Tracing the chapels of Arnionys estate

  • Aistė Bimbirytė-Mackevičienė
Keywords: Arnionys, chapel, estate, Dawid Szweykowski, Szpyrka, Kostrowicki, Michał Zygmunt Tyszkiewicz


The article discusses the history of a chapel in Arnionys, provides new information about its
benefactors and proves its direct relation to Arnionys estate.
According to Lucjan Uziębło, the first church or chapel in Arnionys was built already in the late
15th century, although the original sources move this event to the first part of the 17th century.
At that time, a wealthy protestant Dawid Szweykowski established his main residence in Arnio-
nys and built a chapel as the place for his own eternal rest. After Szweykowski‘s death in 1644,
its significance began to decline, while the Russo-Polish War in the middle of the 17th century
utterly ended its existence.
The document dated 1780 enumerates the personalities left after the death of Antoni Szpyrka
and provides the first evidence of a Catholic chapel in Arnionys. The list leads to presume that
Szpyrka’s chapel was an individual and most probably wooden building. The same characteristics
can be attributed to Kostrowicki’s sanctuary as well, which should have been established in the late
18th century and functioned irregularly until the second part of the 19th century.
In spite of the fact that the location of the chapels mentioned above is still unknown, it is clear
enough that the present building does not stand in the same place. Its presence is a direct result
of the Lithuanian-Polish demarcation line drawn in 1923, which separated the parishioners from
their parochial church in Joniškis. The idea of a new church was initiated by the community just
after the events. However, their plans were started to realize only in 1933. The newly built chapel
was consecrated under the title of St. Mary the Virgin in 1935. While it was a public sanctuary,
the plot and building materials were donated by the Count Michał Zygmunt Tyszkiewicz, who
was the owner of Arnionys estate at that time. The building itself had a rather unusual character
more typical of southern Poland than of Vilnius region. Unfortunately, the author of the project
remains still unknown.
The major losses were caused by the World War II and subsequent reconstructions during the Soviet
times, when the chapel was turned into a cultural centre and later an octennial school. Despite
the significant changes in its appearance, the chapel in Arnionys remained in its original inter-war
location and was restored to the catholic community in 2002.