The emergence of the village
Historical sources show that the first place-name of Šiluva was Būda. This name refers to the place where the forest trees were processed for the treasury of the Grand Duke. The cut trees were used to produce planks for barrels and construction, to burn resin, tar, ash. The processed material was transported to designated ports. Šiluva was a spot on place for such forest work since the area was located near Dubysa river, where it was possible to transport the material to Nemunas river and from there to the ports of Königsberg and Dancigo.
Such place, the heart of the forest industry with residential buildings, was bestowed by Vytautas Magnus on his companion Gailiginas’ son, Grand Duke Jurgis Gedgaudas in the 15th century. It was inhabited by forest workers, who eventually formed a village. As the forest industry progressed and expanded, ward supervisors, foresters, hunters started to settle down in the village. These men became servants of the manor.
A town in between the village and the manor
Under Jurgis Gedgaudas’ governance in Būda village a manor started to emerge, which was later inherited by his son Petras Simonas Gedgaudas. This landlord became the founder of Šiluva church.
The founding act of the Church, with the participation of witnesses and trustees, was signed and sealed in 1457, on a Sunday after St. Lambert (September 1), in Šilas or Būda mansion.
When signing the founding act, he entered the name of this mansion, “Šilas, or Būda”. The “or” indicates that the old name had already been changed to a new one. The change was needed to distinguish one Būda from another, because at that time about 45 identical place names could be found in Lithuania. A decade after the foundation of the church, in 1466 the local priest signed under the name “John, Pastor of Šilas”. This is how the name of the town evolved into the current name Šiluva.
Petras Simonas Gedgaudas, a noble of Šilas village, inscribed ten families to the new church with their movable and immovable property and legally owned land. The church was built on the land of the manor, and a town started to form here. The church was titled the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Bartholomew, a very rare, perhaps the first such name in Lithuania at that time. Petras Gedgaudas is believed to have attempted to associate the date of the Virgin Mary’s birth celebration (celebrated on September 8) with the coronation of his father’s comrade Vytautas the Great, which was to take place on September 8 in 1430.
After the builder gave name to the Church and established a regular festival of its title, it started to become well known. There were crowds of worshipers from the outermost corners of Lithuania and even Užnemunė, where the Protestants prevailed.
Around a century later, in 1551, Ragainė Pastor Martynas Mažvydas complains to Albrecht, the Duke of Prussia, that his parishioners hardly adapt to the priests of new faith, stay faithful to the “people of the Pope” and travel to Lithuanian churches during holidays, also, to the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Šiluva, and in this way, they are to blame for “abominable idolatry”. And it should not be forgotten that Šiluva is as far as a hundred kilometers away from Ragaina!