The pagan strikes back

If you take a photo in Vilnius’ main square from a certain angle, it appears that the bronze statue of Grand Duke Gediminas (1316-1341), Lithuania’s most celebrated medieval ruler, is smiting the Cathedral’s bell tower with his sword. A cheap trick perhaps but one that is apt for one of Europe’s last great pagan rulers, whose forces kept the crusading Teutonic knights at bay to the north while doubling the size of the Grand Duchy through conquest to the East and South. Though Gediminas was still a pagan at his death, as were most of his subjects, his successors eventually succumbed to the inevitable and converted to Christianity, probably more out of political expediency than religious conviction. Gediminas must have turned in his grave (or burial mound), but now, with the help of a camera trick, the Duke can finally wreak his revenge on the Catholic Church.

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