...

, Lyda, Nemenčinė
Nemencine
Nemenčinė is a city in Vilnius district municipality, Lithuania, it is located about north-east of Vilnius.-Names:Nemenčinė is the original name of the city reflected in historical documents and still in use today. It derives from a Lithuanian word referring to the river Nemenčia...

, Medininkai, Krėva
Kreva
Kreva is a township in Hrodna Voblast, Belarus.-History:The Kreva Castle, constructed of brick, was built by the Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania at the borderland of Lithuanian ethnic lands. After his death in 1341, Kreva became the patrimony of his son and successor, Algirdas...

, Haina and Abolcy, all belonging to the Jogaila's patrimony. On 19 April 1389, Pope Urban VI recognized the status of Lithuania as a Roman Catholic state.

Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

 was the last ethnic region of Lithuania to become Christianized in 1413, following the defeat of the Teutonic Order in the Battle of Grunwald
Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald or 1st Battle of Tannenberg was fought on 15 July 1410, during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led respectively by King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas , decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights, led...

 and the Peace of Thorn and its subsequent return to the Lithuanian control. In November 1413, Vytautas himself sailed Neman River
Neman River
Neman or Niemen or Nemunas, is a major Eastern European river rising in Belarus and flowing through Lithuania before draining into the Curonian Lagoon and then into the Baltic Sea at Klaipėda. It is the northern border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast in its lower reaches...

 and Dubysa
Dubysa
Dubysa, at 131 km, is the 15th longest river in Lithuania. It originates just a few kilometers from Lake Rėkyva near Šiauliai city. At first it flows south, but at Lyduvėnai turns southeast and near Ariogala - southwest. Dubysa is a Samogitian river...

, reached the environs of Betygala, where he baptised first groups of Samogitians
Samogitians
Samogitians are a part of the Lithuanian ethnicity inhabiting the region of Samogitia in Lithuania. Many speak the Samogitian dialect of the Lithuanian language.-History:...

. In 1416, the construction of eight first parochial churches was started. The Diocese of Samogitia was established on 23 October 1417 and Matthias of Trakai
Matthias of Trakai
Matthias of Trakai or of Vilnius was a Lithuanian Roman Catholic clergyman, the first Bishop of Samogitia from its establishment in 1417 until 1422 and the fifth Bishop of Vilnius from 4 May 1422 until 9 May 1453 and an ex-officio member of the Council of Lords.-Biography:Matthias graduated the...

 became the first Bishop of Samogitia. The cathedral was built in Medininkai
Varniai
Varniai , is a city in the Telšiai County, western Lithuania. In the Middle Ages the city was known as Medininkai. It was established in the 14th century, on the bank of the Varnelė River, near an important Samogitian castle. It was the center of Samogitian Catholic church: after the baptism of...

 around 1464.

Aftermath


Ethnic Lithuanian nobles were the main converts to Catholicism, but paganism remained strong among the peasantry. Pagan customs prevailed for a long time among the common people of Lithuania and were covertly practiced. There had been no prosecution of priests and adherents of the old faith. However, by the 17th century, following the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 ( 1545-1648 AD/CE ), the Roman Catholic faith had essentially taken precedence over earlier pagan beliefs.

The conversion and its political implications had lasting repercussions for the history of Lithuania. As the majority of the population of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania outside Lithuania proper
Lithuania proper
Lithuania proper refers to a region which existed within Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and spoke Lithuanian language. The primary meaning is identical to the Duchy of Lithuania, a land around which Grand Duchy of Lithuania evolved...

 was Orthodox and the elite gradually converted to Roman Catholicism, religious tensions increased. Some of the Orthodox Gediminids
Gediminids
The Gediminids were a dynasty of monarchs of Grand Duchy of Lithuania that reigned from the 14th to the 16th century. One branch of this dynasty, known as the Jagiellons, reigned also in Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Bohemia...

 left Lithuania for Muscovy, where they gave rise to such families as the Galitzine
Galitzine
For Orthodox clergyman and theologian, see Alexander Golitzin.The Galitzines are one of the largest and noblest princely houses of Russia. Since the extinction of the Korecki family in the 17th century, the Golitsyns have claimed dynastic seniority in the House of Gediminas...

 and the Troubetzkoy. The Orthodox population of present-day Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and eastern Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 often sympathized with the rulers of Muscovy, who portrayed themselves as the champions of Orthodoxy. These feelings contributed to such reverses as the Battle of Vedrosha
Battle of Vedrosha
The battle on the Vedrosha River was a battle in the course of the Russo-Lithuanian war of 1500-1503 which ended with a decisive Russian victory and proved to be of strategic significance...

, which crippled the Grand Duchy and undermined its position as a dominant power in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

.

On the other hand, the conversion to the Roman Catholicism facilitated Lithuania's integration into the cultural sphere of Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 and paved the way to the political alliance of Lithuania and Poland, finalized as the Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin
The Union of Lublin replaced the personal union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a real union and an elective monarchy, since Sigismund II Augustus, the last of the Jagiellons, remained childless after three marriages. In addition, the autonomy of Royal Prussia was...

in 1569.