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St Sophia’s Cathedral in Polotsk
|Address:||1, Zamkovaya St., Polotsk|
|Description:||One of the characteristic features of St Sofia’s Cathedral is facetted apses, typically found on wooden temples. Neither Kyiv, nor Novgorod could sport cathedrals with apses. The cathedral was the centre of town, where they received foreign ambassadors, declare war and peace.|
|Type of object:||Russian Ortodox church|
|Age of building / reconstruction:||XI , XVIII|
One of the first Orthodox Christian fort-like temples, St Sofia’s Cathedral in Polotsk has every right to be included into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
St Sofia’s Cathedral in Polotsk is an architectural monument of the 11th―18t century.
It took Byzantine architects 5 years to erect the citadel-like cathedral in the 1044―1066 period at the time of Prince Vseslav the Wizard. Positioned on a riverbank, where small River Palota empties itself into the River Dvina, the cathedral was intended as a symbol of equality (with the second Rome ― Constantinople) and a challenge to Kyiv and Novgorod where they also had temples built in honour of St Sofia.
Built at the place of a burnt-down wooden temple, the new temple was put on a powerful foundation that has fully preserved until present.
One of the characteristic features of St Sofia’s Cathedral is facetted apses, typically found on wooden temples. Neither Kyiv, nor Novgorod could sport cathedrals with apses. The cathedral was the centre of town, where they received foreign ambassadors, declare war and peace.
The entire eastern facade of the cathedral was extended in the 12―13th centuries with a multitude of vaults, include those of the prince family. So far they have found 16 such vaults.
After the great fire of 1447 the cathedral was rebuilt in the shape of a five-tower citadel temple. It was rebuilt next in 1618 after a religious reform.
At the time of the Northern War the temples was closed down and looted by the Russian troops. In 1710 Russian Tsar Peter the Great ordered to arrange for a gunpowder storage facility in the temple, which eventually ended up in a heavy explosion leaving the temple lying in ruins until 1738. The cathedral had not been restored and rebuilt until 1750. The temple owes its present-day looks to architect January Kristof Glaubic of Vilnius.
St Sofia’s Cathedral regularly hosts chamber and organ music festivals. The temple that boasts a large concert hall with an organ and architectural museum, is a major tourist attraction in Polotsk.
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