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$1 Mln Palace, House Matryoshka And Other Oldest Buildings Of Minsk

Minsk has unique history – it is a city that is already over 900 years old and less than 90 years old at the same time. Because of the aftermath of WWII that swept the city away, we don’t have as many ancient buildings as other European capitals.

However, some old constructions survived over the years and perfectly complement the modern look of Minsk. CityDog.By has found six of them.

Peter and Pavel Church

Built in 1613

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This is the oldest church in Minsk. In 1913 the Princess Avdot’ya Drutskaya-Gorskaya donated the money to built the church that would protect nobles Janusz Radziwiłł, Ian Oginski and Martin Volodkovich.

The present-day appearance of the church is the way it looked like back in 1630. In the past the building was robbed and and damaged by gunfire; and was restored to its historical look in 1979-1984.

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There were hopes to restore the exterior frescoes. Such frescoes were used to decorate buildings in old Minsk – the tradition borrowed from the Balkans. But fires and damage made the paintings non-recoverable.

Basilian Monastery of the Holy Spirit

Built in 1641

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In 1617 a men’s monastery was founded here near an old wooden church. Later the church complex was enlarged by a women’s monastery. So this building is centuries old, not a remake.

In turbulent times the monasteries provided shelter not only for monsk and nuns, but for Minsk citizens as well.

The two buildings were joined by a covered gallery, that also served as the gate.

Holy Spirit Cathedral

Built in 1642

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The cathedral dates back to 1633-1642 when the city was in centre of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The building was damaged by fire in 1741 and required the reconstruction of the monastery.

It is the central cathedral of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. It houses the miraculous icon of the Mother of God, who is portrayed on the emblem of Minsk and is believed to be the city’s guardian. The legend says that the icon floated to Minsk from Kiev by the river in 1500.

Another interesting legend about the cathedral dates back to Soviet times. According to it, in 1938 the authorities organized a meeting at the square in front of the church to burn religious literature. Then one of the Communist leaders rose up the tribune to make a speech, in which he wished himself “to break a leg” in demolishing the cathedral. As the man was going down the stairs, he fell and actually broke two legs. Next day the red Soviet flags, that had been hung on the building instead of crosses, were carried away by wind and Bolsheviks decided to leave the cathedral in peace.

Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary

Built in 1710

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This is the Roman Catholic baroque cathedral. It was built in XVIII century as a church for the Jesuit house. In 1793, after the Russian conquest of Belarus, the Jesuit order was banned and the church got a local status.

The fate of the cathedral after WWII was rather gloomy. For example, in the picture below a truck is seen standing in the altar part of the building.

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There were plans to turn it into a production facility for bottling wine and vodka. But the idea of placing such production in the very centre of the city was discarded, and the cathedral became a warehouse for Kupala Theatre.

Later it was also used as a House of Physical Culture where children did taekwondo.

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In 2005 the cathedral was presented with a new organ manufactured in Austria. Around the same time the internal frescoes created in XVIII century were restored.

House No11/7 in Kamsamoĺskaja street

Built in 1740

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Without knowing when this building was constructed, it is hard to guess that it will soon be 280 years old. Professionals would descride its architectural style as “eclectic of XIX century, with elements of Empire style and classicism”. Actually, the house is 100 years older.

When Minsk became the part of the Russian Empire, a big makeover began in the city by the order of the governor. The owner of the house didn’t have enough money for a full reconstruction, so he just added a new stone part to the old wooden part and masked it with plaster to create an impression that the house was built in unique style and using one material.

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By 1850s new walls were added to the external part, absording the old stone-wood hybrid inside them. During the next 70 years the house underwent many changes and makeovers.

Few know it is one of the oldest residential houses in Minsk – and a kind of matryoshka doll!

The Palace of Pshezdetskie Family

Built in 1775

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Once Pshezdetskie were among the richest landowners of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1775 they built a mansion in the center of Minsk.

When, two decades later, the family decided to sell the house, they estimated its cost at 40 thousand of Polish zlotys (about $1 mln in modern money).

Later, the building belonged to different owners; and was to be a pharmacy and a regional recruitment office. Today it houses Mikhail Savicki Art Gallery.


The original version of this article was published by Citydog.by.