Symbols over city

Once visited, no one forgets this ancient city, the cradle of Belarusian statehood and the centre of Orthodox relics. It possesses a special magnetism.
By Sergey Gumenov

Trade and crafts have always flourished in Polotsk, since the dawn of history, as have architecture and enlightenment. Moreover, its ancient churches have elevated the spirits of Belarusians while guiding them through life’s troubles.

The history of Polotsk is closely connected with the unique formation of Belarusian spirituality, faith and the establishment of Orthodox rites. One of the most beautiful churches — the Holy Transfiguration Church — was erected in the 12th century at the behest of Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya, as mentioned in the Life of the divine protectress of our Belarusian lands.

It was designed by an architect called John, whose monument was recently unveiled in Polotsk. The Holy Transfiguration Church is deservedly considered to be a true pearl of ancient Slavonic architecture, worthy of UNESCO’s World Heritage List. We can view genius John as the first Belarusian architect. The monument in his honour was created by Minsk sculptor Alexander Shappo, who was brought up in Novopolotsk. Naturally, he is knowledgeable on the ancient churches of his native land. Graduating from the Belarusian Academy of Arts 13 years ago, he chose ‘Architect John’ as the topic of his diploma paper. Then, in 2009, Alexander won a contest for the best monument design: now brought to life.

His bronze John is 3.5m high and stands on an 11-tonne boulder. He holds a model of the Holy Transfiguration Church in his left palm, while blessing it with his right. The monument watches over the crossroads of Bogdanovich Street and the avenue bearing his name — in the newly erected residential housing district, close to the airport. It symbolises the ties of the ancient Belarusian architectural school with its modern achievements.
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