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Reformation in Western Lithuania: from Klaipėda to Būtingė

Reformation in Western Lithuania: from Klaipėda to Būtingė

Klaipėda region is the Protestant citadel, with the first Evangelical Lutheran, Evangelical Reformer, Evangelical Baptist and other reformed church communities establishing since the 16th c. Before the World War II the largest in terms of numbers was the Lutheran community. They had two churches and also a cemetery chapel. There were many Lutheran churches in Courland and the GDL cities on the border with the Lithuania Minor. That's why Klaipėda and Klaipėda region is full of Protestant ecclesiastic heritage. Numerous Protestant houses of worship were devastated or completely destroyed during the World War II and the soviet era that followed. Klaipėda took some of the worst beating, losing not only churches, but also almost the entire community that lived in the city before the war. Protestant churches are the bridge for those, who try to understand the history of this region and a gift for those, who want to get to know its heritage.
We suggest starting the acquaintance with Protestant churches by visiting the locations of the former and remaining places of Protestant houses of worship in Klaipėda – there are a total of 7 of them on this route. The tour starts in the eastern part of the old town, which acted as the religious centre of the city in the 16th-17th c. Walking from Turgaus Street along the old riverbed of Dangė, you will reach Bažnyčių Street, which literally means the Street of Churches. Sadly, there are no more churches on this street, although once there stood the Reformer church and the Lutheran church of Prussian Lithuanians (also referred to as Laukininkai Church) that faced the representational Tiltų Street. Other reformed church communities had established their houses of worship on the right side of Dangė River, thus, following this route you will reach the former New Town and Vitė Neighbourhood. Klaipėda Evangelical Baptist Church is the oldest functioning building of the Baptist church in Europe, gathering not only Baptists, but also the members of the 'free church' for a common prayer. The Anglican and Irvingite Churches are interesting as well. Some examples have survived to this day, but some others were destroyed to the foundation. The last object, which is also the furthest from the city centre, is the Chapel of the City Cemetery. It has been used and is still used by various Christian confessions. This route around Klaipėda will take approximately an hour and if you come inside the remaining churches, it might take two. The length of the route is 3 km.
After taking a walk around Klaipėda and exploring the Protestant heritage, we suggest to continue by visiting five Lutheran parishes, established north of Klaipėda in Palanga, Būtingė, Kretinga, Kretingalė and Plikiai. If you go by car, it will take you about 2-3 hours and the length of the route is 97 km. The entire route of the Reformation in Western Lithuania: from Klaipėda to Būtingė is 100 km and will take 4-5 hours.

Submitted: Klaipėdos apskrities viešoji I.Simonaitytės biblioteka