St Nicolas the Miracle Worker Orthodox parish tserkva, Białowieża
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St Nicolas the Miracle Worker Orthodox parish tserkva

Białowieża

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The St Nicolas tserkva in Białowieża is distinctive for its artistic values due to sophisticated architecture and valuable equipment. Shortly after erection, in the late 19th century, the temple was widely recognised (by the press of then) as the most beautiful one in the entire Grodno Governorate. Historical values are related to governors and founders of the tserkva - the Tsar family. The feature was founded and erected under the personal supervision of Tsar Alexander III; it was visited by the most acclaimed state and clerical dignitaries; it has been a place where important religious and secular celebrations are held.

History

A wooden tserkva in Białowieża existed already in the late 18th century; at that time, it was a Uniate temple (Greek Catholic). Most probably in the early 19th century, an independent parish was established here. Another wooden building was erected in 1853 as the St Nicolas the Miracle Worker Orthodox church (the union was disbanded in 1839). When the Białowieża Forest became property of the monarch in 1888, the Tsar began to erect his hunting estate in Białowieża in 1889. Most probably, it was around that time that the current tserkva began to be built. It was designed by Pimenov, an architect from Vilnius. In 1894, the construction site was visited by Tsar Alexander III. The tserkva was consecrated in 1895. A beautiful, ceramic iconostasis was brought from Petersburg. Finally, the tserkva was completed in 1897, just before the visit of Tsar Nicolas II. During his frequent stays in Białowieża, the monarch liked to spend time in the tserkva, listening to parish choirs. The temple obtained electrical lighting in 1907. The feature survived World War I and it was renovated in the inter-war period. On 1 September 1939, a bomb destroyed one of the walls and wrought havoc in the interior. Fortunately, damages were quite quickly repaired. After World War II, paintings were made in the temple’s interior and various pieces of equipment were installed (furnaces, chandeliers, lining, carpets, etc.); the roofing was replaced, and the new electrical and lightning protection systems were added. In the post-war times, the tserkva was visited by top Orthodox dignitaries from Poland and from abroad, it hosted Orthodox music concerts and other cultural events (among others, the Belarussian Wedding movie was shot here).

Description

The tserkva is located in the centre of Białowieża, on a small elevation, at the main General Aleksander Waszkiewicz Street, on its northern side. The structure is located on a Greek cross plan, with a polygonally terminated chancel. A fragmented body consists of intertwining cuboids. A cupola at the crossing of naves and a bell tower above the porch. The cupola and tower are crowned with lanterns with onion-like spires forming a base for Orthodox crucifixes. The building was made of brick and has remained unplastered. Inside, there is a beautiful iconostasis made of ceramic materials.

Accessible historic structure.

compiled by Grzegorz Ryżewski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Bialystok, 13-10-2014.

Bibliography

  • Bajko P., Białowieża. Zarys dziejów, Białystok 2001, s. 30-34, 36-37, 43-44.
  • Bajko P., Rys historyczny parafii prawosławnej w Białowieży, „Białostocczyzna” 1989, nr 1, s. 21-24.

General information

  • Type: tserkva
  • Chronology: 1895 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Białowieża
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district hajnowski, commune Białowieża
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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