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Laurynas Gucevičius was an architect, a teacher at Lithuania’s Engineer Corps and a professor of topography and cartography at Vilnius University, a nobleman (receiving the title 1789), an active participant of the Kościuszko Uprising of 1794, and a colonel of the Lithuanian Army. He was born in the family of peasant serfs in the village of Migonys, which is now part of Kupiškis district, on 5 August 1753. Having finished his primary eduction in Kupiškis, Gucevičius became enrolled in the Palėvenė Dominican Monastery School. In 1773, he graduated from the School of Piarists in Panevėžys and moved to Vilnius to pursue higher education. He joined the Missionary Monastery there and was at the same time studying mathematics at the Principal School of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (now, Vilnius University) and architecture under the supervision Marcin Knackfus, the pioneer of Neoclassicist architecture in Lithuania. Gucevičius’s talent was soon noticed by the bishop of Vilnius Ignotas Jokūbas Masalskis, who became his patron. After graduating the university, Gucevičius went abroad to pursue further knowledge. He first visited German cities including Königsberg, Berlin, Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen to learn about the life and architecture therein, before travelling to the most important cities in Denmark and Sweden. After an extended stay in Copenhagen, Gucevičius decided to continue his architecture studies in Paris. He spent two years at the famous school of architecture of Jacques-François Blondel, while also attending the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Neoclassicism, which was based on the art of Greece and Rome in antiquity, was the dominant movement in architecture in Paris at the time, as were the ideas and the worldview of the Enlightenment, both of which impressed Gucevičius a great deal. He studied under architects such as Pierre Patte, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, Jean-Baptiste Rondelet, and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, the last of whom was famous for his distinctive and conceptually utopian projects and calling a solid cube the most perfect architectural form. Gucevičius spent the following two years in Italy, mostly staying in Rome, where he closely studied the architectural heritage of Roman Antiquity and Italian Renaissance.

Authors of the L. Gucevicius biust and memorial plaque - sculptors Mindaugas Šnipas and Gediminas Kavaliauskas

Laurynas Gucevičius Vilnius University professor diploma. 1793 m.
Reproduction from: E. Budreika, Architect Laurynas Stuoka Gucevičius,Vilnius: State Publishing House of Political and Scientific Literature, 1954.

Upon returning to Lithuania, Gucevičius was commissioned by Bishop Masalskis to prepare and implement the large-scale project of Verkiai Manor Homestead, which took until 1790 to complete. At the heart of this project was an ensemble of three palaces, the central (and the largest) of which no longer exists. The entire architectural complex consists of multiple different buildings, with the stables and the pavilion in the vicinity of the ensemble especially worthy of mention; the rest of the buildings were scattered across the wide and strikingly uneven landscape of the river valley. This project was not limited to architecture: it also involved landscape formation as well as designing and maintaining a park on the premises of a palace.

Gucevičius’s most important works are recontstructions/redevelopments of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Ladislaus of Vilnius and Vilnius Town Hall, although both were completed only after his death. Both of these projects were undertaken when the buildings were in critical condition, with an important impetus being the falling towers. This may have been the reason why Gucevičius was able to completely redesign their exterior in the newly formed Neoclassical style.

The cathedral was built in 1783–1801, with Gucevičius’s pupil, the architect Mykolas Šulcas completing the construction. Its volume and interior space is shaped by the surviving walls, arch-supporting pillars, and (partially surviving) arches themselves of the gothic cathedral built by Vytautas the Great as far back as 1420 and the Chapel of St. Casimir built under the care of Sigismund III Vasa in the early 17th century. To achieve a perfect symmetry and harmony of volumes, Gucevičius added a sacristy in the opposite, north-east wing, analogous in volume to the Chapel of St. Casimir. Once the side chapels were made uniform, Gucevičius chose to partially cover them with colonnades. The heights of the columns and pilasters as well as the entablatures and cornices above them correspond to the order of the Chapel of St. Casimir. Two new chapels were built at the left-hand corners of the building and incorporated into its volume, the St. Ladislaus Chapel and the Chapel of the Exiles, increasing the cathedral’s overall dimensions from 58.5 x 23.4 m to 72.0 x 52.5 m. The western facade is dominated by an imposing six-columned portico / entrance designed on an incomparably larger scale. Because the view of the portico and its columns was obscured by the surrounding buildings, it seems highly likely that Gucevičius was already thinking of demolishing some of them and constructing a new street in the territory of the Old Town, namely the present-day Gediminas Avenue. This avenue is also present in the plan of the city of prepared in 1817. The monumentality of the building is further enhanced by connecting the roof of the portico and the rest of the building, which also lengthened it. Adding to this impression of monumentality are the sculptures of Abraham, the four evangelists, and Moses embedded in the niches of the western facade, as well as the sculptural composition of Noah’s sacrifice on the pediment of the portico. They were designed in 1785–1791 by the sculptor Tommaso Righi, who came to Vilnius from Rome at the invitation of Bishop Masalskis.

Vilnius Town Hall was constructed in 1785–1799. As with the Cathedral, Gucevičius had to incorporate the surviving parts of the old town hall, namely, certain rooms, walls, and cellars; some of the cellars date back to the early/mid-15th century. Out of the three versions of the project he had prepared, the most modest and cheapest was picked, because the project was being implemented during the very last years of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The building is shaped much like a square and has a decidedly simple volume. Breathing life into the building is the massive six-column portico. The motif of the portico entablature envelops the entire building; the portico and the cornice of the building are level. And while its architecture is extremely restrained, the Town Hall’s excellent proportions make it majestic and monumental; it also dominates the space of the square. Notably, this was the first public space designed by architect Gucevičius for Vilnius residents: it involved demolishing rows of market stalls and reorienting the main facade of the hall towards the new square, Pilies Street and the Vilnius Castle.

J. Peška. Vilnius City Hall. 1797 m.
Reproduction from. Disappeared Vilnius, Vilnius: Studija "Versus", 2021

L. Gucevic's first design of Vilnius City Hall with a clock tower (side facade). 1786 m.
Reproduction from: E. Budreika, Architect Laurynas Stuoka Gucevičius,Vilnius: State Publishing House of Political and Scientific Literature, 1954.

The Town Hall, its architecture, and especially its interior spaces were soon to undergo some drastic changes, with the Tsarist government taking away municipal autonomy in 1811, relocating the administration/magistrate to another building, and eventually repurposing the building into a theatre (this was completed by 1845). The main spaces of the building were changed, with many valuable interior architecture elements and details destroyed. It served as a theatre until 1922. Then, at long last, it was decided to use the building for city’s representation needs. In 1936–1939, under the architect Stefan Narębski’s plan and direction, the facades, the main halls, and the previously-destroyed colonnades were restored. Narębski designed the monumental interior staircases leading to the first floor, which, in their style and proportions, perfectly blended with the neoclassical architecture of Town Hall as originally conceived by Gucevičius, adding further solemnity to the building. All interior and exterior doors of the Town Hall as well as other elements of its restored interior were also Narębski’s additions.

However, Gucevičius’s first variant of the Vilnius Town Hall project should not lost to the confines of history, either (the second variant has not survived). It was to be a far larger and more ornate building, the key element of which was a column/tower attached to its southern facade, with a clock and a statue of Stanislaus II Augustus, the last monarch of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, atop. This gigantic colossus in the restrained Doric style would have rivalled the bell tower of the Church of St. Johns in size and, apparently, this was supposed to emphasize the power and importance of the civil self-government of Vilnius residents. With that said, it was also a striking expression of the neoclassical utopias, inspired by the spirit of the European Enlightenment and the works of Boulée and Ledoux, here in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Other better-known buildings or building complexes designed by Gucevičius are scattered in the countryside, mostly in the southeastern part of Lithuania. However, their authorship is not always fully proven or is sometimes in doubt.

The complex of Jonava Church of St. Jacob the Apostle, its presbytery, and the Trinitarian Monastery was under development from the second half of the 18th century, with the church itself built in 1791–1793. It forms an ensemble with the two-story presbytery and monastery buildings sitting on each side. During the interwar period, in 1934–1935, under the project of Kārlis Reisons, two towers were added to the church and the tectonics of its pediment was changed, fundamentally changing the architectural expression of the ensemble and its urbanistic fit with the town.

The complex of Čiobiškis Manor Homestead sits near Jonava, upstream the river Neris, on its bank in what is now Širvintos district. It is a relatively modest ensemble of buildings: the main house/palace is one-story only and has a two-story four-pilaster portico in the centre. Although the authorship of Gucevičius has not been conclusively proven in this case, it is presumed that the nearby Čiobiškis St. John the Baptist Church was also designed by him due to its obvious similarities with the church in Jonava.

Shrouded in mystery even more is the authorship of the complex of Cirkliškis Manor, located near the town of Švenčionys. Some sources claim that the buildings were constructed according to a project by Gucevičius in 1796 and underwent major repairs and limited reconstruction in the early 19th century. Recently, however, 1823–1830 has been regarded as the years of construction, attributing the project to an Austrian architect. With all that said, the architectural expression of the main facade and the surviving mouldings of the interior decor suggest that the authorship of Gucevičius (with respect to both design and construction) cannot be ruled out, either.

What is almost beyond doubt is the fact that Sudervė Church of the Holy Trinity, some 20 km northwest of Vilnius, was designed by Gucevičius, even though its construction was completed in 1803 by Laurynas Bortkevičius, who was a Dominican monk translating and preparing religious in Lithuanian and came from the same region as Gucevičius. This church is a self-contained, monumental sacred building/rotunda, which dominates the surrounding landscape. The height of the dome with the lantern and the diameter of the building are almost equal, both measuring at about 30 m (the lantern was a later addition). The main entrance is accentuated by a circular Doric colonnade/portico incorporated into the perimeter of the building. As with Vilnius Cathedral, the facade features niches with monumental sculptures of the four evangelists and, in this case, St. Peter and St. Paul.

In the territory of today’s Belarus, there, likely, remains the Dziarečyn Manor complex commissioned by the Sapieha family and built by Gucevičius in 1786. It is his early work, where the influence and tradition of the Blondel school in Paris is still palpable in the ornate architecture of the palace facade. Regrettably, the palace remained abandoned and in disrepair from the period of Polish occupation in the interwar years.

One should also note another building, in Vilnius Old Town, which stands out those around it, namely formerly the House of doctor Leibošicas, on Vokiečių str. 16. Architect Eduardas Budreika thinks it was also designed by Gucevičius.

So, the work of this great classic of Lithuanian architecture not only inspires admiration and respect, but also requires further in-depth research and assessment. One such area for further research is his declaration of the Freemasons’ ideology and worldview, which is clearly palpable when one assesses the legacy of his oeuvre and the strictly neoclassical or sometimes even visionary architecture of his buildings and building ensembles. Gucevičius was initiated into Freemasons at St. John’s Lodge du Bon Pasteur on 18 March 1778 following a recommendation from the architect Marcin Knackfus, who had already been a member; later, Gucevičius was a member of St. John’s Lodges du Bon Pasteur (‘The Good Shepherd’) (1778–1780) and Gorliwy Litwin (‘The Diligent Lithuanian’) (1788), becoming its second warden (1788), and a member of the Lithuanian Grand Lodge Doskonała Jedność (‘The Perfect Unity’) (1781).

In its spirit, however, Gucevičius’s architecture – probably due to his place of origin, upbringing, and the historical circumstances he found himself in – also remains truly and distinctively Lithuanian.


Eduardas Budreika, Architektas Laurynas Stuoka Gucevičius, Vilnius: Valstybinė politinės ir mokslinės literatūros leidykla, 1954.
Hugh Honour, Neoklasycyzm, Warszawa: Pantswowe Wydawnistwo Naukowe, 1972.
Ad. Juškevičius, J. Maceika, Vilnius ir jo apylinkės, Liet. mokslo d-jos leid., 1937; 3-iasis (fotogr.) leid., Vilnius: Mintis, 1991.
Data from the intangible cultural heritage register of the Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture.
Mikalojus Vorobjovas, Vilniaus menas, Kaunas: Spaudos fondas, 1940.


Tribute to Laurynas Gucevičius in 13th of September 2022 | VIDEO

Military and military-pedagogical activities of Laurynas Gucevičius

While working as an architect, Laurynas Gucevičius was an active participant in a civil and patriotic movement, which was affected by reforms enacted by the Four-Year Sejm. In that period, civil architecture was closely linked to military architecture and many towns had defensive walls. As a result, architects had to be aware of the basic principles of military architecture, especially in relation to city planning, construction of military and dual-purpose buildings and other important aspects. In 1789, Lt. Col. Jokūbas Jasinskis, who was a graduate of the Cadet Corps, an erudite and an organizer, received an order to organize the Lithuanian Engineer Corps in Vilnius, which would be an army unit responsible for constructing heavy-duty and outdoor fortifications, setting up land mines and obstacles, and drawing maps. The role of the chief and patron of the Engineer Corps was given to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Confederation Marshall and Artillery General of Lithuania Kazimieras Nestoras Sapiega, who was a high-ranking member of Lithuania’s Freemasons. With the help of several military officers, Lt. Col. Jasinskis established a school of engineering in his own home, where engineer-conductors and miners were trained in the theory of their disciplines and gaining practical skills.

Naturally, the knowledge and skills of Gucevičius, who was then a professor of topography and cartography, came in very handy in this difficult task. The necessary instruments for the school were bought in Vienna in 1790–1791, and Gucevičius could have started his work in the Corps as early as 1791 (the first person in this role was the Austrian military officer Saint Urbain; the date of his dismissal remains unknown) and stayed in that position up until the uprising of 1794.

Naturally, the chief of the Engineer Corps, Lt. Col. Jasinskis, who secretly led – and was the soul of – the uprising, was on close terms with the teacher of his school, Gucevičius, whom he assigned with preparing Vilnius residents for the uprising and later appointed as the commander of the Vilnius City Guard. A defensive unit of some 1500–2000 soldiers was established to defend the city, safeguard its gate and patrol the city around the clock. Guardsmen were divided into tens and hundreds, with battalions of 500 formed as needed. They were given uniforms and munitions, but the munitions were not their strong suit. Faced with a shortage of soldiers, the Guard had to be involved in the construction of fortifications and battles outside the bounds of the city.

Gucevičius stayed in the role of the commander of the Vilnius City Guard until the Battle of Salicha on 26 June, where he was injured and dismissed from his duties. His injuries in this battle may have been partially responsible for his early death. The Guard excelled at the battle for Vilnius and received praise and a message of thanks from the commander of the uprising. A number of Gucevičius’s soldiers stayed in the insurgent forces and kept fighting until the end of the uprising in November of the same year. Subsequent commanders of the Guard were less militant and eager to fight, compared with the first months of the uprising.

The life Gucevičius led was not unlike those of other graduates of the Warsaw School of Cadets: He was one of the key figures serving as a link between the military and the society of Vilnius residents and an example of the new mix of a scientist, artist, patriot and public figure characteristic of the early days of the revolutionary wars period. This activity cost him his professorship at Vilnius University Faculty of Architecture. Nonetheless, the principles of military architecture continued to be taught at Vilnius University during the last years of Gucevičius’s life.

Prof. Dr. Valdas Rakutis

The Office of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania, Senieji aktai, b. 18334. Lietuvos artilerijos korpuso ir inžinerijos korpuso ataskaitos (Likwidacja) 1789–1790, esp. l. 475–524.
Eduardas Brusokas, Vilniaus Tautinė gvardija 1794 m. sukilime, Laurynas Gucevičius ir jo epocha (ser. Acta Academiae artium Vilnensis. Dailė, Nr. 32), Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2004, p. 47–51.
Jarosław Gdański, Marusz Machynia, Czesław Srzednicki, Kamil Stepan, Oficerowie wojska koronnego 1777 –1794. Spisy. Cz. 4: Formacje Targowicy. Szkolnictwo wojskowe. Varia. Uzupełnienia, Księgarnia Akademicka, 2003, s. 95–96.
Karolis Podčašinskis, Lauryno Gucevičiaus biografija, Laurynas Gucevičius ir jo epocha (ser. Acta Academiae artium Vilnensis. Dailė, Nr. 32), Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2004, p. 170–175.
Information on the life of Lauryno Gucevičiaus, Professor of Civil and Military Architecture at Vilnius University from Dziennik Wileński, tom. IV, rok 1516, No. 22, s. 274–280. Translated into Lithuanian, see Laurynas Gucevičius ir jo epocha (Acta Academiae artium Vilnensis. Dailė, Nr. 32), Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2004, p. 168–170.

Coat of arms Syrokomla (Sirokomlė)
Reproduction from: Tadeusz Gajl, Herbarz Polski od śriedniowiecza do XX wieku, Gdańsk: L&L, 2007