Edifices for Worship of Fortress Type in Belarus, Poland and Lithuania

Date of Submission: 30/01/2004
Criteria: (i)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Délégation Permanente de la République de Bélarus auprès de l'UNESCO
Ref.: 1899


The Church-fortress in Muravanka was constructed in the first half of the 16th century, between 1516 and 1542. The temple is a four-column building with one apse covering the full width of the temple sized 15x13,5 meters, with the stages sized approximately two meters each. The facades of the Church are decorated with various ornamental elements. These are mainly numerous flat niches of various contours, scattered about the surface of the walls, on the pediment and the towers. The peculiar elements of the architecture of the building include semi-circular niches with a small crown and a circular window in the centre of the western wall. This element is typical for the monuments of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.The Church has one entrance situated in its western part. Four columns support the vaults and divide the interior into three naves nearly equal in height, with the middle one sized approximately 12 meters height. During the war of 1654-1667, the Church was plundered. In 1706, by the order of King Karl XII the Church was bombarded. In 1817, 1871-1872 the building of the Church was reconstructed, in the result of which a vestibule was attached to the western facade, the western towers were built on, the roof was lowered, cornices were laid,the widows were broadened, and the trap doors were replaced with common doors. During World War 1, the Germans used the Church as a warehouse for provisions. From 1990, the Church is an active place of worship.The Synkavichy Church is a monument of defence architecture. It is situated on the northern outskirts of the village of Synkavichy, Zelva District, Hrodna Province. The church was made of brick in the middle of the 16th century with Gothic-style features. The temple is a three-nave four-pillar basilica. The three-apse church has an irregular rectangular layout flanked in the comers by four defence towers, which are cut in the main facade and rounded in the rear one. The cornice is encompassed by a of round embrasures and arch machicolations. A high double-pitch roof is covered by strong sharp¬angled boards on the sides. The boards are embellished with tiers of plastered arcature. The bays were whitewashed, which created an effective color range against the background of red brickwork. The babynets was built on later. There is a rubble-brick two-level tetrahedral belfry closed by a hipped roof in front of the church. The hall of the temple is covered by groin vaults with ornamental Gothic nervure. The central and northern apses are covered by groin vaults while the southern one is covered by a ribbed vault. Plastered walls are divided by edges that are joined to pillars by arches. Inside the towers spiral staircases connect the hall with the attic where the defence level of the church was situated.In 1880-1881, the roof was replaced, a vestibule and a cupola over the apse where added, and a cupola over the central part of the church was dismantled (by engineer Trubnikov).A prominent feature of the lay-out of the building is its slight irregularity, some curvature of the axis of the apses toward the naves. The church was probably constructed by local workmen who used simple, not very precise sizing tools for the lay-out.Today the church is an active place of worship.The Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist in the village of Kamai was constructed of brick in 1603-1606. It is situated in the centre of the village. The church's design combines the forms of defence architecture, Gothic style and Renaissance.Originally the church had an axial symmetrical composition. Judging by the remnants of the vaults it was a three-nave, four-column church. During a fire in the middle 17th century the vaults collapsed and were not reconstructed. The columns were dismantled, the central bulk was covered with a wooden vault. The cross-vaulting and a ribbed vault remained only in the apse. Stone choirs were rebuilt in 1739. A large chapel with a crypt in the basement was added to the southern lateral wall of the church in 1778.The church in the village of Kamai is twin-tower, two-hall temple with a large apse, a two-storeyed sacristy and choirs above the vestibule. The main hall and the chapel are rectangular in plan, the apse is semi-circular. The roofs of the main bulk and of the chapel are double-pitched, above the apse the double-pitch roof turns into a conical one. The walls of the church are 2-3 m thick, with semi-circular window openings in large two¬sided niches. The central entrance was constructed in a similar niche, but with a pointed aperture. The main facade wall with a triangular finishing was complemented in the upper part with semi-circular flat niches with embrasures at the level of the attic. It was flanked with cylindrical towers with round and semi-circular embrasures. The remaining walls of the church were smooth, finished with thin cornices. The facades of the chapel were complemented with the pilasters. The interior of the church features an original spatial lay¬out: the level of the chapel's floor is higher than that of the main hall and they are linked to each other with stone staircases between massive pylons with wavelike profile planes. There is a separate entrance to the chapel from the street. It is covered with an arch¬supported cylindrical vault. All the vaults of the church are decorated with grisaille wall¬paintings made particulary during the restoration from 1726 to 1736 in the altar part and in the mid-19th century in the chapel. The focal point of the altar part is a bounded branch that almost entirely covers it, twining round the cartouches (sculptural decorations in a form of a shield) and medallions with monograms and symbols. Ornamental ribbons alternate with medallions on the supporting arches. The plafond of the main hall of the temple is painted in a form of a stucco frame, surrounded with a garland of fruits and branches and tied with bows. There are 4 wooden carved altars in the church. The most interesting one is the central double-level altar of the second half of the 18th century with the altar the Mother of God and the Child icon (17th century). An 18th century organ was decorated in 1739. At present, the church is an active place of worship.