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- Vilnius, Lithuania,
the Gate of Dawn (Ausros Vartai)

The Gate of Dawn (Ausros Vartai) in Vilnius, constructed at the beginning of the 16th century,
is one of nine gates that existed at that time in the city’s defensive walls. In medieval Vilnius there was a custom of placing holy pictures over the gate in tower recesses. The picture of the Madonna without the Infant Jesus, having a sad countenance, slightly bowed head, and crossed arms, was placed on the gate which was considered to be the most representative, because official visitors were welcome there. This picture did not attract much attention, as it was in the recess behind shutters, which protected it against the rain and snow.
The situation changed in 1626 when the Barefoot Carmelites order was established near
the Gate of Dawn. One of the monks in the Gate of Dawn constructed a wooden chapel with
stairs for the Madonna picture, where the inhabitants of Vilnius started gathering for prayers.
In that chapel, with the intercession of the Mother of God, the inhabitants of Vilnius for
generations have pleaded for special graces for themselves and their family and friends.
That chapel burned down in the town’s fire in 1711.
The miraculous picture was carried out of the burning chapel by a young monk. Until a new chapel was built of brick, which lasted for about 20 years, the saved picture was kept in the adjacent
Saint Teresa’s church.
In the following years a vestry and a gallery were added to Gate of Dawn chapel.
In 1773, Pope Clement XVI granted indulgences to the Fraternity of the Care of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vilnius. In 1799, when tsarist authorities started demolishing the walls and all gates
in Vilnius, the Gate of Dawn was left intact. During 1829-1830, a storied gallery was added to the thoroughly renovated chapel, with stairs made of stone, and it was shaped as we can see it now.

The picture of the Gate of Dawn Madonna was probably painted in Vilnius during 1620-1630.
Despite many investigations, the painter is still unknown. The oil painting sized 200x165 cm is painted on oak boards covered with a thin chalky primer. The double crowns and the dress made of silver and gilded on the surface were applied on the picture at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. A distinctive element of the picture is a votive offering shaped like a big half-moon, placed in 1849 in the lower part of the picture. Selected votive offerings, among other from
Marshal Józef Pilsudski, constitute the silver cover of the chapel walls.

The votive offerings covering the walls include those sent by Holy Father John Paul II.
The estimated number of exposed silver votive offerings from the faithful, as an expression
of gratitude for the obtained graces, reaches approximately 8000.

Oil painting on boards

The picture in silver dress

The Chapel of the Holy Mother of Mercy

By the Pope’s decree of 1927, the Gate of Dawn Madonna picture, which was called the Image
of the Holy Mother of Mercy, was crowned with papal crowns. The coronation ceremony was celebrated with the highest sacred and national importance - the golden crowns were put on
by the papal nuncio.
Participating in the ceremony were: the Polish Primate archbishop August Hlond, 28 bishops and many highest secular officials headed by Marshal Jozef Pilsudski and President Ignacy Moscicki (the crowns were lost during the World War II). During the World War II, the Miraculous Picture, following a decision taken by metropolitan archbishop Jalbrzykowski, remained among its faithful worshipers in Vilnius. After the war, when Vilnius belonged to the USSR and most churches were closed, the Gate of Dawn chapel remained open.

Many reproductions of the image of the Holy Mother of Mercy are in churches in other countries, also in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome there is a chapel where a reproduction of this image was placed. Pope John Paul II prayed at the Gate of Dawn chapel during his pilgrimage to Vilnius
in September 1993.

Owing to God’s Providence, the Image of Merciful Savior was for the first time venerated in public at the Holy Mother of Mercy in Vilnius on April 26-28, 1935, within the solemnly celebrated closing of the Jubilee of the Redemption of the World. As demanded by Our Lord Jesus, the ceremony took place on the first Sunday after Easter; sister Faustina participated, and Father Sopocko presented
a homily about the Divine Mercy (see Image).

"For three days it was exposed and received public veneration. Since it was placed at the very top of a window at the Gate of Dawn (Shrine of Our Lady above the Gate of Dawn to the city of Vilnius), it could be seen from a great distance. At the Gate of Dawn, during these three days, the closing of the Jubilee of the Redemption of the World was being celebrated, marking the nineteen hundred years that have passed since the Passion of our Savior" (Diary, 89).

"When the image was displayed, I saw a live movement of the hand of Jesus, as He made a large sign of the cross" (Diary, 416).

"When he began to speak (Father Sopocko) about the great mercy of Our Lord, the image came alive and the rays pierced the hearts of the people gathered there… " (Diary, 417).

"Toward the end of the service, when the priest took the Blessed Sacrament to bless
the people, I saw Our Lord Jesus as He is represented in the image. Our Lord gave His blessing, and the rays extended over the whole world" (Diary, 420).

Vilnia (Vilnius)
The Chapel of the Gate of Dawn.
Drawing from the middle of XIX century

The Chapel of the Gate of Dawn.
Postcard from the 1930th

The Chapel of the Gate of Dawn.
Postcard from the 1930th

The Gates of Dawn (Ausros Vartai), Vilnius, Lithuania: www.ausrosvartai.lt





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