Pažaislis Church and Monastery – Best European Cinema Location in 2020

Kaunas has received extraordinary recognition from the European film industry. At the remote ceremony of the Berlin Film Festival on the evening of March 2, it was announced that the ensemble of the Pažaislis Church and Monastery had been chosen as the best filming location in Europe in 2020. The Location Award nomination was initiated by the EUFCN (European Film Commissions Network) for many years, and several dozen nominees competed for the title this time.

Rated by film professionals

A record number of 28 European filming locations and regions have been nominated for the 2020 awards. Kaunas Film Office to the commission presented the ensemble of Pažaislis Church and Monastery. In 2018, the four-part HBO and Sky TV mini-series “Catherine The Great”, starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren, was filmed here.

“We are delighted to have won this award. We have no doubt that the EUFCN Location Award will help to further reveal the uniqueness of the Kaunas region and make it even more visible internationally not only in the fields of film production, but also in the field of film tourism. We are grateful to HBO, Sky, director Philip Martin, film producers and creative team,” said Mr. Aurelijus Silkinis, Head of Kaunas Film Office, who did not hide his happy emotions.

Commission composed of highly distinguished experts in the film world, such as Lori Balton (Location Search Specialist and Founding Member and Former President of LMGI), Valerio Caruso (Head of Cineuropa), Matthijs Wouter Knol (Head of the European Film Academy), Julian Newby (Boutique Editions Ltd. founder and editorial director), Julie-Jeanne Regnault (Secretary General of EFAD – European Film Agencies), selected the five best film locations from all the contestants, which made it to the final stage. Here, the public could also express their opinion and vote for the most memorable place.

“It took me a while to manage to pronounce the word “Pažaislis” correctly, but I have the perseverance of Lithuanian ancestors! 17th century Baroque-style monastery for “Catherine the Great” gave additional visual depth and scale. With the encouragement of Lithuania, the place with an impressive historical weight becomes an undoubted winner. I hope that one day there will be a reason that will allow us to look at it personally,” Ms. L. Balton, a member of the expert commission, praised one of the most exclusive spaces in Kaunas.

Outperformed amazing places in the world

In the finale, the ensemble of the Pažaislis Church and Monastery won the most sympathy of film enthusiasts and surpassed such unique places as the town of Banská Štiavnica in Slovakia, Lake Curon in the Tyrolean region of Italy, Moritzburg Castle in Germany and the Prilep region of North Macedonia.

The ensemble of Pažaislis Church and Monastery is one of the most striking masterpieces of mature Baroque architecture in North-Eastern Europe. Shrine in the forest, Kaunas Lagoon, in the 17th century was built for the Camaldolese monks by the Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Kristupas Žygimantas Pacas.

The ensemble was designed by Italian architect Giovanni Battista Frediani, decorated with moldings by Lombardy sculptors and frescoes by Florentine painter Michele Arcangelo Palloni.

The breath-taking history of the monastery, which lasts for more than three centuries, is marked by various spiritual traditions, wars, fires and signs of destruction. Currently, the monastery belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of StCasimir.

Sympathy from directors

In this exclusive location, often called a “baroque pearl”, in 2018, some scenes from the HBO and Sky mini-series “Catherine the Great” were filmed. The filmmakers turned Pažaislis Church into an Orthodox cathedral, and part of the monastery became a camp for guards, courtyard barracks and even a morgue. The uniqueness of the ensemble contributed to a sense of authenticity by depicting the majestic and luxurious rule of one of the most powerful monarchs in history.

“Pažaislis Monastery is a really amazing location. Every director who saw it – fell in love. Over the course of more than a decade, we have successfully filmed several films in this exceptional place. You just can’t resist, you still want to come back here and film every corner,” said Ms. Lineta Mišeikytė, Co-producer of the film “Catherine the Great”.

The EUFCN Location Award was established in 2017. Their winners are the city of Giorlitz in Germany (2017), the Corfu Island, one of the largest islands in the Ionian archipelago belonging to Greece (2018), and the El Hiero Island in the Canary Islands (2019).