The old Vilnius Rasos cemetery

Rasos is the oldest cemetery in Vilnius founded in 1801 in the south-eastern part of the city as a parish cemetery of the Missionary Church. On 24 April 1801, the land plot allocated for the cemetery was consecrated, and the chief magistrate of the city of Vilnius Jonas Müller was buried there a few days later (but his tomb has not survived).

The Rasos Cemetery started in its central part, which today is located on the southern side of the cemetery chapel (with preserved gates to the cemetery and tombstones of the first half of the 19th century). The cemetery was fenced in a wooden fence (which was set on fire in 1812). In 1814, the cemetery was extended northward, and in 1820, it was fenced in a stone fence (a section of the authentic fence has survived). A shelter was built near the new gate, which eventually became the main gate to the Rasos Cemetery. Inhabitants of the shelter often worked as guardians of the cemetery (now it is the administration building of the cemetery).

In the first half of the 19th century, two 3-5 storey columbariums were built in the cemetery. They were of two parts connected at a right angle. The southern one was demolished in 1930s. The remains buried in the columbarium (including those of the painter Professor Pranciškus Smuglevičius) were buried in two pits. The northern columbarium was demolished in 1950s, and the remains that rested there were buried in another pit.

In 1850, the construction of the cemetery chapel (by brothers architects Tomas Tišeckis, Bronislovas Tišeckis and Stanislovas Tišeckis) was completed, also building a neo-gothic belfry next to it in 1888 (by architects Kiprijonas Maculevičius and Julijonas Januševskis). It was founded by the physician Hilarijus Raduškevičius, who ordered the painter Vincentas Slendzinskis to paint the oratory (a room in the chapel for cult purposes). There was a burial cellar beneath the chapel.

The present Rasos Cemetery consists of two parts: the Old Rasos covers 6.1671 ha and the New Rasos – 4.4774 ha, and is located on the picturesque Ribiškės Hill. The network of cemetery paths formed echoing the terrain of the hill, and has remained unchanged to this day. Landscape paths and tombstones with crosses, whose silhouettes dominate the cemetery skyline, form a unified ensemble of memorial architecture. It is a cemetery of panoramic type that can be viewed from the hills. The cemetery is full of stone, concrete, brick, wood, metal tombstones and crosses processed using a variety of techniques, which form a distinctive character typical of this cemetery.

The old Vilnius Rasos Cemetery complex was included in the Register of Cultural Heritage. The complex consists of nearly 300 objects of historical, architectural and artistic value, and their number has constantly been updated. The Patriarch of Lithuania Jonas Basanavičius, a signatory of the Act of Independence of Lithuania signed on 16 February 1918, also his colleagues Jonas Vileišis and Mykolas Biržiška, Lithuanian soldiers volunteers who died in the battle for Lithuanian independence, the remains of Polish legionnaires and the heart of the Polish statesman Marshal Jozef Pilsudski rest in the cemetery. The Rasos Cemetery is now home to the remains of many writers, poets, composers, architects, painters, actors and musicians, public and cultural figures, professors, scholars, participants in the uprisings of 1830-1831 and 1863-1864. During the Soviet era, the cemetery was closed. Currently, burying in Rasos Cemetery is restricted (burying in family graves only).

1863 – 1864 leaders and participants of the uprising buried in the chapel of the old Rasos cemetery

This chapel is the final resting place of the participants of the 1863-1864 uprising, who were killed in Lukiškės Square and secretly buried on Gediminas Hill. Their remains were buried here on 22 November 2019. The rebels sought to restore the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with borders dating back to 1772, to grant all residents equal civil rights, and to give peasants some land. Nearly 200,000 people from all walks of life took part in the uprising. The Russian imperial authorities suppressed the insurrection in 1864 and repressed those who took part in it and those who supported it. The insurgency has remained in the memory of people of different nationalities who took part in it as a symbol of the uncompromising, self-sacrificing struggle for freedom, the right of all nations to an independent life and civil rights.