The Church of the Carmelites in Bolshaya Berestovitsa

There is a small town called Bolshaya Berestovitsa several kilometers from Poland in Grodno region. Here is a unique architectural structure – the Church of the Carmelites constructed in the XVII century.

A Catholic parish was founded in Berestovitsa in 1495. In 1506, the famous prince of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Alexander Yagellonchik gave Berestovitsa and some nearby estates as an award for outstanding service to the country to Alexander Hodkevich. His descendants were the owners of those lands for a very long time. The construction of a rich noble estate was started in Berestovitsa in 1549.

Berestovitsa was a small town in 1613. There was a wooden church at the time. It, unfortunately, was burnt during the Livonian War. Two years later, Iyeronim Hodkevich donated money for the construction of a complex consisting of a monastery of the Carmelites and a wooden church. Soon the church was reconstructed; it was decided to make it of a more durable material – stone that, by the way, turned out a milestone decision. Thanks to this, today the descendants can watch the Church of the Virgin Mary Visitation that refers to the XVII century.

In the XVII-XVIII centuries, those lands were in possession of the noblemen Mnisheks, Pototskies and Kossakovskies. A parochial school and a hospital were erected near the church at the time. The XXIII century became very successful for the church; some events made the Catholic sanctuary well-known far beyond Berestovitsa. It happened thanks to the fact that in the early XVIII century, a miraculous icon of the Mother of God was brought into the church in Berestovitsa from Rudava; according to reports of many parishioners, it had healing powers. Unfortunately, some time later, the icon disappeared and its fate is unknown to anyone. However, this sorrowful event has not broken the spirit of believers.

In the middle of the XVIII century, Berestovitsa granted the Magdeburg right, and as a result, a town council was constructed in the trading square. The Church of the Carmelites remained functioning up to the early XX century; however, with the beginning of the Soviet period, the church became neglected. Before that it had not been restored though the church was considered the most majestic monument in the village. The sanctuary was reconstructed in the XVIII century, and now it looks like a bright example of early Baroque architecture with a note of Brutalism.

The local legends say that a corpse of the outstanding war leader Yan Karol Hodkevich was buried in a special coffin within the building of the church. His sound war strategies brought victory over the Turks in the Khotyn “battle of nations” in 1621, and as a result, a myth about the invincibility of the Ottoman Empire.

The history of Bolshaya Berestovitsa remembers another interesting and even surprising fact. The local residents took an active part in the famous Polish revolt of Kastus Kalinovsky. There are also suggestions that the first issues of “Muzhitskaya Pravda” were published in the underground rooms of the Church of the Carmelites. For that reason, after the suppression of the revolt, the church was closed and given to the fold of the Orthodox Church. During the USSR period, the church hosted a furniture shop and storage.