Treasures find worthy place

Major exhibition at Belarus’ only Museum of Religion History opens in Grodno

By Lilia Novitskaya

The exhibition is dedicated to pre-Christian beliefs, the appearance of Christianity, the history of the Orthodox faith, Catholicism, Islam and Judaism in Belarus, as well as the age of atheism and the various confessions found in contemporary Belarus. The event marks the complete revival of the unique museum, which has endured difficulties in recent decades. After the building was returned to an Orthodox monastery in 1992, it spent most of its time ‘on wheels’ organising travelling exhibitions to schools, colleges, universities and houses of culture. It also held charity events in orphanages and boarding schools. The restoration of Khreptovich Palace — a 17th century architectural monument donated to the museum — has been underway in Grodno’s historical centre during this time.

The first exhibition — entitled Epoch. Time. Building — opened a year ago, describing the history of the palace and its owners, as well as the way of life and culture of 19th century Grodno residents. This time, visitors are being welcomed by the central exposition of the museum — Religion and Culture of Belarus — housed by six halls. True treasures, which have only recently been placed on display from the museum’s archive, are on show, such as the Holy Family icon, created in the 1530s in Grodno by Dominican monk Gilyary Khoetsky. 18th century clerical garments, containing the elements of Slutsk sashes in their decoration, are no less precious. One even depicts a legendary cornflower, praised by Belarusian poet Maxim Bogdanovich. The Orthodox Gospel and other rarities are priceless, as is a Venetian missal from 1586 (an order of service book used by the Catholic Church); it was published by the Vilnya brotherhood printing house in 1644.

“Today, this is the most contemporary museum in the Grodno Region, boasting the latest equipment,” notes Alexander Loiko, the Head of the Grodno Regional Executive Committee’s Cultural Department. “This guarantees the integrity of priceless exhibits, many of which are over 500 years old. Further work to expand the exhibition lies ahead.”

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