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Free Courses «Vitebsk: Real and Popular History of the Native Town». «Under the Icon of the Savior: Religious Life in Vitebsk in the period of 14th – the beginning of the 18th centuries»

On the 26th of January the library held a regular session of the free courses «Vitebsk: Real and Popular History of the Native Town». This time the topic of the lecture was «Under the Icon of the Savior: Religious Life in Vitebsk in the 14th – the beginning of the 18th centuries».

As the hosts of the courses noted in the beginning, this topic is one of the most complicated, as many Christian confessions had woven into the fabric of the religious life of Vitebsk region. That is why the events of the religious life in Vitebsk region in the period of 14th – the beginning of the 18th centuries, as the lectors pointed it out, were examined from the academic point of view and not from any of the confessions' standpoints. Chief Specialist at the Main Department for Ideology, Culture and Youth Affairs of Vitebsk Executive Committee Denis Yurchak recounted the landmark episodes of the religious situation in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He also rehearsed several points from the previous lecture while talking about a long period of coexistence between paganism and Christianity. He also mentioned that the period before the 16th century had been marked by religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence of Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. The most ancient religious buildings in Vitebsk were the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of St. Michael and the Church of St. Paraskeva Pyatnitsa – these temples had been erected as far back as the 12th century. In the 16th century Vitebsk had 7 churches and in the period of the 16th – 18th centuries another 12 temples were constructed with the total amount reaching 18 buildings. In the end of the 14th century favorable conditions contributed to the spread of Catholicism, and in the 16th Protestantism began to strengthen its positions. Assistant Professor at the Department of World History and Culture at Vitebsk State University named after P.M. Masherov and Candidate of Historical Sciences Ekaterina Lavrinenko spoke about the history of Catholic churches in Vitebsk. She said that the first Catholic church that had been built in Vitebsk was the cathedral Church of Holy Trinity. In the middle of the 18th century there were 6 monastic churches, one cathedral church and 2 Catholic monasteries.

Pavel Shevkun, Assistant Professor at the Department of Social and Human Sciences of VSMU, PhD and Candidate of Historical Sciences, described the life of local population in the period that followed the signing of the Union of Brest in 1626. He also delved into the creation of Uniate Church and the public outcry this decision had generated. The 16th century was the era when the traditional middle-aged lifestyle of the population was coming to an end, when numbers of Orthodox Christians chose to convert to Protestantism. In 1623, after Iesophat Kuntsevich had become Archbishop and the Orthodox Christians crackdown that had followed, the population of Vitebsk rebelled against Archbishop and killed him.

Head of the Department of History of Belarus at VSU named after P.M. Masherov and Candidate of Historical Sciences Anatoly Dulov dwelled on the personality of Iesophat Kuntsevich, a talented, nonetheless harsh prophet of the Union, who had closed all Orthodox churches in Vitebsk. This is a controversial personality in the history of Vitebsk with Catholic and Orthodox Christians having different attitude toward. Ekaterina Lavrinenko pointed out that in 1643 Iesophat Kuntsevich had been beatified, and in 1867 he had been canonized. St. Iesophat Kuntsevich is the main guardian of Vitebsk diocese. In 1916 his relics had been transferred to St. Peter's Basilica where they have remained to this day.

To sum up the lecture, Denis Yurchak noted one more time that any religious confrontation usually leads to grim consequences and that it is always necessary to bear in mind that «Thou shalt not kill».

Books recommended for those willing to make a more complex study on the subject of the lecture can be found at the Department of Local History Literature and Bibliography. The records of the lecture can be found at the project's community in VK and on the website of the Vitebsk Regional Library.

 

  • Denis Yurchak
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    Denis Yurchak
  • Ekaterina Lavrinenko
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    Ekaterina Lavrinenko
  • Pavel  Shevkun
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    Pavel Shevkun
  • Anatoly Dulov
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    Anatoly Dulov
  • Anatoly Dulov, Pavel Shevkun, Ekaterina Lavrinenko
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    Anatoly Dulov, Pavel Shevkun, Ekaterina Lavrinenko
  • The audience
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    The audience
  • The audience
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    The audience