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| Home | News | Photo | BELARUS HERITAGE: St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi

BELARUS HERITAGE: St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi

BELARUS HERITAGE: St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi
8 Jun 2020

With its formidable walls, turrets overlooking all the parts of the world and embrasure windows, this church looks like a small fortress. Indeed, many centuries ago, this church could repel an attack or withstand an enemy siege. St. Michael's Church in the village of Synkovichi (Zelva District, Grodno Oblast) is not only one of the country’s oldest shrines, but also one of the few edifices for worship of fortress type along with the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in the village of Murovanka (Shchuchin District) and the Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist in the village of Kamai (Postavy District). A similar architectural concept was used to build a couple of other churches during the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – the Bernardine Church in Vilnius and the Our Lady Queen of Poland Church in  Suprasl (Poland). The exact time when the Synkovichi church in the early Gothic style was founded is still the subject of scientific research. For many years the church was believed to be built in the 16th century. But the recent archaeological study suggests that the shrine could be erected in the 14th and even 13th centuries. Today, St. Michael's Church is on the state list of historical and cultural values of Belarus and the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list.

One of the legends has it that St. Michael’s Church was built by Grand Duke Vitaut in gratitude to the locals who provided him refuge as he was hiding from his nephew Jahajla after escaping from the Castle of Krevo, where he was held under arrest in 1382. According to another legend, the church was erected in the early 16th century with the financial assistance of Hetman Konstanty Ostrogski, who also financed the construction of the churches of Holy Trinity and of the Theotokos in Vilna. During the restoration project, scientists established that the church-fortress was founded on the site of a dilapidated castle in 1320 and consecrated in the presence of Duke Vitaut in 1407. The church has four turrets with spiral staircases, massive 1.5m thick walls, stone loopholes and rooms above the vaults, which attests to its defense mission.

In 1880-1881, the church got a new roof, a narthex, and a dome above the apse. In 1891, a bell tower was erected in front of the church. It was restored in 2007. In 1925, the church was given to Catholics and became the center of a Greek Catholic parish. Since the 1990s, it has been an Orthodox church. Services are held on Sundays and on holidays and a healing service takes place on the first Friday of the month (at 9:00).

In 2005, on the Feast of the Annunciation, bells of the restored bell tower chimed for the first time after long years of silence. St. Michael’s Church is known for its chimes and acoustics: thanks to resonators in the walls, singing of prayers is heard equally well in all parts of the church. In 2010, a font was built near the church. It was consecrated in honor of the wonderworking icon of the Most Holy Mother of God that was painted for the church on Mount Athos in Greece. In 2012-2013, during the restoration of the inner walls of the church, workers discovered 16th-century writings in Greek and Latin and paintings dating back to 1872 under a layer of oil paint.

St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi
St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi
St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi
St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi
BELARUS HERITAGE: St. Michael's Church in Synkovichi
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