The Cathedral of the Theotokos in Vilnius is the main Orthodox Christian church of Lithuania. The cathedral was built during the reign of the Grand Duke Algirdas in 1346. It was constructed by Kievan architects with the blessing of Saint Alexius Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus in 1348. The Cathedral of the Theotokos is one of the most ancient churches of Vilnius, built before the christianization of Lithuania when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the last pagan state in Europe. It became an important spiritual centre for the growing Christian population of the duchy. In 1495 the marriage between Aleksandras of Lithuania and Yelena of Muscovy (Ivan III's daughter) was held in the cathedral in the presence of Saint Macarius. It was there that Yelena was buried in 1513. After the conversion of Lithuania to Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox cathedral was protected by princes Konstanty Ostrogski and Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski, who restored it after the collapse of the dome in 1506. After their deaths, the cathedral was taken over by the Greek-Catholic church in 1609 and was rebuilt in a style typical of the region. In 1748 the cathedral was abandoned after a major fire and the building was used for various other purposes. It was reconstructed in the Baroque style in 1785. The cathedral was once again destroyed by Russian army during the Kościuszko Uprising. In 1808 a local prelate sold the neglected building to the Vilnius University, which had the building thoroughly modernised in 1822 in the Neoclassical style by Karol Podczaszyński. After that, the building hosted an anatomical theatre, library and other university facilities for half a century. The old Orthodox cathedral was confiscated and transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church on the initiative of count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov and his brother during the Russification campaign. The Russian architect Nikolai Chagin was responsible for its reconstruction from 1865 until 1868 in a style imitating medieval Georgian architecture. Why such a style was applied is not clear. St. Tikhon (Belavin), then Archbishop of Vilnius, presided over the cathedral and Orthodox Christians of Lithuania between 1913 and the occupation of Lithuania by the German troops in 1915. Most of the Russian Orthodox clergy left with the retreating Russian army. The cathedral of the Theotokos was damaged during the Second World War but was restored in 1948, although its renovations were not completed until 1957. Today the cathedral belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church and was once again renovated in 1998. Its services are attended mostly by ethnic Russian and Belarusian residents of Vilnius. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_the_Theotokos,_Vilnius
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.