A sculpture of Maironis, the classical Lithuanian poet and priest, sits calmly in a corner of the Town Hall Square in Kaunas, right behind the Town Hall itself.
Forty years ago, in 1977, the sculptor Gediminas Jakūbonis chose to portray the important historic figure with his head resting on his hand, which is actually hiding the clergy collar. This was a smart trick that helped the sculptor avoid censorship, as religion was pretty much forbidden during the Soviet occupation.
Great story, huh? The sculptor himself attended a seminary in 1944 in order to escape Russian army. Later on, however, he designed a couple of Lenin statues, too.
Maironis (Jonas Mačiulis) was born in 1862 in Raseiniai district of Lithuania. He graduated from Kaunas high school and studied literature in Kyiv. After a year in Kyiv, however, he chose to attend the Kaunas spiritual seminary and become a priest. In the very end of 19th century, Maironis became an active member of the Lithuanian National Revival. He later worked at the seminary and taught literature in the Lithuanian university. He died in Kaunas, where he wrote most of his romantic poems, in 1932.
Behind the sculpture is the Maironis house, which today serves as the Museum of Lithuanian Literature. It’s a great place to get to know this part of our history. You can also visit the authentic flat of the poet that has been recently refurbished.
The garden in the back of the house is very charming, too. This is where poetry readings happen from time to time.
Before you go, here’s an excerpt from one of Maironis’ best-known poems called “Trakai Castle”, translated by Lionginas Pažūsis:
With lichen and mould overgrown all around
A time-honoured castle there looms!
Its true high-born rulers now sleep below ground,
Yet Trakai outlasted their tombs.
While centuries run, its grim ruins grow older,
Deserted and lonely, they gradually moulder.