Christian PilgrimagePilgrimages in LithuaniaJohn Paul II and Lithuania
Heavenly Mother!
In your image at Krekenava
you are famed for miracles
that pull people right out of the fire.
Jonas Mačiulis-Maironis
The Krekenava church at the start of the 20th c.
Piligrimų kelias
Krekenavos bazilika


The town of Krekenava and the painting in a chapel there were mentioned already in the times of Vytautas the Great, in 1409, in a compendium by Alexander Friederich entitled “Historie Cudownych Obrazow” (Stories of Miraculous Images). In 1416, Krekenava was part of the Rodai Manor estate, which was the property of the Vizgirdas-Vizgirdaitis family and was the centre of the township of Upytė. In 1484, Rodų Manor owners Aleksiejus and Stanislovas Vizgirdas-Vizgirdaitis built a wooden church and gave land for its upkeep. A parish school was established here in 1533, and in 1586 a new wooden church was built. The church burned down during the first half of the 18th century and was rebuilt in 1736 by Archdeacon Antanas Valavičius.

In 1886, Krekenava pastor Pranciškus Žukauskas proposed the construction of a stone church. The governor of Kaunas, however, in 1894, would only grant permission to build a wooden church. Upon hearing that bricks were being produced for a new church, he ordered that the brick factory be closed and the pastor punished. The Ministry of Interior Affairs ruled the governor’s actions unlawful and in 1896 gave the desired building permit. Decoration of the interior of the new church was overseen by Fr Boleslovas Baronas. The money necessary for the project was donated mostly by the owners of the Krekenava manor house. In 1907, Samogitian Bishop Gasparas Cirtautas (1841–1913) consecrated the new stone church.

Krekenava’s church was refurbished in the second half of the 20th century. In 1961, it was newly redecorated, and that same year specialist E. Šmigelskaitė restored the painting of the Mother of God. Between 1993 and 1997, the church’s altars, pulpit and baptistery were all gilded.

In 2009, the Shrine of Krekenava was included in the Pilgrim Route of John Paul II.

Many famous people are connected with Krekenava. Fr Antanas Mackevičius, one of the organisers and leaders of the Uprising of 1863, briefly worked in the parish of Krekenava. Religious artisan Vincas Svirskis created about 250 crosses in the area. When Kaunas Seminary closed during World War I and then from 1915 to 1918 relocated to Vašuokėnai Manor, national bard Maironis resided and worked in the rectory of Krekenava. The Catholic Martyrology initiated by John Paul II includes 8 witnesses to the faith with origins in Krekenava: Vytautas Kadžys, Julionas Kisielius, Romualdas Klieris, Ignas Rutkauskas, Pranas Smailys, Simonas Rapšys, Antanas Kurieckis and Juozas Jakaitis. All gave their life in defence of the faith and the Church. The small town of Ustronė near Krekenava contains the only museum in Lithuania dedicated to J. umas-Vaižgantas and the “knygnešiai” who smuggled books to oppose a Czarist ban on Lithuanian printing. A museum of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania was set up in Baluškiai, the native village of Fr Kazimieras Kuzminskas, who published the Chronicle in the West.