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Grodno: a gity full of history

Grodno is one of few Belarusian sities which w'ere lucky enough to stay not completely destroyed at the time of numerous wars devastating our land each cen-^ tury. Here one can still find quite a lot of architectural, monuments in different

styles; here you frequently stop in wonder arid admiration realiz­ing that the walls around you are silent witnesses of the events that took place a thousand, five hun­dred or two hundred years ago.

Grodno (Garpdnya, Gora-dzen in the chronicles) was first mentioned in the Ipatievskaya chronicle in 1128. Throughout its history Grodno was a part of many states: the Galitsko-Volinsky Duchy, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rzecz Pospolita and the Russian Empire, the BNR, the BSSR and the USSR.

Some of ancient Grodno constructions are significant proofs that there existed a local architectural school, which had no analogues in Eastern Europe. For the first time you realize this by Kolozhskaya Orthodox Church that stands on the precipitous bank of Neman. This church is the only existing monument of Grodno architectural school. There is nothing like it in the whole world — the church was built nine hundred years ago with pink and yellowish bricks that contain huge stones and green majolica. The inhabitants were the first to notice the following fact: when after the rain a sun ray falls on wet Kolozha, its walls, namely the green majolica, start sparkling with all rainbow colours. Unfortunately this building is not presented in its complete original form: in the 19th century Neman literary "ate" one of its walls and this wall was replaced by a wooden one.

Speaking about Grodno temples you cannot leave out a lantem-shaped Roman-Catholic Cathedral in the centre of the city. The magnificent baroque masterpiece of the 17th century hovers like a white bird above the Freedom Square — which was called the Old Market in the past. The statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, enclosed in the side niches near the church entrance, deserve special attention. They are silver coloured and produce the impression of metallic ones. In fact, they are made of wood, as old as the church itself and plated with a special mixture. The secret was known only to the local craftsmen.

One of the towers of the church has the oldest European working clock (after the Big Ben in London). It is three hundred years old. Before the World War II it crowned the old City Hall. When a bomb hit the building, the clock almost miracu­lously remained intact; it was fixed and put on the church tower. It still works and chimes every how and just as before, it needs to be wound up manually.

There is also the Bernardino Cathedral (in the Baroque style) in Grodno. Only the famous K6ln Cathedral took longer time to be erected. The construction of the temple began about six hundred years ago —- each knight upon his return from a war contributed something "off his horse hoof. "Hoofs" were few: the construc­tion was finished only in the 19th century.

A favourable geographical position fostered the economic growth of the city. Goods of the Grodno blacksmiths, smelters, potters, leather-dressers and tailors proved their mastery. Active trade was held with other ancient cities of Pridneprovie, the Baltic States, and Poland. The citizens were literate. The city attracted attention of numerous conquerors, who considered the city a natural war outpost. In 10 — 13th centuries Grodno citizens repulsed the attacks of German knights and in 1410 they participated in the Gryunvald battle. Starting from 1376. during the Prince Vitovt's ruling, Grodno became the second capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and was granted the Magdeburg right.

In 1560, as a result of the Lublin Union, the city became a part of Rzecz Pospolita and in the 1580s, during the King Stefan Batoria's reign, Grodno practically became its capital, a royal residence, which could compete in beauty with the best European cities of that time. In 1673 every third Seym of Rzecz Pospolita was held in Grodno, which raised the political status of the city. It is here in Grodno, where in 1793 at the New Castle the so-called "silent" Seym took place, which approved the second partition of Rzecz Pospolita. It is here, where the last king of Rzecz Pospolita Stanislav August Ponyatovsky abdicated after an unsuccessful revolt.

Among other Grodno sights one can name a street that belongs to almost all of Europe. Nowadays it is named after a famous writer Elisa Ozhechko who was so respected by the city dwellers that in the spring of 1910, when she was seriously ill, the street by her house was strewn with straw so that the noise of passing carts and carriages didn't disturb her. They did so in Catholic European cities to carry the Blessed Virgin's statue through the streets. So, the street where Elisa Ozhechko lived was once called the street of Luxury. Anthony Tyzhengauz, making use of his power as the headman in order to hasten the industrial development of the town, invited craftsmen from all around Europe. They accepted the invitation and having lived in the town for some time settled down and stayed, thus founding ; a street. They erected a Lutheran temple which is still there though not in service. The town, remaining a truly Belarusian one, always welcomed the represen- tatives of various nationalities and religious confessions. And no one ever felt tight in its sunny streets; there has always been enough room for everybody. And it is not accidental that Grodno became the capital of the Republican National Festival of Cultures. For several years representatives of various nationalities come to this town at the beginning of summer in order to share their ethnic heritage and show their respect for the spiritual legacy of the country that became their true home- land. These days "the Neman Diamond" filled with colours, sounds, and smiles sparkles particularly brightly as any precious stone looked upon by many admiring and loving eyes.

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