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The sophia cathedral: our national heritage

At the end of the 15th — the beginning of the 16th century a new type of church buildings, strengthened with the help of angular towers, appeared in Bela­rus. It became characteristic for the Belarus gothic style. The first temple of such a type became the Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk which was constructed in the 50s of the 11th century. At 15 th —16 th centuries the temple had been reconstructed into the church-castle consisting of five towers.

In those days Polotsk was a big shopping centre located in the east boundary of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was considered as "the key" from Livonia and Lithuania.

The five-tower Sophia Cathedral existed in the Top castle fill 1710. According to the images of 1578 and 1707 it was a usual castle with towers, loop-holes and gates made of metal. During the time of siege of Polotsk this church was a refuge for rich townspeople. There were also relics and treasures of the town in it. One of them was a magnificent library. Here ancient manuscripts, annals, letters were stored, there was literature in Greek, Latin, ancient Belarusian, Church Slavonic -and other languages. The most solemn assemblies of townspeople passed in the Sophia Cathedral. Here the ambassadors from all over the world were accepted, too. The name of the temple had been immortalized in the town seal.

In 1607 the Sophia Cathedral burnt down during the fire. Soon it was restored. Angular tewers were reduced by one circle, and the middle tower became higher., After the fire ш 1643 the church was restored once again. The warehouse of am­munition of Peter the First army was in cellars of the temple during the days of the Northern war. In May 1710 it unexpectedly blew up, and the temple had been actu­ally destroyed. In 1738-1780 it was reconstructed in a two-tower baroque church.

The rest of the ancient defensive towers bad not been found out during the archeological studying of the Sophia Cathedral. Probably, the bases were small. Now in the building of Polotsk Sophiathsre is a concert hall.

In the territory of the Bottom castle there was one more five-tower temple of the catholic type. It was almost full base of the Sophia Cathedral. It was well seen on the plan of Polotsk of 1707. Distinct defensive features had also other town church constructions: the'Jesuit complex and the Jesuit church. They closed the way to the bridge across a defensive moat of the Top castle. There were two ways to the castle which led to a massive two-storied building of the Jewish school as well.

Initial function of the given castle had a defensive character. Its stone buil- dings had created an additional zone of defense, which the enemy tried to take - by storm. Now the Sophia Cathedral is the unique monument of ancient architec; ture. There are only three such cathedrals all over the world: in Polotsk, Nizhniy Novgorod and Kiev. They represent aesthetic value and historical heritage. They keep ancient history, enigmatic events which draw attention of people from all over the world.

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