Polotsk Gospel on display

1,025th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Rus marked with exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Belarusian Statehood — a branch of the National History Museum of Belarus
The exhibition features shots of the last visit by His Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexy II, in September 2008, which coincided with celebrations for the 1,020th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Rus. Some of the photos cover the visit by Alexy II’s successor: His Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, in 2009 and 2012.

The visits included tours of churches in Minsk, Polotsk and Vitebsk, with the Patriarch joined by the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, in meeting the Faithful. The visitors also chatted with Belarusian youngsters and viewed the holy relics of Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya and Sofia Slutskaya.

In 2012, Patriarch Kirill unveiled a monument to His Holiness, Patriarch Alexy II, near Minsk’s Memorial Church in honour of All Saints.

The Director of the National History Museum of Belarus, Oleg Ryzhkov, tells us, “The exhibition aims not only to show photos but the relationship between the state and the Orthodox Church. The Museum of Contemporary Belarusian Statehood has been chosen purposefully to host the event.”

On display is a facsimile edition of the 12th century Polotsk Gospel — the original of which appeared almost at the same time as the famous Cross of Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya. The prominent Belarusian duchess founded a scriptorium (for manuscript rewriting) in Polotsk and may have taken part in the creation of the original. The reproduction is the result of long-term joint work between the National Library, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the Belarusian Exarchate Publishing House, the Russian State Library in Moscow and the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.

At present, only three copies of the edition exist: one is kept at the Belarusian Exarchate and another at the Family — Unity — Fatherland Foundation. Presenting the manuscript, the Chairman of the Board of the Family — Unity — Fatherland International Charitable Foundation, Vladimir Grozov, noted that similar reproduction projects are being seen worldwide. “In creation such copies we use authentic methods; in this case, specially synthesised materials were used to copy the sheepskin cover. The facsimile matches the original by 99 percent. When such books go on show, we ask everyone to touch them, so that they can ‘communicate’ with them — as if with living creatures,” adds Mr. Grozov. “The cost of reproducing one such book is 6,000 Euros.”

The manuscript has spent several days in the Museum of Contemporary Belarusian Statehood and is now moving to the National History Museum, until late October.
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