The Work of the Workshops of St. Elisabeth Convent in New Church in Salihorsk, Belarus

The Cathedral in honour of the Nativity of Christ was consecrated on Sunday, November 26. The workshops of St Elisabeth Convent made a significant contribution to the decoration of the cathedral. Brothers and sisters from the Icon Painting Studio, Mural Painting workshop, and embroidery workshop have participated in decorating this church.

The image of Christ the Pantocrator in the central apse's conch is the first thing the faithful see as they walk into the cathedral. The side apses feature paintings with icons of the Mother of God the Orans and Prophet John the Forerunner, the so-called Deësis (praying to the Saviour), which is a popular theme in traditional fresco painting art.

The icons in the two-tier iconostasis are coloristically and compositionally united with the fresco paintings on the wall of the Holy Nativity Cathedral. The upper-tier icons, which are often referred to as festive icons, portray Gospel events. Their location is not accidental, either. The icons of the Marian feasts are located in the side apse with an image of the Mother of God; the icons of Lord's feasts are located in the central apse under the image of the Holy Saviour; and the icons that describe the life of St John the Baptist are located under the image of St John the Baptist.

The lower tier is interrupted by the central door and the side (deacon's) doors. There is an image of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Royal Door, with Archangel Gabriel to the left and Virgin Mary to the right. The side doors are decorated with icons of Old Testament prophets: Moses and his older brother Aaron the High Priest. The authors implemented the idea to hang curtains with embroidered Seraphim and Cherubim above these doors. Embroidered images like these can be traced back to the decorations of the Old Testament Tabernacle. The Royal Door curtain has an embroidery of the Crucifixion with the Theotokos and St John the Theologian on both sides. The icon of the Crucified Lord must remind us of his great sacrifice for the sake of our salvation. The Cross is the Tree of Life, the fruit of which we all are called to eat during the Holy Eucharist.

The believers will see full-figure icons of the Holy Saviour and the Mother of God with Baby Jesus in her arms on both sides of the Royal Door. An icon of the Nativity of Christ, which is the main icon of this cathedral, is to the right of the icon of the Holy Saviour, and an icon of the Resurrection of Christ, which shows his descent into hell, is to the left of the icon of Theotokos.

The lower-tier icons in the side apses include full-figure images of Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, St Nicholas the Wonderworker, St Cyril of Turaŭ, the holy patronesses of Belarus — St Euphrosyne of Polotsk and St Sophia of Slutsk, as well as the saints who are especially venerated by the residents of Salihorsk: St Gabriel of Bialystok, Great Martyr Barbara, and New Martyr John of Čyževičy.

Our icon painters painted the Calvary cross, too. A Calvary cross is a standing crucifix with figures, which the faithful can kiss in prayer.

The Most Reverend Pavel, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl, the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, who performed the rite of Great Consecration of the Cathedral and celebrated the Divine Liturgy together with other hierarchs, also noted in his sermon how beautiful this cathedral is. Metropolitan Pavel thanked the Rt Rev Anthony, bp. of Slutsk and Salihorsk, for finishing the construction of the Cathedral.

Many pilgrims from all over Belarus prayed in the Cathedral during the Liturgy. There were representatives of the local authorities, directors of industrial enterprises based in Salihorsk, and the benefactors of the Cathedral among the honorary guests.

The parish of the Holy Nativity Cathedral includes several churches: a baptismal church in honour of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos; a lower church in honour of the Nativity of St John the Baptist; and the Cathedral in honour of the Nativity of Christ. There will be a two-storied building for the Sunday School, a Sisterhood and a Youth Fellowship, near the Cathedral. The Holy Nativity Cathedral is intended to become a spiritual education centre for the Diocese of Slutsk and Salihorsk.

November 28, 2017

St. Elisabeth Convent