The cathedral of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, Białystok
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The cathedral of St Nicholas the Wonderworker

Białystok

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The tserkva, designed in the Neoclassicist style, was influenced by the trends in art and architecture prevalent in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century. It represents a type of a temple modelled after the domed, cruciform churches of the Late Byzantine period. Its detailing, on the other hand, bears the hallmarks of Russian Classicism as well as the architecture of St Petersburg.

History

The decision on the construction of the tserkva was adopted in 1838. The task of designing the church was entrusted to Michaiłowow (Mikhailovov), the architect employed by the local diocese. In 1840, the plans for the tserkva were submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in St Petersburg, with the building permit being issued by the Lithuanian Spiritual Consistory during the early months of 1841. The construction works began in 1843 in the square near the former Uniate tserkva which had been closed down some time before, with the completion of the works taking place in 1846. The tserkva was consecrated by Józef Siemaszko, the metropolitan bishop for Lithuania and Vilnius. The first renovation of the building was carried out in 1868-1872, followed by further restoration works in 1910. At that point, the roof of the building was repaired, with the interiors now graced by painted decorations by Michał Awiłow (Avilov), who took inspiration from the polychromed interiors of the Kiev tserkva. The area around the altarpiece was restored in the years 1955-1956, with the lower levels of the tserkva receiving their fixtures and fittings during the same period. In the years 1975-1976, the interior underwent renovation works which focused mostly on the walls of the tserkva. The oil paintings on plaster have begun to crumble, literally flaking off the surface on which they were executed. After all attempts to preserve them have failed, the decision was taken to remove the painted decorations, with just one of Awiłow’s paintings being left intact in the area near the altarpiece. The new painted decorations were executed by Józef Łotowski, a painter based in Białystok. Further renovation works were carried out in the years 1988-1990, encompassing the roof, the cupola and the façades. In addition, the existing painted decorations on the walls of the tserkva were subjected to conservation works.

Description

The tserkva is situated in the Białystok city centre, on the southern side of Lipowa street.

It was designed in the Classicist style.

It is oriented towards the east. The tserkva is a brick structure with a basement, its walls covered with plaster. Designed on a Greek cross floor plan, the tserkva features a western vestibule surmounted by a bell tower. The sacristy is positioned between the arms of the cruciform main body, on the south-eastern side thereof. The silhouette of the church consists of two distinct sections: the main body and the western tower. The main body consists of a pair of intersecting naves covered with gable roofs, with a hemispherical dome on a tall tholobate positioned on the crossing of the arms of the cruciform structure. The tholobate is partitioned with pilasters with Ionic capitals supporting the entablature above and pierced with twelve windows topped with semi-circular arches. The quadrangular tower rising above the western vestibule is crowned with a cupola positioned atop a tholobate adorned with recessed panels. The cupola itself is crowned with a slender spire surmounted by a cross. The walls of the tower are accentuated with paired Ionic pilasters supporting an entablature, flanking the bell openings topped with semi-circular arches. The façades of the building are partitioned with pilasters with Doric capitals, supporting a Doric entablature which runs around the circumference of the church. The arms of the tserkva are topped with triangular pediments framed with a profiled, dentilled cornice. The interior is a single, open space consisting of two intersecting naves, designed on a Greek cross floor plan with a central dome. The nave is preceded by a vestibule. The vaulted ceiling above the naves is of the barrel type, with lunettes; the naves open towards the central section with semi-circular arches. The dome rises above a tall tholobate with twelve windows, with the spaces between them graced by painted visages of the Apostles. Busts of Old Testament prophets can be seen in the lower part of the tholobate. The surface of the dome itself is painted blue, forming a representation of the sky with flying seraphim and the visage of Christ in Majesty accompanied by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. Images of the Four Evangelists adorn the pendentives beneath the dome. The nave interiors are graced with ornamental painted decorations designed to accentuate the architectural divisions of the walls, accompanied by images of saints and Biblical scenes. The altarpiece section is separated from the nave by a Classicist iconostasis.

The historical monument is open to visitors.

compiled by Grażyna Rogala , Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok, 22-12-2014.

Bibliography

  • Białystok. Sobór św. Mikołaja. Cerkiew parafialna, Dokumentacja historyczno-architektoniczna, compiled by J. Kotyńska, Białystok 1989, typescript of the Polish Monument Conservation Workshops (PPKZ), archive of the Regional Office of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Białystok;
  • Kotyńska-Stetkiewicz J., Sobór katedralny pw. św. Mikołaja w Białymstoku, in: Biuletyn Konserwatorski Województwa Podlaskiego, Białystok 2011, pp. 45-65.

General information

  • Type: tserkva
  • Chronology: 1846 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Lipowa , Białystok
  • Location: Voivodeship podlaskie, district Białystok, commune Białystok
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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