So much to preserve
[b]Almost 5,500 sites in Belarus are registered as historical and cultural treasures. However, many are in need of restoration and researchers continue to discover new sites — many previously little known. These findings are of interest to the state and business community alike[/b]The Belarusian Government has given 24 pictures by artists of the Parisian school (acquired by Belgazprombank) the status of historical and cultural treasures. In September, the bank will be joining the National Art Museum in displaying the works by such icons as Belarus-born Marc Chagall and Chaпm Soutine. A plaque in the Parisian ‘Beehive’ (where these painters once worked) expresses gratitude from French society to those masters who made a significant contribution to world art. Of the four names on the plaque, three are Belarusian: Chagall, Soutine and Ossip Zadkine.
The Belarusian Government has given 24 pictures by artists of the Parisian school (acquired by Belgazprombank) the status of historical and cultural treasures. In September, the bank will be joining the National Art Museum in displaying the works by such icons as Belarus-born Marc Chagall and Chaпm Soutine.
A plaque in the Parisian ‘Beehive’ (where these painters once worked) expresses gratitude from French society to those masters who made a significant contribution to world art. Of the four names on the plaque, three are Belarusian: Chagall, Soutine and Ossip Zadkine.
Works by artists of the Parisian school can be bought at international auction for upwards of 3,000 Euros. Vladimir Schastny, Chairman of the National Commission of Belarus for UNESCO, believes that works will gradually be added to collections held by Belarusian museums.
This year celebrates the 125th anniversary of Chagall’s birth, with the centre of Minsk to be decorated with reproductions of his most well-loved pictures. The project has been initiated by the Culture Department of Minsk City Executive Committee. Posters depicting Chagall’s works will be placed on special stands in Yakub Kolas Square.
An exhibition of Chagall’s works is also to be organised in Vitebsk — including pieces from the Vatican’s collection, as announced by the Apostolic Nuncio for Belarus, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti. He notes, “We’ll be pleased to hold such an exhibition. I wish to show my respect for Belarusian culture by honouring the memory of world famous painter Marc Chagall, born in Vitebsk. On behalf of the Pope of Rome, I’ve laid flowers at his monument and have visited his house-museum to show that Belarus has nurtured various cultures and nations over the centuries.”
Sophia Slutskaya returns to life in bronze
A monument to the Duchess, who lived at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and was sainted by the church, stands in Slutsk. Sculptor Mikhail Inkov and architect Nikolay Lukyanchik have now embodied Sophia’s image in a second monument — located in Minsk, near St. Sophia’s church, in Kurasovshchina suburb. The statue has been consecrated by the Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of all Belarus, Filaret.
The relics of the saint are kept at the Holy Spirit Cathedral and their history is as dramatic as that of Sophia. Her remains were kept in Slutsk until 1930, when a special commission disclosed them and donated them to the Anatomical Museum at the Belarusian State University’s Medical Department. During the German occupation, parishioners secretly reclaimed the relics and hid them in a private flat, allowing them to return to the country’s major church after the war.
Sophia Slutskaya is honoured for her strong Orthodox faith. Her father was Duke Yuri, who left the famous Slutsk Gospel. As the last of the Olelkovichi — direct descendants of Olgerd, Grand Duke of Lithuania — she had a great dowry, which included huge lands around Slutsk. As a result, dukes from the Chodkiewicz and Radziwiłł families fought to claim her as their bride and she eventually married Janusz Radziwiłł. He promised Sophia that he would never force Slutsk residents to give up their Orthodox faith in favour of another.
Sophia died young — being just 26 — during an unfortunate childbirth; the monument in Minsk honours the 400th anniversary of her death.
Hotel to open a century later
The Garni Hotel stands in contemporary Internatsionalnaya Street (formerly 8 Preobrazhenskaya Street). It housed ordinary flats and survived two world wars. Now, it’s operating as a hotel once more, under its original name. Located opposite the Pobeda Cinema, the Garni Hotel is a 19th century building. The first floor will be occupied by a restaurant, as previously, and there will be 15 more rooms — 48 in total. Sadly, the three star hotel lacks much parking but it does offer spa services (giving it a fourth star).
Some historians were worried that specialists would fail to restore the building in its former glory, losing authenticity. However, the owners have been meticulous in preserving the internal (facing the courtyard) and external faзades, to maintain their original appearance. They’ve also worked hard to recreate authentic interiors.
Palaces in Ruzhany and Kossovo revived before our eyes
The restoration of the West Wing of the Sapegi family residence in Ruzhany has finished, as Vladimir Kazakov, who led the works, told us, “Finishing of the interior rooms is being completed, allowing them to house displays of original interior items. A sculpture of St. Anna has been installed above the restored gates of the South Building. Meanwhile, the already completed East Wing has an exhibition open to the public.”
Soon, restoration of the East Building will begin, which once housed a theatre and manege. The first stage of reconstruction at Puslovski Palace in Kossovo will complete this year, with the foundations of the building reinforced, the roof repaired, and internal walls and flooring restored.
Its two gates are also being restored — scheduled for completion by 2016.
In ancient times, each Belarusian town was graced with a castle and churches, while stone buildings stood in the centre, luxuriously decorated. Many remain, even with their original icons, pictures and decorative craft items. On arriving in Minsk, Vitebsk, Grodno and Polotsk, it’s easy to see these beautiful ‘pearls’. Of course, they need to be cared for and tourists benefit from an experienced guide or a good guidebook. Tourist bureaus operate in railway and bus stations and much information is available online. Some websites provide information even unavailable in state archives.
On the pages of our Belarus magazine, we’ll be monitoring the successes of restorers. This summer, Radziwiłł Castle in Nesvizh (the cultural capital of Belarus for 2012) will welcome guests, now being fully restored.
Don’t miss out!
By Viktar Andrejeu