- February 14, 2013
Articles On the History of Vilnius: Vilnius’ “Little Things.”
Jasiński Altaria appears in prof. Juliusz Kłos’s (1881-1933) book Vilnius: a Tour Guide, Vilnius 1923, in which the author states: “Between the Antakalnis and a riverside of the Vilnele River spreads, so called, Jasiński Altaria: space exceptionally picturesque and varied, a veritably miniaturized Switzerland, an ideal terrain to organize a beautiful national park. Numerous lofty hills, honeycombed with deep ravines waving in a strangely soft manner, partly wooded and luckily not built up yet.”
In XIV-XVII centuries altaria (from latin: altaria—sacrifice on the altar) was a name used to classify a foundation connected with an altar or a land endowment for the maintenance of the altar. At the beginning of the XVII century the lands between Vilnele River and Antakalnis were the property of Jasińscy family. The last owner of this area, Prelate Mikołaj Jasiński devised ca. 30 dessiatins of that territory for altaria’s fund of the Chapel of Assumption in cathedral, hence the name—Jasiński Altaria.
In 1911 there was made a judgement in the lawsuit between Roman Catholic Consistory and tsarist army stationing in Vilnius concerning Jasiński Altaria—a large area of land between Vilnele River and Antakalnis street, stretching from Popowszczyzna street and including the following mountains: Lysa, Three Crosses and Bekieszowa.
The trial lasted 10 years starting when a part of this area was taken over in 1900 by the Directorate of Military Engineering (mainly the region abutting on Antakalnis street). The trial was based on the will of Mikołaj Jasiński, prelate and cantor of Vilnius Cathedral from 1607. The deceased priest, as mentioned before, devised those lands for altaria’s fund of the Chapel of Assumption in cathedral.
During the lawsuit the army used a tsarist ukase from 1831 which founded a citadel in Vilnius. Barristers, however, refuted that document, since it did not define precisely the territory where the citadel was to be erected (the army was constructing buildings according to its own plans, not paying attention to the actual owners). Thus, the military side decided to shift their ground and started to prove that in 1805 cathedral’s altarist, i.e. a priest who derived income from looking after altaria, Ignacy Oskierka gave the whole Altaria to the Canons Regular of the Lateran (at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Vilnius) as a perpetual lease. Since in 1864 Governor General Michail Murawjow ordered the liquidation of all the Vilnius’s monasteries as well as confiscation of their property, the land was adjudged a state ownership.
However, the barristers won the case once again, since the lease did not equal transferring the land and thus, after the liquidation of the monastery, it was still the cathedral’s property, as stated by law. In May 1909 the court pronounced the judgement on the case, which proved the consistory to be right; however, only at the beginning of 1911 the verdict was validated by Vilnius Judicial Chamber. The directorate’s site was represented by the state solicitor Szigajew and the consistory side by indefatigable attorney—Tadeusz Wróblewski. Eventually, the judgement validated and the whole area of Jasiński Altaria remained the Vilnius Cathedral property by 1939. After 1940 the land was nationalised and following the World War II the whole area was incorporated into so called Kalnai Park by Lithuanian authorities which also meant a separation from Vilnius tradition.
On the History of Wilhelm Szopen Breweries
The first brewery was established in Lukaszniki (Vilnius) in 1860. Two Jewish businessmen—Abel Sołowiejczyk and Iser Berg Wolf—were its founders. They fetched to Vilnius a brewer Wilhelm Szopen who soon entered into partnership with the owners and ca 1866 the brewery in Lukaszniki came to be called the Szopen Brewery. In the course of time Wilhelm Szopen became the owner of the brewery, albeit its founders remained in the board of directors. At the end of the XIX century Szopen Brewery was competing with two other: Lipski brothers in Popławy (Vilnius) and Praczewski in Raudondvaris near Niemenczyn.
Szopen Breweries highly expanded, since from the beginning of 1890 in the company there were employed over 50 workmen and produced up to 300 thousand buckets of beer, a bucket—as a unit of measurement in Russia—was approx. 12.3 litres. Therefore, it is easy to count that Szopen was manufacturing great amounts of beer in Vilnius. However, there was also the competition between Jewish businessmen in Vilnius and in 1897 Szopen Breweries were taken over by an affluent Jewish entrepreneur—Mordechaj Owsiej Epstein, the owner of the brewery in Popławy.
At the time, the Joint-Stock Association of Szopen Breweries was set up. New company—W. Szopen and M. O. Epstein—had 0.5 million rubles available and employed up to 250 workers. Epstein widely modernised the brewery—in 1909 it had four electric motors as well as a compression-ignition engine with a system driving a brewing process—a novelty in Europe of the early XX century. Those investments enabled monopolization of the local market: annual production of beer before the World War I reached 800 thousand buckets which almost equals 10 000 hectolitres. Roughly half of the beer was sold at the local market with the “Szopen” logo. After the World War I, the company was facing several difficulties.
However, it was still producing Szopen beer that was sent to various cities in Poland. The share capital raised up to 180 000 zloty and new agencies were opened in Warsaw, Lida, Lviv and other post-war Polish cities. Although the Great Depression of the late 1920s touched many companies, the annual rate of production in Szopen Brewery was still rising and managed to reach 30 000 hectolitres at the beginning of 1930. The competition was weaken by the crisis and the Paczewski Brewery was forced into bankruptcy in 1930. Before 1939 Szopen Breweries become well-known in Poland along with Warsaw Haberbusch and Schiell, as well as Żywiec Brewery. A surname of the brewer Wilhelm Szopen was permanently inscribed within the Vilnius gates, since before the war one of the Sadowa street branches was named after Szopen.
Following the defeat in September 1939 Szopen Breweries were operating in Vilnius by 1940 and in July that year were nationalised. After regaining independence by Lithuania Szopen Breweries changed the name to “Tauras.” In 2001 “Tauras” brewery was merged with “Kalnapilis” to AB “Kalnapilio—Tauro Grupe,” owned by Danish Royal Unibrew. In 2006 company reached a decision to terminate production in Vilnius and move “Tauras” brewery to “Kalnapilis” brewery in Poniewież. Nevertheless, the memory of Wilhelm Szopen remained in a street name: V. Šopeno gatvė.
On the history of the Theatre on Pohulanka Street
During the entire XIX century Russians did not erect not even one building suitable for a theatre—a town hall played that role. Only in 1910 the city council announced a competition for a theatre construction. A Warsaw architect Czesław Przybylski proposed a project similar to the building of a Warsaw theatre and in 1912 won the competition. Unfortunately, neither his project was carried out, nor the building for the theatre constructed.
A few projects were created by Vilnius architect Waclaw Michniewicz. One of them was accepted and the structure was to be erected at Lukiski Square. The City Council requested Michniewicz to visit Vienna and view the local theatre constructions. However, due to the lack of funds Michniewicz’s project was not carried out as well; he designed, exclusively on request of Józef Montwiłł, a small hall for “Lutnia” Society with the offices for the Society and Agricultural Bank.
Ultimately, the initiative of individuals—Poles: Klementyna Tyszkiewiczowa and Hipolit Korwin-Milewski, initiated the construction of a Polish theatre in Vilnius. A plot of land was purchased at Great Pohulanka Street and the competition for the theatre construction was announced again. In 1910 it was won by two architects: Wacław Michniewicz and Aleksander Parczewski (the owners of an architectural office “Architekt”). The construction was defrayed by the Polish partnership consisting of Hipolit Korwin-Milewski, P. Zawadzki and J. Oskierko. In 1912-1913 the Theatre on Pohulanka Street was erected. The auditorium had 900 seats on the main floor and in two amphitheatres. Interior decorations were made by Edward Trojanowski from Warsaw. We can find there an elements of renaissance, baroque, classicism and romanticism.
It can be associated with the old architecture of Vilnius and Krakow. Authors attempted to exhibit Polish style, especially in the external appearance of the structure. By 1926 the building was owned by the Limited Partnership “Korwin-Milewski, Bohdanowicz, Zawadzki i S-ka in Vilnius.” In 1926 the above-mentioned partnership offered the City Council of Vilnius to take over the building under the condition that it shall be used in accordance with the will of the donors; i.e. for plays, readings, lectures, meetings and gatherings, exclusively in Polish. The City Council of Vilnius accepted the donation on December 30, 1926. Subsequently, on September 15, 1927 in the presence of Rożnowski notary in Vilnius, in the Land and Mortgage Register, mortgage No 6509, there was prepared a deed of donation including the requirement that the performances would be held exclusively in Polish. By 1939 the following theatrical groups remained active: Wojciech Baranowski’s (1913-1915), Edward Cepnik’s (1919-1921), the Grand Theatre under the direction of Franciszek Rychłowski (1923-1925), Juliusz Osterwa’s Reduta Theatre (1925-1929), Polish Theatre under the direction of Aleksander Zelwerowicz (1929-1931), the Municipal Theatre under the direction of Mieczysław Szpakiewicz (1931-1939).
In 1940 the building of the Theatre on Pohulanka Street was nationalised and transferred to Lithuanian groups; after the World War II Lithuanian Opera “resided” there and following the erection of a building for Opera and Ballet Theatre in Wileńska street, the Theatre on Pohulanka Street was given to a Russian group. In accordance with the donation of September 15, 1927 (No 6509 in the Land and Mortgage Register), the building became a property of the City Council of Vilnius and “it shall be used in accordance with the will of the donors; i.e. for plays, readings, lectures, meetings and gatherings, exclusively in Polish.” Therefore, in compliance with the law of trusts and estates, the Polish community should get possession of the building.
Tłumaczenie Hanna Hołub w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Hanna Hołub the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.