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Ariogala and Parish

The History of the Town

Ariogala is one of the oldest towns throughout Lithuania. The original meaning of the word "Ariogala" might be related with the edge, the end or the border of something, however, the root of the word er- or ar-) lets conjecture that this word might be derived from some name. Therefore, Ariogala might have been "the edge/end of Ario (or Erio)".

The history of Ariogala is immemorial. Firstly it was mentioned in the jottings of Mindaugas in 1253 when he granted half of the lands of Ariogala for the newly established episcopate of Lithuania. Later, in 1257 the lands were transferred to the bishopric of Livonia.

Some of the historical sources claim that Ariogala was the capital of Mindaugas. Gediminas, The Great Duke of Lithuania, and his posterity were the representatives of the dynasty of great dukes.

Ariogala was an important station at that time and had to withstand numerous onslaughts of crusaders. People were frequently killed, held prisoners, driven to Prussia. Many of assaults are mentioned in the chronicles of crusaders: in 1294, 1322, 1348.

Only in 1382 the marshal of the Crusader Order, Kun Hotenshtein, occupied and burnt the wooden castle of Ariogala. Afterwards, the castle was not mentioned in the historical sources. One of the last assaults of crusaders was made mention of at the time of the reign of Vytautas (1405). The assaults stopped just after 1410 when the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas beat up the crusaders in the Battle of Žalgiris.

Ariogala became the estate of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the time of Vytautas reign. It began to increase around the XVth century. In the period of Žemaičiai baptism (around 1426 ) the Church of Roman Catholics was built with Vytautas concern.

Ariogala was given partial rights of town. It got the privilege to develop trade and to have a market. Stanislovas Augustas, the ruler of Lithuania and Poland, bestowed on the rights of free town, seal and emblem to Ariogala on 12 April, 1792. Two crossed swords in red background with a crown over and inscription beneath "We'd better lost our life than Freedom" were depicted in the emblem. Such a militant emblem was given not accidentally. Crumbling and inner contradictions destroyed the country, however, it was tried to be saved by various reforms. It was strived to provide more rights for self-government. The swords in the emblem remind that freedom can be protected only with a weapon. Lithuanian President V. Adamkus comfirmed the emblem of Ariogala by the decree announced on 15 November, 2001.

Only for three years Ariogala could preserve its self-government. The rights of Ariogala town were abolished on 18 March, 1795.
At one time there lived many Jews in Ariogala. They bought goods, sent them to Prussia, traded in wax, honey, salt, fur and other products. They had several inns.

According to the legends, Ariogal was a big city in ancient times. In the time of Russian Czar, Ariogala declined and turned into a marginal town Padubysys. An important road from Kaunas to the lands of Žemaičiai took past it. Ariogala burnt three times before World War I. In 1915, it was completely burnt during the war between Germans and Russians and only around thirty huts remained.

There is no news when the first school was established in Ariogala. It is known that there was a parish school in 1852. It was closed after the 1863 revolt and Russian school was established instead. The school for boys was established in 1878. Later it was reorganized into a mixed school, however, separated schools for boys and girls were set up in 1907. In 1908, the fellowship "Saulė" established Lithuanian school in Ariogala. During the occupation of Germans there was no school, its buildings were burnt. Only after the independence normal work began at school. 185 schoolchildren attended it in 1933. In 1923, the school for Jews was established. Sixty eight children attended it.

When Lithuania was independent Ariogala was the council of district. There were two grammar schools, a post, medical and veterinary offices, police station, two fellowships of small credit; a pair of mills, electric station, a cooperative, dairy, many artisans. Whithout the parish of Catholics, there was the parish of Evangelicals, three prayer houses that belonged to Jews, three libraries, the place for reading, many culturial, economic, religious, youth organizations.

The whole Lithuania, including Ariogala, experienced one more trial in the year of World War II. Germans killed almost all the Jews who lived in Ariogala. Quite a lot of Lithuanians were exiled to the expanse of Siberia.

From 1950 till 1962 Ariogala was the centre of the district. Ariogala, Betygala, Čekiškė, Pernarava and part of Girkalnis were in the newest district. The establishment of the centre of the district in Ariogala, urged the restoration of the town and set the fast developement of it off.
Since 1962 Ariogala is ascribed to the district of Raseiniai and still has the rights of the town. According to its territory Ariogala is the second town in the region of Raseiniai. Marvellous surroundings distinguish Ariogala. Torrential Dubysa and its hollows fascinate everybody's eyes. In the Valley of Songs, which is in Ariogala, not only local but also republican occasions take place.

Currently, the territory of Ariogala occupies 482 hectares. 41% of the area is built up; various parks occupy 25% and agricultural places take 13%. The rest of the territory is occupied by waters and areas used for different purposes. There are two cosy parks in the town.

According to the data produced in 2001, 1743 men and 1954 women lived in Ariogala, altogether 3697 people. At the moment 1653 families live in Ariogala.

Today there is a post office in Ariogala ( works from 1880 ), bus station, kindergarten, grammar school, secondary school ( 1918 - 1948 it was grammar school, 1948 - 1949 it was gymnasium ), library, church, recreation centre, restaurant, hospital, clinic, pharmacy, around 20 shops, veterinary hospital, market. The most important industrial enterprises are: The company "Ariogalos Gelžbetonis" ( the former shop of Raseiniai concrete counstructions ) established in 1968 and the shop of Raseiniai sewing concern "Šatrija". In 2002, UAB "Skorgenas" was established in Ariogala. It goes in for building small ships.

Postwar liberty battles that took place in this region are remembered by the chapel, which was built in 1991 in the cemetery of Ariogala, by the initiative of exiles and political prisoners. The chapel is devoted to partisans and it is a monument for the exiles. Traditional jamborees " The fire of freedom - for the future generations " are organized in the Valley of Songs. They began in 1991 ( after the regain of independence ) and started glorifying the name of Ariogala. Every summer partisans, former political prisoners, exiles and other participants of Liberty freedoms for Lithuania gather in Ariogala. The way to the Valley of Songs is set with the sculptures created by the folk artist Juozas Grabauskas.

The town of Ariogala had the great anniversary of 750 years on 12 July, 2003. The town appeared in new colours, surrounded by wonderful squares, green parks, the homesteads in the background of flowers.
After the midday, the lovers of theatrical art gathered on the churchyard of the church of Ariogala where pupils of Ariogala Secondary School introduced to the evangelical performance (director A. Kazlauskas) " Ir žodis buvo Dievas ". The audience were intrigued by the passages from St. Matthew and other Gospels about Christ and the truths of his teaching. The most memorable things were: the direction and original perfomance of young individual actors; professional expression of the message of the work.

Memorial stone was consecrated near the buildings of local authorities of the town. The note was inscribed in the granite board, which was hung on the stone : "750 years - to Ariogala, 1253 - 2003 ".

People from Ariogala will remain for a long time in the history: bookdistributor Mykolas Račkus, historian Vincas Trumpa, prof. Stasys Šalkauskas, prof. Kazys Šalkauskas, dr. Audronė Globienė (1958), dr. Kazys Lekevičius, journalist Aldona Svirbutavičienė, writer Jurgis Savickis, painter Aloyzas Stasiulevičius and others.

The Neighbourhood of Ariogala

The Neighbourhood of Ariogala is the biggest in Raseiniai district with the population of (4587 people in 2001) and the area (29823 ha). There are villages and small towns in the neighbourhood. Gėluva (482 people), Butkiškė (476), Paliepiai (443) and Verėduva (329) are the biggest villages.

Now, there are even four churches in Ariogala's Neighbourhood. They are in Butkiškė, Leščiai, Milašaičiai and Paliepiai.

Gėluva can be proud of its rich history. There are tombs dating to the III-VI, IX-XII and XIV-XVII centuries. Since 1576 Gėluva's manor is mentioned. In 1611 a calvinist church was built and a school set up in Gėluva, too. However, the church was burnt down by Žemaičiai bishop Stanislovas Kiška with a fury crowd of people from Ariogala in 1620. Soon the church was rebuilt. Unfortunately, in 1677 a catholic priest Kaminskis induced people to burn down the church again.

In 1972 in July on the night of 21-22 Vytautas Lažinskas from Kaunas built a metal cross which is approximately eight meters high on the slope of the river Dubysa near the spring. It's obvious, that in those times the cross could not stand long. Soon it was destructed. However, now it is rebuilt and stands on the slope of the hill.

The spring spouting near the metal cross is said to be miraculous. Besides, in 1936 while building Žemaičiai highroad a small basin was made there. According to Vytautas Lažinskas this small spring is the tears of St Maria. Also, he fixed a plate there describing his vision of the place.

People passing this place can see the concreted columns of Gediminas and the date, 1937. In postwar years there were attempts to destruct the columns. However, the destruction was unsuccessful because of the monument being dug in the ground 70 centimetres. Then, it was masked with turves. The columns of Gediminas were rebuilt in 1989.

There are more famous historical places in the neighbourhood of Ariogala. There is still unknown the exact place of Ariogala's mound. The nearest mound is thought to be Gėluvos mound called Birutkalnis. On the left bank of the Dubysa, that is, 260 meters to the north from the mound there is an overgrowned spring of Birutė. This spring is also called the eye of Birutas. People say that long long ago there was a hero Domantas who fell in love with Birutė burning the saint fire on the mound. Once the hero Domantas abducted Birutė. While Domantas was bringing Birutė from the mountain, the god Perkūnas got angry and struck them. Then the earth opened and swalled Domantas and Birutė. After that the eye of water appeared in this place.

There are quite a few interesting places dating from the old times on the riversides of the Dubysa. Moreover, there is a mythological stone. They say that under that stone there are hidden the riches of the devil. Not far from the foot-bridge there is a depth of the Dubysa, too. According to the legends, horses and people often drowned in this place.

The History of the Church and Parish of Ariogala

The first church in Ariogala was built by Grand Duke Vytautas in 1416. In 1542 it received a jurisdiction of 7 families and three unsettled plots as a gift. Later, the village of Kunigiškiai settled there. The church was rebuilt in 1547.

In the 16th century there was a parish school in Ariogala. In 1609 Zigmantas Vaza ordered Sebastijonas Kęstortas who was one of the officials of Ariogala to finish building and repairing the church of Ariogala. The church was erected after a few years and it was still without a roof and decaying. The church burnt down in 1690 and it was rebuilt in 1726. In 1807 the church burnt down again and was rebuilt in 1813. The church building was extended in 1852. The poet and the priest Anupras Jacevičius read the proclamation of rebels in the church in 1863. Later, he was deported for reading the proclamation. In 1884 he came back to Ilūkstė (Latvia).

In 1909-1914 there was a Lithuanian Catholic Association of Soberness in activity.

The church was burnt down during the Russian-German battles in 1915. The bell tower, stock, expensive dishes and liturgical clothes were also burnt. In postwar years the church service took place in another stone building.

The Construction of the Church in 1926-1939

A small town of Ariogala suffered a lot during the 1st years of WWI. In 1915 after the old church was destroyed, people used to pray in a warehouse. In 1926 seven designs of churches (including Ariogala) were confirmed by the Building Inspectorate of the Ministry of the Interior. The construction of a new stone church was started in the same year. The walls of the church were being built till 1930. The State supported the construction of the church but still there was a constant shortage of money. On 27 October, 1927 the Ministry assigned a lot of 15000Lt of the construction. On 18 February, 1928 there was same wood given for installments for 6000Lt worth. In autumn of the 1928 the Committee of the Church Building appealed to the President Antanas Smetona asking to make the loans into irrevocable subsidy. Antanas Smetona did not analyse this issue in essentially he only signed the resolution. In the resolution he asked to direct this appeal to the Minister of Education. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education did not comply with this request. On 26 October, 1928 it reported to the President? s office informing that the Ministry would be able to provide the subsidy for the church of Ariogala only in 1929.

The subsidy for the church was a difficult burden for parishioners. The winter was extremely cold in 1928 and that made the situation even more difficult. A lot of cattle froze their legs or even froze to death as they were kept in temporal cattle-sheds (mostly barns). Most of the grain was spoilt and it meant the loss of seeds. Taking into consideration the exceedingly difficult situation of the parish the payment of the subsidy was postponed till 1934-1937.

However, the work did not stop. It was panned to roof the church till 1930. The priest A. Simanavičius wrote in the appeal of the 17th of May, 1930 that they needed 65000Lt for the roofing of the church. It was expected to collect 20000Lt from the parishioners but still there was a shortage of 45000Lt. According to the priest, the parishioners had already done a lot. They made the plan of the church, brought and squared the stones, brought enough rough sand, also bricks and lime were baked by their own expense. They fully prepared wood for the use. The priest asked for such a huge sum of money as they expected to pay it back after they finished building the church. It was planned to gain some profit from a small brick and lime factory they had purchased.
Kauno Metropolijos Kurija supported the appeal of the priest. The work did not stop though a loan was not granted. In summer of 1932 the priest wrote to the Minister of Education and Science that they had already spent 175000Lt for the construction and roofing the church. Now, they needed money for the equipment for the church. However, it was impossible to equip the church without a loan. That?? s why it was asked for help again. In 1932 it was expected to finish building and equipping the church with the help of the Government.

However, the support of the State was insufficient and they had to borrow money from elsewhere. In autumn of 1934 the priest wrote that there was already a debt of 48944Lt. He gave a detailed account of the situation:
1) the round for 2000Lt had to be paid to the exchequer on 2 December, 1934;
2) 2000Lt had to be paid to Lithuanian Bank, the Department of Kėdainiai on 8 December, 1934;
3) On 31 December, 1934 the debt of 20000Lt had to be paid back to the hotel "Roma" in Kaunas and on the same day 600Lt had to be paid for the provided wood to Kėdainiai forestry;

The priest kept on asking for the debt of the exchequer to turn into a subsidy of find another way to liquidate the huge debt of the church of Ariogala. The Cabinet Ministry having considered the fact that the church of Ariogala was destroyed during the war decided to cancel the debt of 1800Lt to the State ? s loss. Only on July, 1936 Cabinet Ministry decided to convert the loan of 15000Lt into a subsidy and not to exact it.

However, the debt did not decrease. According to the data of 1938 there were already debts of 66000Lt. On the other hand, the parish had more plans oh the construction. On 17 March, 1938 they asked for a loan to purchase 145 solid cubic metres of wood for building the building were church serving people and people in poverty lived and 185 solid cubic metres of wood for building the asylum of St Vincentas Paulietis. Unfortunately, the support was not granted this time and the building of the church was still unfinished.

In autumn of 1937 the newspaper "XX century" wrote that a huge and nice army festival was organized in Ariogala. The festival was started with the church service in a temporal church as the new one was still unfinished (there were no floor, doors and the altar).

Raseiniai Dominikonai supported the building of the church of Ariogala, too. There was a lottery organized for rebuilding the church in July 1937 in Raseiniai. According to the correspondent of "XX century" the lottery was successful. In two years there was a lottery organized in Ariogala, too. The profit of it was devoted to the church. There are no data found how parishioners agreed with the creditors. In 1939 the church service already took place in a new church.

Finally, from 1926 till 1939 a new brick church was built on the foundation of the old church. The help of the priest Antanas Simanavičius and the sacrifices of parishioners were of great importance for building the church. In 1939 the church was titled as St. Archangel Michael and consecrated by Juozapas Skvireckas, the archbishop of Kaunas.

The church is historical. It's from a rectangle and it has features of eclectic style (neo-classicism, neo- baroque and basilica). It has two towers. There are three naves inside. The huge altar was moved from St Mikalojus church in Kaunas. The author of the project of the church is a Swiss architect E. Peyrri.

There is not much left of the old Ariogala except for the cemetery. There is a chapel built by Stasys Daugirdas in 1850.

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