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Cross of Efrosinia of Polock

Cross of Efrosinia of Polock.

The Icon

The Cross of St. Evfrosinya Polotskaya.

A unique masterpiece of the ancient belarusian art of enameling, a monument of 12 century's written language; a religious and spiritual relic of Belorussians.

The Cross was made in 1161 by a jeweler from Polotsk, Lazarus Bogsha, by request of Evfrosinya, the abbess of Polotsk, and was used as an ark for keeping christian relics. The cross has 6 ends, its height is 51,8 centimeters, the length of the upper crossing is 14 centimeters, the length of the lower crossing is 21 centimeter. The basis is made of cypress tree, from above and below it is covered with 21 golden plate with jewels, ornament and 20 silver plates covered with gold; the edge of the Cross's front side is framed with a thread of pearls. The plates of the front side represent an icon - the great, or expanded, deisus. On the top ends of the Cross there are zone images of Christ, Saint Virgin Mary, John the Baptist. In the center of the lower crossing there are four evangelists, on the ends there are archangels Michael and Gabriel. In the heel of the Cross, right after the crossing there are heavenly patrons of the customeress and her parents: St. Evfrosinya of Alexandria, St. Martyr George and St. Sophia. To the upper crossing a small 4-ended cross is attached, to the lower - a 6-ended one. On the the backside of the Cross there are images of fathers of church: St John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzin (Theologian), apostles Peter and Paul, St. Stephen, St. Dimitry, St. Pantheleimone. Above each icon there are inscriptions written in both Greek and Slavic letters.

In the middle of the Cross, in five signed square housings there were relics: pieces of the Lord's Cross with drops of His blood, a part of a stone from St. Virgin Mary's grave, particles of the relics of St. Stephen and St. Pantheleimone, blood of St. Dimitriy

These sacred relics were delivered to Polotsk by the special expedition, which was sent to Byzantium by St. Evfrosinya.

In the lowest part of the Cross there is an inscription with the name of the author made in small letters: (Lord, help your servant Lazarus, named Bogsha, who has made this cross for the church of St. Saviour and Evfrosinya). On the lateral butt - ends of the Cross there is a big testamental inscription written in two lines as a spiral (translation into Russian): "In the year 6669 Evfrosinya puts the sacred Cross in her monastery, at the church of St. Saviour. The tree is sacred and invaluable, its frame is made of gold and silver, stones and pearls for 100 grivnas, and to 40 grivnas, let it never be brought out of the monastery, and not to be sold, and not to be given. If anybody doesn't obey and will bring the Cross out, let the sacred Cross will help him neither in this, nor in the future life, let he'll be damned by the Saint Life-giving Trinity and Saint Fathers, and let his fate fill be the fate of Judas, who sold Christ. Who will dare to make this, whether he'll be a master, or a prince, or a bishop, or an abbess, or any other person, let he'll have this damnation. Let Evfrosinya, the servant of Christ, who has put this cross, will have eternal life with all saints".

The creation of the conceived costed such big amount of work and efforts and demanded such significant material means, that the reverend customeress gave her blessing to engrave an inscription on the lateral plates of the Cross; this inscription told, by whose diligence, for what church the Cross was made and how many it costed. Sometimes well-known princes sacrifised very expensive things for temples, but there was nothibg equal to the Cross of St. Evfrosinya Polotskaya.

The destiny of this exclusive christian relic is also unique. At first the Cross was kept in the church of abbess Evfrosinya. In the XIII century the princes of Smolensk, who captured Polotsk, conveyed the Cross to Smolensk. Later the Cross was changing its destination, in accord with changing of historical events. In 1841 after a long stay in Moscow and St. Petersburg the Cross was delivered to Polotsk. Religious procession from the Cathedral of St. Sophia to the repaired cathedral of the Monastery of Savior and Evfrosinya testified, that the sacred relic has returned on the place which was defined for the Cross by abbess Evfrosinya. Here the orthodox relic had to be kept for almost 90 years.

In 1928 the director of the Byelorussian state museum left for Polotsk with the expedition, the purpouse of which was to find the relic. The cross was found in a local finance department and then it was conveyed to Minsk. In those years it was planned to transfer the capital of Belarus to Mogilev. The Cross of Saint Evfrosinya Polotskaya has appeared there in 1929 - it was kept in the strong-room of Mogilyov region commitee and a city committee of the communist party.

Then the Great Patriotic War of 1941 began. In confusion and haste the equipment of factories was taken out. Probably they didn't resue the rarities that were kept in museums. The cross has disappeared without leaving a trace. All further efforts to find it didn't give any result.

The years have passed. During the celebration of the millenium of Polotsk diocese and Orthodox church on Belarus (1992) it was decided to reconstruct the great Orthodox relic. A laborious and crucial work was started by blessing of the Patriarch of Jerusalem Diador II and metropolitan Filaret, the Patriarchal Exarch of the whole Belarus. Belarusian jeweler and enameller, the member of the Belarusian Union of artists Nicolay Petrovich Kuzmich was given a commission to reconstruct the sanctuary. With the Divine favour and help big difficulties were defeated. The technique of plique-a-jour, that seemed to be lost forever, was restored again. It was nessesary for a secular artist Nicolay Kuzmich, as he himself said, to overcome usual human temptations and to pass the spiritual purification. On this hard way "the God and Evfrosinya Polotskaya were together" with him.

In restoration of the Cross the Divine business was united with human business, for after decades of revelry of the militant atheism the big need was felt for the spiritual life inverted to christian values. "In the history the Cross was a symbol of Byelorussian sanctity and even state system," mentioned the Member of higher church clergy Filaret during the work of scientific and advisory panel in Brest in 1996, "for it was created as a mean of uniting the Slavic tribes… According to the idea of the venerable Evfrosinya, the Cross was to unite familiar Slavic tribes, as they were quarelling from time to time.

That's why the Cross is a symbol of victory of good over evil, a symbol of unity because the victory of good over evil is a result of unanimity of the forces of goodness ".

Five years have passed since the beginning of reconstructive work upon a relic. In 1997 the reconstructed ancient Cross of Saint Evfrosinya Polotskaya was consecrated in Saint-Simon's cathedral of Brest, and then placed in the Temple of the Lord's Transfiguration in The Saviour and Evfrosinya's monastery of Polotsk to pray genuflectively before it for Church, for the whole world and for Fatherland.

Translation from Russian Filipp Kokosha.

Our thanks to Alexander and Filipp Kokosha who viewed our site and prepared and sent this matierial to us.