Saturday, 24 March 2012

Cross of Saint Euphrosyne

The Cross of Saint Euphrosyne was a revered relic of the Russian Orthodox Church and Belarus, which was made in 1161 by Lazar Bogsha for the order of Saint Euphrosyne of Polatsk and lost in June 1941 in Mahilyow.

Euphrosyne, mother superior of Polotsk Convent, ordered the cross to decorate the new Transfiguration church.
Base is made of cypress. Its front and back surfaces of the attached 21 gold, and to the side - 20 silver plates. The cross was decorated with precious stones, ornaments, of the front side of the cross is framed string of pearls.

At the upper ends of the cross placed images of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist in the center of the lower cross - the four evangelists, on the ends - the archangels Gabriel and Michael, at the bottom of the cross after cross - the images of saints Euphrosyne of Alexandria, Sophia and George (patron ordered it, and her parents).

On the reverse side of the cross images Holy Fathers John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Peter and Paul, Protomartyr Stephen, martyrs Demetrius of Thessalonica, and Panteleimon. Above each scapular partly Greek, partly Slavic letters made ​​the inscription.

In the middle of the cross were relics: fragments of the Cross of Christ with drops of his blood, the stone from the tomb of the Mother of God, a part of the Holy Sepulcher, relics of St. Stephen and St. Panteleimon, the blood of St. Demetrios.

In the 13th century, the cross was relocated to Smolensk; after a long travel across the country, it was returned to Polotsk in 1841. The cross was thoroughly photographed for the record in 1896. In 1928 the nationalized relic was taken to Minsk, then, in 1929, to Mahilyow, and was locked in a safe box of regional Communist Party headquarters.

The cross disappeared during the swift occupation of Belarus by German forces (June-July 1941).
There are no reliable accounts of what happened to the cross in 1941. There are at least three different versions (other than destruction by fire or plunder):
  1. The official Soviet version abruptly stated that the cross was looted by Germans.
  2. In 1991, the minister of culture of Belarus asserted that the cross, together with other Belarusian treasures, had been evacuated to Moscow.
  3. German paperwork of the Alfred Rosenberg organization recorded a Mahilyow treasure captured by Germans in Smolensk. However, there is no evidence of the Polotsk Cross itself.
In 1997, Nikolay Kuzmich, a craftsman from Brest, completed an officially endorsed replica of the cross, now on display in the Polotsk cathedral.

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