The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Mstislavl

From historical point of view, almost all of Belarusian towns and small villages have rich and quite eventful life. A small town of Mstislavl, which belongs to Mogilev region, is undoubtedly one of them. The first mentioning of these lands can be found in the well-known Hypatian Codex of 1156.  That place served as a defensive fortress on the western border of Smolensk principality. Many researchers consider that the principality itself had been formed half a century earlier, and that event was connected with the rule of the prince Mstislav Vladimirovich. That prince, by the way, was a son of a famous politician and cultural figure – Vladimir Monomakh, who had ruled Smolensk in the XII century.

The town was likely to be named after its owner, Prince Mstislav, who did a great deal for that place development. Several monuments of Orthodox and Catholic architecture, which are of great interest for the research of cultural and historical heritage of Belarusian people, have preserved until today. The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which was consecrated in 1637 as Catholic sacred place under the Carmelite monastery, is one of them. That is why it is not surprising that many people know this building as the Carmelite temple.

It is worth noting that there were about five different religious establishments on the territory of Mstislavl in the old days. There were both St. Nicholas Cathedral, and the Carmelite temple, and Alexander Nevsky Church, and a wooden Orthodox church and even the Dominican temple. Unfortunately, some of them haven’t preserved because of frequent major fires.

Initially, the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was a wooden one and wasn’t at all distinguishing with its architectural features. We can even say that it was rather unremarkable. However, the church went through considerable changes in external and internal decoration about 50 years later. Thus, the town of Mstislavl was decorated with a large and beautiful Catholic church in 1630. It was erected of stone. Soon, the church was no longer the property of the Carmlites, as in 1654 Moscow troop attacked the town, and it killed almost all of that Order’s monks. Two main frescos located in the middle of the church are devoted to these tragic events.

The temple was on reconstruction again in the middle of the XVIII century. Due to the talented ideas of a well-known master Johann Glaubitz, two main towers were changed, the décor of the facade was enriched and the roof shape was transformed a little. Since that moment, the construction acquired Baroque view with some elements of Rococo style. Nowadays you can see three naves, which are separated from each other with three-column lines. The size of the main part of the building resembles somewhat a square. Five-sided apse, which successfully completes all the art and architectural composition of the temple, is located near the central nave. By the way, there is a two-storied outhouse near the temple; it is used to be called a warm chapel.

In the inner decoration, the main attractions of the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary – 20 frescos, which relate to the XVII century, strike your eyes right away. These ancient images have preserved perfectly unlike the church itself. Now the restoration works are being carried out in the main building of the church, and the divine services are held in a small outbuilding.