Where Is The Original Divine Mercy Image And How To Visit It?
The original Divine Mercy image painted under the direction of St. Faustina Kowalska can today be seen at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Vilnius, Lithuania. Although St. Faustina started experiencing Jesus’ apparitions in her native Poland, these apparitions continued during her years in Vilnius, Lithuania where she lived with her community from 1933 until 1936. It was in Vilnius that St. Faustina met her confessor Bl. Michal Sopocko who encouraged her to write the diary which later became the most important source of information on the Divine Mercy devotion. One of the most popular prayers of this devotion, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, was revealed to Sr. Faustina during one of the apparitions of Jesus also in Vilnius. The first Divine Mercy image was painted and publicly venerated for the first time in Vilnius as well. There are four places related to the Divine Mercy devotion that can be visited in Vilnius today: the house where the Divine Mercy Chaplet was revealed, the house where the Divine Mercy image was painted, the chapel of the Gate of Dawn where the image was publicly venerated for the first time and the Divine Mercy Shrine where the Divine Mercy image is venerated today. In this article I will explain how to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine in Vilnius and in my future articles I will show how to visit the three other places related to Divine Mercy devotion in Vilnius.
History of the Divine Mercy Image
Jesus appeared to St. Faustina on February 22nd, 1931 in Plock, Poland and asked for the Divine Mercy image to be painted:
“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over its enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I myself will defend it as My own glory”. (Diary 47-48)
Jesus later explained to St. Faustina the meaning of the rays in the image that are coming from his heart:
“The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him”. (Diary 299)
Jesus also called the image as a vessel with which people can reach his heart – the fountain of mercy:
“I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You.” (Diary 327)
For a few years St. Faustina did not know how to fulfill Jesus’ request as she herself did not have the skills necessary to paint such an image and did not know anybody who could help her with that. Jesus’ request was fulfilled only after St. Faustina met her confessor Bl. Michael Sopocko in Vilnius who then asked his friend painter Eugene Kazimierowski to paint the image according to St. Faustina’s visions. St. Faustina would visit Kazimierowski regularly in his studio as he was painting the image and gave him directions on how the image should look.
After the image was completed in 1934, Bl. Michael Sopocko kept it in his apartment until the image was transferred to the monastery near St. Michael’s church in the fall of that same year.
The image was publicly venerated for the first time in 1935 on Easter Friday, Easter Saturday and the Second Sunday of Easter at the Chapel of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius where another famous and miraculous image, the one of Our Lady of Mercy, has been venerated for hundreds of years. St. Faustina wrote in her Diary that during these days of celebration, the Divine Mercy image looked as if it was alive; Jesus’ right hand was moving as if he was blessing the people praying in front of him, the rays from the image were reaching people’s hearts and spreading around the city.
In one of his apparitions to St. Faustina, Jesus asked for the image to be put above the main altar in the church which was done only after St. Faustina’s death, on the second Sunday of Easter in 1937 – the picture was transferred to St. Michael’s church in Vilnius and placed near the main altar.
Ten years later, in 1948, St. Michael’s church was closed by the Soviet government, the picture with the rest of church’s property was moved to the hall of the former Dominican monastery in Vilnius where it stayed until 1951. In July of that year, two prayerful women secretly bought the image from a security guard and later gave it to a priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit. Soon after that a secret plan was created to move the image to Poland but a man who had to move the image through the Lithuanian-Polish border changed his mind the last minute and refused to do it: “I though I was going to commit a sacrilege”, he later said, and the picture remained in Vilnius for a few more years.
The image was transferred to a church in a small town near Gardin, Belorussia in 1956. When this church was closed by the Soviet government in 1970, almost everything from the church was removed, except the Divine Mercy image which stayed there until 1986 when a few priests managed to transfer it back to Lithuania, the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, where it was venerated above the right side altar until 2005.
The Archbishop of Vilnius decided to rename a small church of the Holy Trinity into the Divine Mercy Shrine and to transfer the Divine Mercy image to this church. The image was transferred in 2005 and since then has been venerated above the main altar of this Shrine. It is not known whether St. Faustina ever visited this church during her years in Vilnius, but St. Faustina’s confessor Bl. Michael Sopocko worked at this church shortly from 1946 until 1947 (it was already after St. Faustina’s death).
How to Visit the Divine Mercy Shrine in Vilnius
Located in the old town of Vilnius, minutes of walking from the Presidential Palace, Vilnius University and Vilnius Cathedral, the Shrine is surrounded by small shops and restaurants on a narrow Dominikonu Street (house number 12). You can see it on Google Map here.
The Shrine is open for prayer 24 hours a day, every day, with Masses celebrated in Lithuanian and Polish languages a few times daily. At 3pm the Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed in Lithuanian and at 3.40pm in Polish. Rosary is also prayed and confessions heard at the Shrine every day. Silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is going on most of the time, unless Mass is celebrated, Rosary is prayed or some other liturgical celebration (such as a baptism or a wedding) is celebrated.
You can visit Shrine’s website here, however Mass times have not been updated recently so the best way to find most recent Mass times is at the Shrine itself (on your left as soon as you enter the Shrine).
You can watch the live online broadcast from the Shrine here.
You can read here how to travel to Vilnius cheaply or even for free.