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We measure ourselves as Orda, or How Belarus has changed in a century and a half.


One and a half hundred years ago in Belarusian towns and villages one could meet a young man with pencils and an easel who painstakingly drew local sights. His name was Mr. Napoleon Orda. With photographic accuracy, the artist recorded more than 1150 landscapes, largely thanks to him today we have the opportunity to see architectural monuments that have not reached us after decades of wars and religious purges. Fortunately, something has been preserved and looks almost the same as in Orda's time.

Let's look at our cities and places together through the eyes of Napoleon Orda and photographer Sergei Plytkevich, who captured them, but in the XXI century, and compare.

Though Orda had already seen the Krevsky castle in ruins, it was not in such a terrible condition as it is now. Today from the Prince's Tower, in comparison with the century before last, there is almost nothing left.

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The castle at Lida, which appeared to Orda crazy, on the contrary, has been transformed (although the quality of its "restoration" is depicted in sad legends). The Church of the Holy Cross, whose author is considered to be the "apostle" of Vilna Baroque Johanna Glaubica, has also survived.

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Novogrudsky castle. Pay attention to the extreme left tower (Shchitovka) - it still looks quite strong. It collapsed on two thirds in 1916 - exactly 40 years after it was painted by Orda.

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But the Gothic church of St. Michael in Gniezno has remained unchanged.

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Almost in the same form as Orda, we see today the Church of the Holy Trinity in Ishkoldi (by the way, in the second half of the 19th century this church was used as an Orthodox church - pay attention to the "bulb" above the roof).

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Orda found the Kolozhskaya Church in Grodno and fixed it at the very moment when its southern and western walls had already collapsed, but had not yet been replaced by wooden structures. The drawing dates back to 1869.

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Churches and monasteries of Bernardines (left) and Bernardines (right) in Grodno. Also in the 1860s.

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In 1977-1984 the Grodno Regional Drama Theatre was built on the place of the destroyed women's monastery. The walls of the monastery now house a Catholic Theological Seminary.

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The Cathedral Church of St. Francis Xavier in Grodno seems to be timeless.

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Which, alas, you can not say about another once famous Jesuit temple - St. Stephen's Cathedral in Polotsk. Built in the first half of the XVIII century (detailed history of the church here), the church was blown up in 1964.

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In 1976-1979 an apartment house was built in its place, which was nicknamed "donkey ears". The building of the Jesuit monastery has been preserved - today it houses an art gallery and two faculties of Polotsk State University.

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The most famous church-museum of Polotsk (and probably of Belarus) - St. Sophia Cathedral - is located a few hundred meters away from there. This is how Napoleon Orda saw it.

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And this is Sergey Plytkevich. As we can see, the basilica monastery, located to the left of Sofia, is nowhere to be found. It's a pity, but in the past it formed a single picturesque architectural complex with the temple.

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The center of Vitebsk lost its beauty in the same way, when in the late 1950s the St. Anthony Church was demolished during the expansion of Lenin Street (in the picture of the Horde on the right). The Resurrection Church (left), also blown up under Soviet rule, was restored in the first years of the XXI century.

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You can learn about these and other monuments of Vitebsk by walking in the city center.

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The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sarya is one of the pearls of Vitebsk region. It is probably the most Gothic Orthodox church in Belarus.

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The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Borun had not changed at all. Only the former basilica monastery is completely forgotten and abandoned.

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The opposite example is the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the village of Gaine in Lohoisk district. According to some sources, it was one of the seven Catholic churches founded by King Yagaylo in Belarus. That's what he was, and that's what's left of him. Comments, as they say, are unnecessary.

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And here are the "monsters" of the modern Belarusian excursion - Mir and Nesvizh. It is interesting to see how castles have changed in a century and a half, passing through the crucible of restoration.

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Sapeg Palace in Ruzhany is not so lucky yet. Notice, at Orda's, we see a collapsing brama and a quite decent palace, at Plytkevich's, on the contrary.

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The Church of St. Barbara in Rajce (Korelichi district), built in the style of romanticism. Looking closely, you can see that the sculpture of the Mother of God and the clock that crowned it disappeared from the tower. Otherwise, the present-day Rajca is a painting of the century before last, successfully supplemented by simple means of transportation of local residents.

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If the church in Rajce was built as a tomb of the Raetski family, the chapel in Zakozel (Drohiczyn district) - as a tomb of the Polesie branch of the Ozeszko family. Alas, time and descendants have turned this romantic flower of Neo-Gothic into ruins.

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Also, the neo-Gothic "Skarbnitsa" of the Chapski estate in Stankovo once contained one of the largest private collections not only in Belarus but also in Europe. Now the building is finished, as well as the historical memory of many of us.

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However, looking at the magnificently restored Peter and Paul Church in Rozhanka (Shchuchinsky district), as if fallen out of the century in which Napoleon Horde lived and worked, we still hope that this memory will return to all of us.

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