St. Boris-Gleb Kolozhskaya Church
Borisoglebskaya Church (Kolozhskaya Church, Kolozha) is one of the oldest preserved churches of Ancient Russia, a unique monument of Black Russian architecture. It is located on the territory of modern Belarus in Grodno, on the high bank of the Neman River. The exact date of construction has not been established, presumably, the church was built in the 1180s. Consecrated in honor of Boris and Gleb. The church is made of plinth and has a unique facade decor — the unpainted walls are decorated with inserts of polished colored boulders and glazed ceramic tiles. The walls of the temple are double, numerous voice jugs are embedded in the inner layer between the bricks, giving the room special acoustic properties.
The church was repeatedly destroyed during the wars, but the greatest damage was caused by landslides in the middle of the XIX century. Then the southern and partially western walls were lost, during the restoration of 1896-1906 they were replaced with wooden ones. The last restoration cycle took place in 2017-2019.
Together with the complex of monuments of the Castle Hill, it is declared a historical and architectural reserve. It is among the sites proposed by the Government of Belarus as candidates for inclusion in the List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A detailed work on the construction and history of the temple was left by Ignatius Kulchinsky, Archimandrite of the Kolozhsky Monastery in 1736-1747. Researchers rely on his book "Inventory of the Grodno Kolozhsky Basilian Monastery", published in 1748, as the main source about the history of the church. According to Kulchinsky, it was erected at about the same time as St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk, around 1200. He came to this conclusion on the basis of an inspection and analysis of the masonry of brick-plinths at both temples. Modern historians, however, having a large number of tools for analysis, share two different ways: the Polotsk Sophia is built with a typical square plinth opus mixtum for the XI century, while the Kolozha church uses an elongated ordinal masonry, common in the XII century. The bricks have preserved the brands from the master manufacturers: images in the form of fish, keys, stars.
Presumably, the Kolozhskaya Church became the third stone church in Grodno and was built during the reign of the Grodno princes Boris and Gleb Vsevolodkovich (the first died before 1166, the second in 1170) and consecrated in honor of their heavenly patrons, Boris and Gleb. According to another version, the temple was built in the 1180s by the children of Boris and Gleb. Legends attribute the construction of the church to the local architect Peter Milonega. The construction of the temple was carried out on the site of the Kolozhan tract (the name "kolozhan, kolozhen" means a place where numerous springs beat), which was revered by local pagans. According to other studies, the name of the tract comes from the inhabitants of the Pskov fortress Kolozha, whom Grand Duke Vitovt captured during the attack on Pskov in 1406 and relocated to the territories adjacent to the Borisoglebskaya Church. After the devastating fire of 1184, which destroyed the cathedral church of the ancient Goroden, the Borisoglebskaya Church became the main city temple. The same dedication to Boris and Gleb had the oldest church of Novogrudok, probably built at the same time with Kolozhskaya and, possibly, with the participation of Grodno craftsmen.
Kolozhskaya Church is a unique building that has no analogues in world architecture. Due to the fact that the temple has numerous analogies with the Lower Church in Grodno, scientists tend to single out an independent school of architecture, partially incorporating Romanesque features. Structurally, the Kolozhskaya Church is a cross-domed temple with three semicircular apses, the altar is traditionally directed to the east. The length of the building is 21.75 m, the width is 13.25 m, the height of the preserved part of the walls is about 9 m. The church has unique double walls. The outer walls are 1.2 m thick, in the lower part they are made of plinth, in which large boulders were placed, processed from the outside to a flat edge. As we moved up, the number and size of boulders decreased. The plinth is equal—layered - the thickness of the mortar is equal to the thickness of the bricks. A narrow corridor runs between the inner and outer walls of the temple. The interior walls are remarkable for the first time described in Kulchinsky's "Inventory" by the voice artists: "there are many holes that seem small and narrow, because only a hand can be inserted into them, but inside the walls expand into large and wide pots." Voicemakers facilitate the construction of the temple and create a special sound resonance.
Outside, the unpainted facades were decorated with glazed majolica panels, mainly in the form of crosses, as well as decorative inserts of polished granite and gneiss boulders of different colors (red, brown, dark crimson, gray-green, olive). The roof and domes were also covered with colored glazed tiles. The syntron included a bench 38 cm wide, extending to the shoulder blades of the apse wall, inside which stood the bishop's throne. There was one main and four side altars in the church, made of carved wood of "snitzer work", that is, carved not by a carpenter, but by a cabinetmaker. The floor was made of shield-cross-shaped tiles.
Already in the first half of the XVIII century, Kulchinsky noted that the place for the church was chosen extremely unsuccessfully: the sandy mountain began to crumble already in antiquity, and by the middle of the 18th century the temple was under threat of complete destruction.
In Kulchinsky's work "Chronicle of Hegumens, Archimandrites, curators and patrons of the Grodno Kolozhsky Monastery", Kalist, who ruled Kolozhya from 1480 to 1492, was named the first abbot. It is also known that in 1480, the ancestor of the Volovich family, Grinka Khodkavich Volovich, ordered an annual supply of edible supplies from his possessions. Legends mention that during the war with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1487-1494, cannons were placed on the walls of the temple. Kulchinsky wrote that the church was destroyed in the XV century by the Moscow troops of Ivan III, who besieged the Old Castle during the Russian-Lithuanian War of 1487-1494 and allegedly covered the Kolozhskaya Church with sand in order to put cannons on it and shoot at the castle. Adam Kirkor already says that Charles XII put cannons on the church walls.
In 1500, Grand Duke Alexander granted the church a "garden on Kolozhenyakh", and on the initiative of his wife Elena, the Borisoglebsky monastery was founded near the church, which later became the Basilian monastery. At the beginning of the XVI century, the church was restored on the initiative of Bogush Bogovitenovich.
In 1554, the management of the monastery passed to Mark Volovich, and from him to his son Semyon. The latter went down in the history of Kolozha as a bad ruler, for example, in the History of the Russian Church, Bishop Makary Bulgakov mentioned that Volovich "turned all the revenues of the monastery exclusively to his advantage." In 1568, he even gave the monastery to Pan Pavel Kotovich, but soon took it back.
At the end of the XVI century, the monastery owned a significant part of the Kolozhsky Park, the land was leased to gardeners. Chroniclers wrote that Archimandrites Belozor, Grigory Benkovsky and Drutsky-Sokolinsky "brought the monastery to the point that the church was turned into a desert, the lands belonging to the monastery were looted." Until 1689, it was in complete desolation, under Jehoshaphat existing only "as one name". In the XVII century, the temple was used as an outbuilding for the needs of the Grodno castle. By the time the monastery was headed by Ignatius Kulchinsky, the monastery owned a garden on the Neman, the Ponemun folvarok, the Cheshchevlyany estate, as well as forests and meadows of the Sokolsky district.
With the death of Ignatius Kulchinsky, the chronicle history of the Kolozha Church was interrupted for a long time. It is known that in 1791 the altar was consecrated by the Uniate Metropolitan Theodore Rostotsky, and in 1827 the church was covered with a new shingle.
On the night of April 2, 1853, the entire southern and part of the western wall of the temple collapsed into the Neman. Another landslide occurred in 1864, after which the building was repaired: piles were driven into the ground in place of the lost walls and a new foundation was erected. During the restoration in 1870, the ancient frescoes in the conches were discovered. In 1873, a temporary chapel was installed in the former altar, and in the rest of the building there were supports to support the collapsing parts. In 1889, due to a new landslide, the apse of the deaconess collapsed. In 1896-1906, scientific conservation of the ancient building was carried out. Taking as a basis a certain optimal date, the restorers restored the appearance of the building before the collapse. Then they strengthened the shore, covered the church with a gable shingle roof, erected wooden walls to replace the lost ones, and restored the throne of Boris and Gleb. The Synod, however, did not approve of the historically oriented approach and in 1904 ordered the "restoration of the missing parts". In 1911, the ancient niches of the walls and the northern portal were laid, but further work was prevented by the First World War. During the evacuation in 1915, the Kolozha Icon of the Mother of God, the main relic of the temple, which was considered miraculous, was taken to Russia. Subsequently, it was lost, only the lists were preserved.
After the incorporation of Grodno into Poland, a special committee was created to strengthen the Kolozha Church. Dr. Bronislav Galitsky from Vilna University conducted geological surveys of the Neman coast, after which it was decided to remove one and a half meters of the cultural layer. Without extra soil, the original proportions of the church were revealed. In 1929, a fence was built around the church cemetery, the architect of which was Jozef Iodkovsky.
From September 1939 until the 1990s, worship services in the church were banned. In the 1960s, it was transferred under the management of the Grodno State Historical and Archaeological Museum, the building began to be used as a museum. In 1977, the floor was laid out in the temple. In 1978, Kolozha was transferred to the Republican Museum of Atheism and the History of Religion. In the 1980s, a series of archaeological and art studies took place in the building, and in the 1990s, services resumed. The oak iconostasis was restored at the donation of Vladimir Mulyavin.