Beautiful churches and manor palaces, mythological stones and ancient barrows shrouded in legends, unique buildings of ancient villages and picturesque landscapes – travellers will see all this on their trip through Šalčininkai region.
According to the statistical data, there are 280 objects of cultural heritage in the region, including 13 Roman Catholic churches, two Orthodox churches, chapels, buildings of old palaces.
1.Jašiūnai manor build ensemble (19th century ) and park.
2.Tabariškės church (18th century) and manors granary.
3.Dieveniškės and Eišiškės old town – monument of architecture.
4. Norviliškės monastery (16th – 17th century).
5. Eišiškės site of an ancient castle – entered in 270 Lithuanian monument list.
6. Eišiškės church (the middle 19th century).
7. Šalčininkai manor palace (the end of the 19th century).
8. Poškonys street village (19th century).
9. Gornostajiškės manor and water-mill (the beginning of the 19th century).
Not only architectural monuments can be visited in the region, but you can also relax in the natural environment, in nature. The centre of the region is the city of Šalčininkai which is 45 km far from Vilnius, by the highway Vilnius – Lyda. The city is inhabited by 7000 people. The city occupies an area of 2.98 km2.
Behind the bridge across the Merkys, beyond the river, there is one more architectural and historical monument. It is the so-called Professors’ cemetery. The members of the Sniadecki and Baliński families are buried there: Jan Sniadecki (1756-1830), a rector at Vilnius University, a professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, Mykolas Balinskis (1824-1902), a historian, a professor at the St. Petersburg Military Academy, Janas Balinskis, a psychiatrist.
The Rūdninkai forest covers 26 thousand hectares of the Šalčininkai region’s territory. In the 15th – 17th centuries it was a royal hunting reserve, where Duke Kazimieras built a hunting house. Barbora Radvilaitė used to visit Zigmuntas Augustas during his hunts there. Through Rūdninkai, which situate at the edge of the forest, a funeral procession passed by, accompanying the remains of the queen Barbora Radvilaitė from Cracow to her beloved Vilnius, to lay her for the eternal rest in the Cathedral’s vault. Zygmuntas Augustas, overwhelmed with pain and desperation, clothed in black, followed the procession. At night, the coffin with the queen’s remains stood in the village church.The Rūdninkai forest is connected with a patriotic history.
The participants of the insurrections in the years 1831 and 1863 were operating in its forests. By the entrance to the forest from the side of Rūdninkai, on the banks of the river Merkys, there stands a monument to the insurgents of the year 1863. Besides, 8 km far from Rūdninkai there is a monument to the Russian lieutenant Arbuzov, who fought against the insurgents. The monument was erected before World War I by the Tsarist government. In the years of World War II the units of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) were stationed in the Rūdninkai forest. A cross is erected to the honour of the fallen soldiers. An inscription on the board reminds that 25 soldiers of the Armia Krajowa Vilnius self-defence unit rest in peace there, as they, having been led by Lieutenant Česlav Stankevič (under the pseudonym “Komar” – “Gnat”), perished in an unequal battle with the NKVD forces on the 6th – 7th of January, 1945.The Rūdninkai forest is a huge complex of various biotopes, one of the most valuable territories of the region. At Žygmantiškės, there rise continental dunes up to 30 m high. An open sand area, moulded by fires caused by constant bombardments, is a unique formation of continental sands.There are three lakes in Rūdninkai. Lake Kernavas (81 ha) is surrounded from all sides by swamps, predominantly low swamps vegetated by black alders or dwarf pines. Šulnys lakelet (1.5 ha), which is not far from the firing ground, is also surrounded by swamplands. It is a typical upland moor lake of the dystrophic type, where a multitude of small-bloomed water lilies grow. In the South-East of Rūdninkai, in the swamps enclosed by the continental dunes, Lake Gulbinas is situated.
The second largest lace in the region is Eišiškės, a town 33 km from Šalčininkai. The name of the town is associated with the historic figure of a nobleman Eišys (Eikšys), one of the military commanders, serving under the legendary Duke Erdvilas. The first Catholic Church appeared here in 1398, shortly after the baptism of Lithuania by order of Vytautas the Great. The Duke Vytautas’ wife is thought to be born in Eišiškės. The Eišiškės castle place, which is more than one kilometre far from the town church, near the highway to Šalčininkai, reminds of this period. The remains of moats and ramparts on the north side of the road look spectacular even nowadays. In the summer of the year 1433, the Duke Švitrigaila’s army burnt down the town and the church. Shortly after, upon the care of Žygimantas Kęstutaitis Eišiškės was rebuilt, and the town became an important political and economic centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: the Lithuanian Council of Nobles was holding its sessions there; there was a court in the town. At that time, there were two churches in Eišiškės. One of them was in Jurzdika and had the rights of a parish. The second church, which situated in the southern trading part of the town, was a filial church of the first one. The little church at the market square burnt up and was never restored. In 1678 King Jan Sobieski granted to Eišiškės the Magdeburg rights. Eišiškės was developing as a multinational town. For a long time, there used to live Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Byelorussians, Gypsies, Jews. The fact that there were two Roman Catholic churches, three synagogues and an Orthodox church in Eišiškės testifies to cultural and religious diversity. The Eišiškės church is worth visiting. The church was constructed in 1847-1852 to the design of Teodoras Narbutas, a historian and engineer. A 40 meters high belfry and a side gate is a rare architectural composition. There is a Jewish cemetery in Eišiškės. A monument is erected to the memory of the Jews slain in World War II.
3 km far from Eišiškės, Gornostajiškės village is situated, where one can see the Sekluckis palace. The buildings constructed in the fourth decade of the 19th century have remained up to our days. The old park laid out in 1812 has not remained up to nowadays. Only two lime alleys have remained. The most important building of the manor place is a one-storey stone palace; the stone building of the watermill has also remained. A servants’ house, a utility room and a gate leading to the manor also belong to the manor. In 1986 a monument to Stanislovas Rapolionis, a pioneer of Lithuanian literacy, who was born in the surroundings of Eišiškės, rose in front of the manor palace.Three kilometres far from the highway Eišiškės – Šalčininkai, by the Butrimonys – Pabarė broad highroad, Rakliškės village is situated. Today, regretfully, the remnants of the palace cannot be seen in Rakliškės. In 1944 a council between the commanders of the Armia Krajowa and the representatives of the Soviet partisans operating in the Rūdninkai forest was held in the local manor.
The Dieveniškės Historical Regional Park, which covers the territories of the Subdists of Poškonys and Dieveniškės, is worth of a traveller’s attention. The park is rich in natural and architectural monuments: the Grigiškės oak, the supposed age of which reaches 350 – 400 years, mythological stones, barrows, mounds.The peculiarity of the park is street villages that appeared in the 16th century, during the Valakai reform. On a short strip in the Gauja valley 13 street villages are located, which make up 3 nearby groups of villages. Such location of villages is rare in other regions of Lithuania. Buildings of Žižmai, Rimašiai, Poškonys villages trace back to the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century.A little museum in Poškonys exhibits household utensils and tools of the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century, collected in the surroundings of Dieveniškės.
The exposition of looms, coverlets, tablecloths, towels and ribbon weaves collections is open at the information centre.The most important elements of the urban monument of Dieveniškės are quadrangular square into which five historic roads run. They connect the town with Vilnius, Ašmena, Trobos (Subatninkai), Geranainiai, Šalčininkai (via Varanavas).A valuable architectural building of the end of the 18th century is the Church of Most Holy Virgin of the Rosary built in 1783. In 1903 a 21 meters high stone belfry with gates rose in the same place.A chapel by the road to Subatninkai is noteworthy. It is a 6 meters high stone monument with an iron hip roof. There is an old wooden cross with a Crucifix sculpture in the chapel. The local inhabitants call this architectural monument “the Swedish chapel”. The natural monuments of the glacial epoch are the mythological stones. Some stones can be seen on the territory of the Dieveniškės Historical Regional Park. Enormous stones Jankelis and Jankeliukas lay by the road Šalčininkai – Poškonys – Dieveniškės. Jankelis is even 2.5 of 3.6 m big, it reaches a height of 1.3 m, Jankeliukas is somewhat smaller and reaches a height of 1.2 m. The legend tells that the stones are two musicians who decided to have a rest on their way from a wedding. The stones are said to steam up and “water” at certain time. The stone of the sources (also known as Užkeikta Svodba – the Charmed Wedding) is in the Zajašiškės forest, in the vicinity of Žižmai. People say that this stone is a wedding party cursed by the mother of the bride. 2 km far from the Užkeikta Svodba, on the territory of the barrows of the Dieveniškės forest, a pillar-shaped stone Mokas is located. For many years people believed that the stone had healing powers and went to it to cure their diseases, asked it to stave off disasters.
Norviliškės village is 12 kilometres to the East of Dieveniškės on the very border with Belarus. Although only a monastery is usually mentioned, by its origins it is a grange of the Renaissance times. In the 16th century the Norviliškės grange belonged to Vaitiekus and Dorota Šorcas, and in 1617 the young widow transferred the buildings to the Franciscan Minorite order. In the beginning of the 17th century a monastery was constructed there, after the model of Mitchyn Dolny castle in the High Tatras, Slovakia; a wooden church was built next to the monastery. In 1832 eight monks lived in the Norviliškės monastery – four from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and four from the Kingdom of Poland. Regretfully, the monastery fell into the list of objects to close, and the premises were rearranged into barracks for Tsar soldiers. The wooden church was take apart, and an Orthodox church was built from the remains of its materials. In 1900-1915 girl students of the Agricultural School lived in the building. In 1918 the monastery and the belfry were arranged for the rectory; finally, in 1928 the present-day church was built. Although Norviliškės turns into an uninhabited locality (the complex is enclosed in the border security zone), the church still operates. Besides, the monastery building is used for agrotourist purposes.
The old wooden church of the St. Archangel Michael parish in Tabariškės (earlier, the village belonged to the Taboras family that gave birth to the bishop of Vilnius Motiejus Taboras), constructed in 1770 by Mykalojus Važinskis, a writer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is a true storehouse of cultural monuments. The Tabariškės church has more old art works than other churches of the Šalčininkai region. There was also a monastery of the Barefooted Carmelites in Tabariškės, with a school operating under it. Opposite the church with baroque helmet a belfry stands, with a churchyard gate set in it. A barn by the road to Turgeliai is also ranked among the Tabariškės architecture monuments. It is a wooden pillared two-storey building constructed in the first half of the 19th century by Martynas Skarbek – Važinskis, who constructed the manor as well.In a little house on the edge of the village a famous folk artist Ana Krepštul lives. She is a self-educated paintress, who is unable to walk from her childhood. At her home, in an original gallery, one can wonder not only at her paintings, but also at their very author, who has a strong, unshakable personality, a good example for every young man.
The paintings by Ana Krepštul, which outnumber 3,000 items, were exhibited in Lithuania and abroad time and again, have found their way into personal collections, adorn churches and galleries.In the nearby Turgeliai village, the church of the Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin Mary is situated. The church was constructed in 1897-1909. A copy of Hans Memling’s painting “The Last Judgment”, made by the painter Robertas Blujys, adorns the interior of the church already for years. The St. Felix de Valois chapel stands in the town cemetery. It is a well-proportioned building in classicist style. It has a rotunda tower with dome and side wings. The chapel was laid of fieldstones in 1850, decor elements inside have remained up to these days; in the 19th century the chapel was decorated with lots of paintings and sculptures. Near the chapel there is the grave of the rector of Vilnius University Simonas Malevskis (1760-1832).
Near the road Jašiūnai – Turgeliai the famous Pavlov (Merkinė) manor place is situated, also known as the Pavlov Republic, which existed in 1767-1791 and was founded by Povilas Bžostovskis. In 1767 he acquired the Merkinė manor and carried out a range of reforms that were a kind of revolution in the feudal system of the time. The Pavlov Republic had its own president (the owner of the manor), parliament, court, flag, coat of arms, coins. In 1791 the Four Years’ Seimas officially recognized the Republic and ratified its constitution. There operated a school, where children were studying in Polish, and in the evenings the grown-ups would go deep into the basics of agriculture and soldiership. Pavlov’s militia took part in the T. Kosciuška uprising and repelled several attacks of the Tsar Cossacks. However, fortune did not favour the Pavlov Republic. Now only the painting by the famous painter P. Smuglevičius, painted in the end of the 18th century, reminds of the quarter-century long existence of the Pavlov Republic. Only the ruins of the erstwhile splendid two-storey palace, two other buildings, and the gates have remained.