One of the most interesting and visited sights of Polotsk is - Sophia Cathedral. The architectural monument that can be seen today was built in the middle of the 18th century on the site of the foundation of the first church, laid in the period from 1044 to 1066. Parts of the ancient walls are available for viewing in the basements of the cathedral, and the apse (turret to the right of the entrance) has also survived.

The old part of the cathedral in Polotsk

The photo below shows unplastered areas - this is the very old masonry of the 11th century.

Sophia Cathedral old part

The history of the original cathedral has been thoroughly studied, but for objective reasons it is interpreted quite broadly. It is believed that the construction of a stone temple was carried out in the middle of the XI century by decree of the prince Vseslav Bryachislavich, in a period when Christianity actively entrenched itself in the lands of Kievan Rus.

Sophia Cathedral - the main attraction of Polotsk

Already in those distant times, Sofia immediately became the center of religious, political, social and cultural life. The Polotsk Principality, with the construction of the cathedral, formed a message to Kyiv about its independence and future plans for development.

From the 16th century, Polotsk was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The St. Sophia Church became the only Orthodox church on this territory, but already in 1596 it joined the Uniatism. There is evidence that under Archbishop Josaphat Kuntsevich, the cathedral was partially rebuilt, approximately in 1618.

Polotsk Sophia Cathedral
vintage postcard, first half of the 20th century

At the beginning of the 18th century, events took place that completely changed the appearance of the temple. In 1705, the cathedral was closed by order of Peter I, and a powder warehouse was organized within the walls of the shrine. Accidentally or on purpose, it remains unknown, but in May 1710 the building was blown up.

Polotsk Cathedral

Partially destroyed and dismantled - the old St. Sophia Cathedral remained in this form until 1738. Then the construction of a new building begins, in the style popular at that time - Vilna baroque. The architect was the brightest representative of this direction - Johann Glaubitz, on whose account there are many similar temples.

Napoleon Orda Polotsk Sofia
mid-19th century drawing by Napoleon Orda

Since 1839, the cathedral again becomes Orthodox and remained active until 1924, until it was closed. For some time it was returned to believers during the Second World War, but then it was closed again and already until the 90s.

You can see the decoration of the cathedral on a paid basis, it is possible to go down to the cellars, as well as listen to organ music. Sophia Cathedral is located on Zamkovaya street 1, not far from the center of Polotsk.

What else is interesting to see in this region? If you are attracted to massive structures, then go to the ruins of the church in Selishche. I also recommend to see one of the smallest cities in Belarus - Disnu.

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