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St. Sophia Cathedral Tour In Polotsk

St. Sophia Cathedral Tour In Polotsk Packages
Country: Belarus
City: Polotsk
Duration: 1 Day(s) - 0 Night(s)
Tour Category: Half Day Tour

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St. Sophia Cathedral in the ancient town of Polotsk does not look like other Eastern Orthodox churches of the same name. It is one of the oldest temples constructed by Eastern Slavonic peoples and the first church built from stone on the territory of Belarus.

This architectural specimen has been nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage List.

St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia) Cathedral is distinguished by remarkable and symbolic architecture. It was built on the right bank of the Western Dvina River in the 11th century. In the mid-18th century it was rebuilt to the design of architect Jan Krzysztof Glaubitzin the Vilna Baroque Style (Late Belarusian Baroque Style).

However, some elements of the original church survive to these days. They are fragments of masonry, the ancient foundation that remained virtually intact, a part of the apse, pillars and walls, and amazing frescos dating back to the second half of the 11th century and nowadays still impresses by its stunniing splendidness..

St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk was the third cathedral of this kind built in Ancient Rus and the fourth in the world. St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk like its “elder sisters” in Kiev and Novgorod was constructed to the same design as the famous Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople.

The Greek word “Sophia” means holy wisdom. However Polotsk residents understood it more broadly. For them the word meant human unity, solidarity of all people living in the Principality of Polotsk. The cathedral was first mentioned in The Life of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk and The Tale of Igor’s Campaign of the 12th century.

This magnificent building was erected by Byzantine architects and local residents upon the order of Vseslav the Sorcerer in 1044-1066. Being a symbol of independence and power of the Principality of Polotsk, the temple resembled a white ship flowing along the Western Dvina River.

St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk became a religious, cultural and educational center. It accommodated a huge library, archives, treasury, magistrate, and halidoms. It was the place where diplomatic receptions were arranged. There was also a royal family vaultin the cathedral. Archeologists discovered 16 sarcophagi there.

After the Union of Brest was signed in 1596, the cathedral was given to the Greek Catholic Church and reconstructed after the fires of 1607 and 1648. During the reconstruction, the upper part of corner defense towers of the church was removed upon the order of Archbishop Josaphat Kuntsevych

During the Great Northern War Peter I ordered to use the cathedral as an ammunition warehouse. The cathedral was heavily damaged by an explosion in 1710.

In the 18th century famous architect Jan Krzysztof Glaubitz rebuilt St. Sophia Cathedral in the Vilna Baroque style on the request of Archbishop of Polotsk Florian Hrebnicki.

During the war of 1812 the sacred Orthodox halidom – the Cross of Euphrosyne of Polotsk - was kept in the wall of the cathedral, in a specially carved niche.

In 1913, the surviving frescos on the walls of the church were restored.

During the Great Patriotic War the cathedral housed a garrison church of the Nazi troops.

A big restoration project of the cathedral was conducted in the 1970s-1980s. The roof, facade and window openings were renovated in 2010-2013.

Today St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the major cultural centers of Belarus. It hosts religious services and ceremonies, excursions, concerts and recitals.

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