The Lower and Upper Churches in Grodno (The Old Castle)

The Lower and Upper Churches in Grodno (The Old Castle)

Grodno region is the only region in Belarus where the largest number of ancient religious buildings have been preserved. The most significant of them is the Lower and Upper Churches which are also called “The Old Castle”. These constructions are the oldest known Christian churches.

Once upon a time, excavations were carried out in that place, the results of them were truly amazing. They confirmed a well-known fact that Grodno was the central settlement of the Western-Russian independent principality in the 11th century. Today you can see a part of the preserved ancient Lower Church on the place of the Old Castle. Such a name is no accident: the Upper Church was built on the intact foundation. Now this construction is the oldest building that you can touch.

Historians suppose that the building of the Lower Church is dated back to the very beginning of the 12th century (the exact date has not been still determined). Everyone who was involved in the construction of the temple very tenderly and considerately treated the church. Architects were erecting a new temple according to the finest examples of Christian buildings. Parishioners had to find serenity there, to pray and enjoy the beauty of the House of God. However, the church had not stood for long. In 1183, the building was struck by lightning, after which there was a great fire. The Church was not restored after that tragic event, but the walls of the building continued to stay for a long time.

In the 14thcentury, Grand Duke Vitovt decided to restore the Old Castle, in the result of which the ruins of the Lower Church were covered with cobblestones and filled with lime mortar to obtain a smooth platform. It was that place where the Upper Church was erected. By the way, it was absolutely not similar to its predecessor structure. Its area was only nine by nine metres, it was square shaped and a little unprepossessing from the outside. But the church withstood a lot of troubles and hardships during its existence. Crusaders and Volyn princes organized terrible raids, and urban rebellions and other upheavals strongly influenced the appearance of the temple. However, the Church has always remained the only refuge for a soul, seeking salvation and peace.

Perhaps the appearance of the building looks rustic and uncouth, but this is one of the few architectural structures extant since the 12th century! Of course, the Lower Church was much prettier and richer than the Upper one. There were decorative natural boulders on the facades. Some of them had chamfers. The boulders were split into two parts, which were embedded in the walls and sometimes were subjected to polishing. Such a technology could significantly save construction material. By the way, some of them are so smooth that it is very difficult to imagine how architects could do that difficult work without modern devices in 12thcentury.

However, it is almost impossible to contemplate this beauty. Everything that has been managed to preserve from the Lower Church until today, you can see in the covered part of the Old Castle. Nearby are kept parts of the Upper Church. However, despite this, even when you look at these ruins of Christian churches, you will plunge in old events and imagine in reality what it looked like. It is safe to say, that the Lower and Upper Churches in Grodno are the real “Belarusian Greece”.