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At the beginning of the 16th century, under the order of its ruler, a defensive wall with gates was built around the city. It is a massive, rectangular structure with five openings for shooting. The passage arch had a double gate – both lifted and closed regularly. Just like all of the walls, the masonry of the tower had the style of the Gothic period (2–2.6 m thick), only the ornate attic (upper part of the building) was of the Renaissance period.


Armed guards were not enough to protect the gate – holy paintings were painted or hanged on both sides of the gate in order to protect and defend it. One of the first gates of Vilnius – Krėva, or Medininkai, later also called the Gate of Dawn – also had a pair of paintings: an image of the Saviour of the World on the outside, and an image of the Mother of God on the inside. New research shows that the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of Mercy was painted on oak boards and, due to the painting technique and style, cannot be an icon, as it was believed at the beginning of the 19th–20th century. The painting may have been brought from the Netherlands or painted in Vilnius by a painter from northern Europe who used the engravings of Dutch masters created at the end of the 16th century.


In around 1671, the Barefoot Carmelites took over the patronage of the latter painting from the magistrate and built a wooden chapel on the inner side of the gate. It was only accessible from the monastery garden, therefore laymen were not allowed to enter. The first recognized miracle happened during the same year, when the painting was relocated from the church to the wooden chapel: a child fell from the second floor onto the pavement, but was not harmed, because he was protected by the Virgin Mary. Grateful parents hung a painted board in the chapel depicting this miracle. The board was destroyed during a fire in 1715. Many legends say that foreign soldiers were punished when they tried to mock and rob the painting. In 1702, Vilnius was occupied by Swedes led by Charles XII. Catholic churches and monasteries also suffered. One of the soldiers shot the painting of the Mother of God. The bullet shattered the glass and pierced the metal bindings of the painting and the oak board on which the image was painted. The hole made by the Swede's bullet is visible to this day (in the right sleeve area). Guards chased off the faithful and did not allow them to pray and sing near the Chapel of the Gate of Dawn. It is said that the Swedes who were Protestants openly mocked the Catholics, especially god-fearing young women who received a lot of contempt. Soldiers once built a fire in the bastion or fort near the Gate of Dawn, drank beer and wine stolen from the cellars of the monastery and sang profanities. Suddenly, the heavy iron doors of the gate broke off their hinges and fell directly onto the drinking Swedish soldiers. Two of them were killed instantly, while two others died from their injuries later on. A major fire broke out several years after the Swedes left. It destroyed the wooden chapel, but the painting was saved. In 1711, a brick chapel was built which remained to this day. It was built so that the faithful could pray on the street while kneeling in front of the gate. From the 17th century, signs of gratitude or votive offerings were hung around the painting. There is now a total of around 8000 of these offerings. People brought votive offerings after they had experiences which they recognized to be the miracles granted by the Mother of Mercy – recovery from a serious illness, or miraculous escape from danger and difficult life situations.


Pope John Paul II visited the chapel in 1993.