Heart and soul of Brest Fortress: mysteries of St Nicholas Church

Heart and soul of Brest Fortress: mysteries of St Nicholas Church

St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Brest is a unique temple. This is the very same church that is depicted on the painting given by President Lukashenko to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. And

this is the church that was converted into a Catholic one for a while, suffered greatly during the German siege of Brest Fortress at the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War but has been restored recently.

The dome of the church has seen lots of great men in its history. Our correspondent Pyotr Butrym has visited it too.

Anton Vyrva, artist:
Several years ago, I went on a guided tour of Brest Fortress. I liked the place very much. As an artist, I had a sketchbook with me and drew a lot there.

For him to see Brest Fortress meant to paint a brilliant picture. Unlike other visitors of the memorial, Anton Vyrva brought home not only impressions, but a pile of sketches. St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral gained his special attention. The young artist has always been sympathetic to the spiritual motives in art, for they both inspire and help to solve difficult artistic goals.

Anton Vyrva:
The cathedral makes the centre of the composition. I tried to convey the harmony between the ground and the skies as close to the reality as possible. Once you've managed to do this, the rest is quite easy to do.

But in the real life the cathedral has not always looked like it does today on the painting, being the small copy of the Constantinople Hagia Sophia. The time of its construction needed original architectural decisions.

Valyantsina Antsipava, senior research assistant of the Memorial Complex Brest Hero-Fortress:
As the church was to be constructed on the territory of a garrison, the architects had to take into consideration the probability of the fortress being attacked. That's why the temple looks so stumpy, so heavy.

Since the 19th century, the cathedral saw all Russian emperors from Alexander II to Nicholas II. Alexander III celebrated his name day right here. He also met the future King of Prussia Wilhelm II in the church.

Lots of the monarchs claimed they felt some special energy in the church, the energy they needed so much to solve weighty matters of state.

Vitaly Khonovets, dean of St Nicholas Garrison Church in Brest:
This church saw all Presidents of Russian Federation. The second President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, was also here and presented us several bells.

In 2004, when Patriarch Kirill was the Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and visited the garrison church, he mentioned his special attitude to the place.

Father Andrey, priest of St Nicholas garrison church:

During WWII, Patriarch Kirill's uncle fought and died here, on the territory of Brest Fortress. His burial place is unknown, but it is for sure that he died here.

The walls of the cathedral saw wars and peaceful times, the golden age and the persecution of the Church, baptism of newborns and baptism of fire. This German photo has helped to find and rebury the remains of more than 50 Soviet soldiers. The miraculously survived cathedral helped the search battalion to find the war grave.

Alla Kondak, main specialist of culture department of the Brest City Executive Committee:
The main thing is that this is the first photo with St Nicholas Church and it gave us the idea that the remains can be not only in this shell crater, but also in other ones. It turned out to be true. Later

we found the remains just in front of the cathedral.

The heart and soul of the Brest Fortress, the church still inspires and unites people. The author of the painting says he wants the relationships between Russia and Belarus to be as sunny as the day he has depicted in his work.

Anton Vyrva:
It's a great honour for an artist when his work is presented to the Patriarch.