Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral


Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral in the town of Polatsk is part of the Tentative list of Belarus in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral are two historic religious buildings in Polatsk. The 11th century St. Sophia Cathedral now is mainly a baroque structure due to extensive 18th century renovations. The 12th century Saviour Transfiguration Church is a well-preserved monument of Pre-Mongol Rus architecture.

Map of Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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Svein Elias

Norway - 02-Feb-20 -

Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral (T) by Elias

Early October 2019 we went on a 6 days roundtrip of Belarus. An Air Baltic flight via Riga, a Visa-on-arrival and a rent-a-car at arrival made this arrival like everywhere else. To our surprise it was a Russian registered car! We wondered if the Russian-Belarusian relations between "the commons" were ok or would we experience any bullying, but it all turned out ok.

We headed against Polatsk. Our "smart" GPS took us through highways and smaller roads, also through small towns and even gravel roads! Mainly the roads are ok, so everything worked out just fine. After 2 1/2 hours we arrived Polatsk round six o'clock in the evening.

There is about an hour of daylight, what do we do? We decided to locate the nearest part of this TWHS. The nearest part was the St. Sophia Cathedral. The church itself has Wojciech described perfectly so there is little to add. There were people (typically mothers with children) going in and out, it looked like some kind of a music school, so we didn't go inside. We established that the exterior is nice, but is it special enough? We've visited just so many churches throughout Europe (and South America), inscribed and not inscribed, so this is just another one. This one need not be inscribed.

After a stayover at a small hotel (which we prefer) with a huge language barrier (using mostly hand- and finger-language) we visited Polatsk centre, beginning with the square with the 1812-monument and the nice main street including the house where Peter the Great stayed from time to time, we headed for the Saviour Transfiguration Church in the outskirts of town. After re-dressing and entering the area we quickly found then church at rear. Even though it's still under reconstruction (fenced all around) we found passage though the fence and went up to the door. Closed, but we could get a glimpse of the inside through the glass door, but we just saw a few of the frescoes from afar so it was kind of disappointing.
We turned to leave, but immediately we ran into a nun with a huge key in her hand. She smiled and we understood she would open for us. Fantastic! The frescoes (and the church) had scaffolding inside, but they weren't dominating so we could freely enjoy the nice frescoes. Photos was prohibited, but the nun went into some kind of an office, so we had the place for ourselves (and we learn from Philipp).
We also agree with Wojciech on this part, it should definitely be inscribed.

### Randi & Svein Elias

Wojciech Fedoruk

Poland - 10-Jul-19 -

Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral (T) by Wojciech Fedoruk

This is a very strange nomination. Belarus proposed two churches that now have nothing in common except being in the same town of Polatsk. The first one – Saviour Transfiguration Church – is one of the oldest and most important churches in Belarus. Now it is part of the complex of the Monastery of Transfiguration and St. Euphrosine, a bit far from the center. Judging from the outside, the church is the least prominent building of the monastery (it is also the most distant from the entrance). Its real value is inside, as the whole interior is covered with original beautiful frescoes. During my visit (June 2019) the church was closed for renovation but you could look inside. The best frescoes were also presented on billboards around the church. The whole monastery is white and resembles monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal (the oldest churches there were built in the same epoque).

Please note that, as in most monasteries in Russia your outfit is strictly examined. You cannot enter in shorts but you can borrow long pants (men) or scarf and dress (women) at the entrance.

On the contrary, the St. Sophia Cathedral is located in the center of the town, next to the river Dvina. It used to be one of the oldest churches in Belarus until 1710 when, after huge explosion of ammunition stored inside the church was almost totally destroyed. It was rebuilt in the style of Vilnius Baroque in the second half of XVIIIth century and only some foundations survived from the original. Now the church is almost empty inside and serves as a musem (not very interesting to be honest). Although the building looks nice from outside, there are plenty of similar baroque buildings in Europe. I cannot find any outstanding universal value of this property.

To sum up, for me thumbs up for inscribing Transfiguration Church, thumbs down for St. Sophia Cathedral. I see no reason for these two buildings going together in one nomination.

By the way Polatsk is one of the niciest cities in Belarus and it is absolutely one of the top attractions of this country (and one of geographic centers of Europe – the commemorating monument is in the very center of the town, which is a bit suspicious).

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2 Votes

Full Name
Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral in the town of Polatsk
Religious structure - Christian
2009 Requested by State Party to not be examined

2004 Added to Tentative List

The site has 2 locations

Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral: Saviour Transfiguration Church (T)
Saviour Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral: St. Sophia Cathedral (T)
WHS 1997-2024