A monument to Euphrosyne of Polotsk in Minsk near Belarusian state University
Sculpture, monuments, memorials
Belarus has been famous for its reverent attitude to wisdom and various ways of seeking knowledge for many centuries. Fr om the early times, when it was a sword and blood to decide everything, people had formed the opinion that the greatest power was in knowledge. Euphrosyne of Polotsk became a striking example of that. She devoted her life to serving God and to educating people. Her amazing intelligence and literacy were unique for that time, because women were denied the opportunity to obtain any education in the twelfth century.
Aspirations and high ideals
The noble princess was the granddaughter of Polotsk Prince Vseslav the Sorcerer. The opportunity to travel gave him knowledge and wisdom, he brought up his granddaughter the same way. There is evidence in the old manuscripts that Euphrosyne, or Predslava, has differed from other girls, her peers, for her intelligence and gentle beauty since early age. When parents decided to marry her, she ran away to the monastery, Saint Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk. Having tonsured and received the name of Euphrosyne, she threw herself into books.
She founded the convent; it became the place wh ere nuns fully devoted themselves to the service to the Lord. Being engaged in icon painting, weaving, they also recorded some chronicles and were taught to read and write. In addition to the Bible, Byzantine and Roman Divine tales became the sources of education. Gradually, the monastery became the center of education for all the lands in Western Russia. Works of Cyril and Methodius, outstanding enlighteners of the Slavic region, John Chrysostom, a well-known preacher of Christianity and "the Tale of bygone years" with other various chronicles were kept in the walls of the Cathedral.
Euphrosyne rewrote manually not only religious books but also collections of aphorisms and chronicles. Besides, Euphrosyne wrote some works of her own – the prayers to the Lord and sermons, she translated from Latin and Greek. The convent can be considered the first school in history which was fairly ruled by Euphrosyne. She also founded a monastery.
Philanthropic activities to people’s benefit
Among other things, Lazar Bogsha made a cross at the request of Euphrosyne in 1161. It has become a unique relic, bearing the historical foundations of the religion of those times. That artifact didn’t yield the Byzantine works of art in technique. The label, printed by the master, contained the information about the manufacturer, the time and the quantity of material taken. Due to that fact the masterpiece can be considered a kind of monument to handwriting.
The cross had changed its location many times, and, unfortunately, it disappeared entirely during the Second World War. It is listed in the international wanted list up to the present time, but the famous Brest master N. Kuzmich has made an identical copy under its image, which is now kept in the Holy Transfiguration Church in Polotsk.
Having made a pilgrimage to Palestine and Jerusalem, Euphrosyne died in 1173. Her relics are stored in the Spaso-Efrosinyevsky monastery, which was built at her initiative and under her leadership. A part of it has remained intact to the present day. Euphrosyne was recognized as a Saint both in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Her efforts were not in vain, her love for learning, for self-improvement, her own views and ideals have passed on to us.
In 1999, a monument carved by a talented sculptor Igor Golubev was established in the memory of Euphrosyne of Polotsk. It is located in Minsk near Belarusian state University. The initiator of this project, and the sponsor as well, was a true patriot of Belarus, the businessman and the historian Yuri Ivanovski.