The ruins of monastery of Carthusians in Beryoza

The monastery, its land and its people

Beryoza is a settlement in Brest region. The former owners of these lands are the famous Belarusian-Polish magnates the Sapiehas. These people were strong, clever, educated in all generations. They were rulers, landlords, aristocrats, warriors, politicians and mostly zealous Catholics.

Beryoza is only a small part of their properties. They had palaces and residences all over Europe. But they hurried here with all their hearts, 8 generations of the family were buried here.

You can believe the legends or not, but they narrate persistently about the healing sprig the waters of which returned sight to blind people, about the appearance to  a people miraculous wooden cross with the image of Jesus Christ, about many other evidences that the place is marked by God.

It is not accidently the Catholic Order of Carthusians asked Casimir Leo Sapieh in 1648 about a permission to build them a monastery of their Order on this land. The monks of the Order, which was founded in 1046, were always famous for almost fanatic piety, asceticism in daily life, respect to science and knowledge, experience in fortification and wars. Sapieha gave a permit to start a construction, presented lands for a monastery and even attached numerous peasants to this monastery.

The architecture of the monastery

It took 40 years to build the monastery: from 1648 till 1689. Casimir Leo Sapieha had already died and had been buried in the Church of the monastery but the construction was still continuing. The architect was the invited Italian G.B. Gisleni. He adhered to the Baroque style in the construction.

It was a whole town that could withstand a long-lasting assault, but at the same time it was an impressive religious construction with all proper buildings. The monastery-fortress, the largest one on the territory of Belarus, was the only abode of the Order on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Let’s imagine: the monastery yard was surrounded with fortified walls, one could enter only through the gate with loopholes. On the perimeter there were other 5 towers with lookouts and guns.  The guns were also on the central high belfry in the center of the yard. Peaceful buildings were under their defense: they were dwelling houses, a hospital, a canteen, a pharmacy and outhouses. There was a full life support system. An example of a humanitarian side of life of the monastery brotherhood was a unique library containing 39 rarest manuscripts and 2314 printed texts. Not every Academy of those times could have boasted of such collections.   

The dramatic history and the subsequent decline of the monastery

But after the construction life began. No matter how the sacred brotherhood strove for a reclusion and prayers, but the time was too restless; passions were running high outside the monastery walls not leaving the monastery aside. As a result: the participation in the Northern War (here stepped the foot of Peter I, Augustus II and Charles XII), the participations in the risings of 1830-1831 and 1863-1864. After them the monastery was closed, the monks were settled in other abodes, and the buildings were partially demolished for building materials and they were partially destroyed by time and the fire 1915.

No matter how sad events were in the history of the monastery, its end cannot be called inglorious. A few buildings, which can be seen now, have survived after historical storms. Though all these became dilapidated and lost their grandeur but the old monastery remembers everything. Let’s enter the buildings: what can you hear in the enfilades under the curved arch, behind the thick walls? Is it a rustle of a soutane?   Is it a rustle of a silk mantle? Is it rolling of cannonballs? Is it ringing of bells? Is it a whisper of a prayer? You should come here and listen to it.