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The works of Martynas Mažvydas, the author of the first book published in Lithuanian, were closely linked to Protestant music. Entitled "Catechismusa prasty szadei" and printed in Karaliaučius (Königsberg) in 1547, the first Lithuanian book contained translations of eleven of the most widely known Lutheran hymns, together with melodies for all but one of them.

Thus, this book was also the first Lithuanian hymnal to be published and marked the beginning of the history of hymnals in Lithuania Minor and Major.

The selection and translation of hymns for this and later hymnals must have begun in Lithuania Major when Lutheranism spread there and especially after A. Kulvietis (Abrahamus Culvensis) founded a school in Vilnius in 1539. Before long, however, those who had brought Lutheranism to Lithuania Major were forced to retreat to Lithuania Minor, where they continued the work they had begun.

After Mažvydas' death in 1563, Baltramiejus Vilentas (B. Willent) took over the preparation and publication of Lithuanian hymnals. Using material collected by Mažvydas and adding to it, he published the hymnal "Gesmes Chriksczoniskas," the first part of which came out in 1566, and the second in 1570, both in Karaliaučius.

The development of Protestant music in Germany directly influenced the activities of Mažvydas and other pioneers of Lithuanian literature, the structure of the hymnals they compiled, the selection of the hymns themselves, and the peculiarities of their notation. The hymnals compiled by Mažvydas and Vilentas contained Lithuanian translations of the most popular hymns, such as "Veni creator spiritus," "A solis ortus cardine," and "Pange lingua"; Gregorian chants: "Grates nuns omnes," "Victimae paschali laudes," and "Veni Sancte Spiritus"; hymns taken from the repertoire of the Bohemian Brethren: "Surexit Christus hodie" and "Jesus Christus unser heyland"; and many others whose source was often indicated and sometimes also their authorship.

In their hymnals Mažvydas and Vilentas indicated that some hymns were intended for students, and the second part of "Gesmes Chriksczoniskas" includes the only four-part hymn for school voices in all Lithuanian hymnals, the popular "Vitam quae faciunt beatiorem." In addition, this part of the hymnal contains instructions on the order of singing and where music was to come during church services. These first Lithuanian hymnals and their hymns became the foundation on which the later 16th- and 17th-century hymnals of Lithuania Minor were based.

Today, this first Lithuanian book, which stands as a significant 16th-century cultural milestone, is a source of new ideas and inspiration for artists. Interpreting the hymns in this book in their own distinctive way, composers use them to create original works. For example, Vytautas Juozapaitis composed second part of "Gesmes Chriksczoniskas" in 1996. This work is dedicated to the 450th anniversary of the first Lithuanian book. This date was also commemorated with an international ecumenical seminar on church music in Nida, Lithuania.


  1. J. Trilupaitienė. M. Mažvydas ir reformatų muzikinė kultūra. / M. Mažvydas and music culture of the reformats /. Pergalė. 1985, Nr. 10.
  2. J. Trilupaitienė. Apie pirmąjį lietuvių liaudies dainos užrašymą. / On the writing down of the first Lithuanian folk song /. Muzika. 1986, Nr. 6.


A. Dievelaitis (born in 1897) performs authentically :

"Lietuvininkų giesmė" a fragment of 31 seconds
Recorded in 1967,  Šyškrantė, district Šilutė.


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