Back 2021.03.02

Exceptional day for Kaunas: Pažaislis Church and Monastery Complex awarded as the best European Film location in 2020

Kaunas (Lithuania) received exclusive recognition of the European film industry. On the evening of the 2nd of March during an online Berlin Film Festival ceremony it was announced that Pažaislis Church and Monastery Complex was awarded as the best European Film Location in 2020. The Location Award nomination has been initiated not for the first time by EUFCN (European Film Commissions Network) and several dozens of nominees were seeking the title this time.

Commended by film professionals

A record number of 28 European film locations and regions was nominated for the awards in 2020. Pažaislis Church and Monastery Complex was introduced to the Commission by Kaunas Film Office. In 2018 this location hosted the filming of a four-part TV miniseries by HBO and Sky “Catherine the Great”, featuring Oscar winner Helen Mirren in the lead role.

“We rejoice at winning this award. We have no doubts that Location Award introduced by EUFCN will allow us to reveal the uniqueness of Kaunas region and to make it more visible on the international scale not only for the purposes of film production, but for movie tourism as well. We are grateful to HBO and Sky, Director Philip Martin, film producers as well as the creative team”, the Head of Kaunas Film Office Aurelijus Silkinis could not contain his joyful emotions.

The commission which was composed of the especially distinguished experts such as Lori Balton (location search specialist and LMGI founding member as well as former president), Valerio Caruso (Cineuropa Director), Matthijs Wouter Knol (European Film Academy Director), Julian Newby (Boutique Editions Ltd. Founder and Editorial Director), Julie-Jeanne Regnault (EFAD – European Film Agencies (EFAD) Secretary General), selected five best film locations from all the nominees, which made it to the final stage. During this last stage the society was also entitled to express the opinion and vote for the most memorable location.

“While it took a while to correctly pronounce “Pažaislis”, my Lithuanian ancestry had me determined! The baroque 17th century Monastery afforded such a level of visual complexity and scale to “Catherine the Great. ” Coupled with Lithuania’s incentives, the compelling depth of its historic locations make it a winner through and through. I hope for a reason to scout it in person one day”, – L. Balton, member of the Expert Commission, was very generous with her compliments for one of the most exceptional locations in Kaunas.

Her opinion was also supported by colleague J. Newby: “There have been many examples in the recent history of the contemporary arts – live music, film and television in particular – where certain places of historic and religious significance have been considered too sacred to serve as a backdrop. It is a credit to the people who look after the Pažaislis Church and Monastery in Kaunas – and to the Kaunas Film and Tourism Office – that they made available this extraordinary location for the production of the HBO/Sky miniseries Catherine the Great.

It was, of course, the perfect location for the telling of the story. But in allowing it to be used in this production, Kaunas has also given other treasured venues around the world the confidence to offer themselves as possible locations for telling important stories.

It is always the intention of the production industry to leave important buildings, artefacts and sacred places intact – and even sometimes in better condition – after their being used for important artistic representation. This is crucial for the further release of historic locations into the creative process.”

Outrunning magnificent locations of the world

At the final assessment, Pažaislis Church and Monastery Complex earned the most compliments from film enthusiasts and surpassed such unique locations as Banská Štiavnica town in Slovakia, Curon Venosta in South Tyrol in Italy, Moritzburg Castle in Germany and Prilep Region in North Macedonia.

Pažaislis Church and Monastery Complex is located in Kaunas, the second biggest city in Lithuania, which is included in the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage and in 2022 will be the European Capital of Culture. Pažaislis Complex is one of high Baroque masterpieces in North Eastern Europe. The Church and Monastery Complex located in a remote forest on Kaunas Lagoon Peninsula was built in the 17th century for Camaldolese monks by the Chancellor of Lithuanian Grand Dukedom Kristupas Žygimantas Pacas.

The ensemble was designed by Italian architect Giovanni Battista Frediani, decorated with sculptures of Lombardian masters and frescos of Florentine painter Michele Arcangelo Palloni.

The breath-taking history of the monastery, lasting for more than three hundred years was marked with various spiritual traditions, wars, fires and imprints of desolation. Today the monastery belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Casimir.

Earned the sympathies of the directors

In 2018 some scenes of HBO and Sky TV miniseries “Catherine the Great” were filmed at this exceptional location sometimes called the pearl of Baroque. The creators of the film turned Pažaislis Church into Orthodox cathedral, whereas a certain part of the monastery became a campsite of the guards, soldier barrack yard and even a mortuary. The uniqueness of the ensemble contributed to the sense of authenticity in depicting the magnificent and luxurious rule of one of the most powerful monarchs in history.

“Pažaislis Church and Monastery Complex is most definitely a wonderful location. Every director fell in love immediately upon seeing it. Within more than a decade we have successfully filmed several movies at this location. One simply cannot resist coming back to this location and getting every nook and cranny on camera”, told the co-producer (BFS) of “Catherine the Great” Lineta Mišeikytė.

The Location Award were introduced by EUFCN in 2017. The previous winners of this award are the City of Gorlitz in Germany (2017), the Island of Corfu, which is one of the biggest islands in the Ionian Sea that belong to Greece (2018), and El Hierro located in the Canary Islands (2019).

Photo: A. Aleksandravičius