Saint Spas Orthodox Church


Saint Spas Greek Orthodox Church was located on the left-bank side of the town. Some believe, that it could have been built in 13th century. Lithuanian dukes were sponsors of the temple. The oldest reference of this orthodox church dates back to 1509. The following ones - describing its equipage - to years 1532 and 1548. From them we learn that the orthodox church collected a tithe: rye threescore from a drag that belonged to peasants of Rudnik village, sold by Aleksander Sołtan, the King's Marshall, to Łuck Bishop Paul, which was issued in a statement by Jan, a son of said Sołtan in 1532 on April, 26th in Łaskowicze (taken from Urban acts).

The temple is an example of the Saviour cult in Pobuże area. Its creation confirms the existence of Saint Spas icon cult tradition at that time, which is a landmark for the beginnings of the biggest orthodox sanctuary on Holy Hill of Grabarka. It is possible that the orthodox church from the first half of 16th century was the oldest stone orthodox temple. There are multiple references about temple priests, donations and business deals from the years 1599-1647. They all validate construction of a hospital by monks in the first half of 17th century. The monastery itself was probably built in 1563. Apart from the monastery and temple of the Saviour, the complex included the parish orthodox church of Saint Elias, which was located there in the middle of 16th century. Nuns dwelling there ran a school for Disunite maidens. They were also responsible for conducting charity works as part of their hospital duties. The elementary school gained relatively more prestige comparing to the school located by the Trinity Monastery due to the fact that it was under the care of Transfiguration of Christ Brotherhood established around 1636.

There is an archival list of buildings in the monastery complex that dates back to 1788. Drohiczyn Monaster of Saint Spas was located right next to the river, on a level parcel of land. Even then, the orthodox church was in danger of being ruined by undermining of the river bank. Constructed on cross plan, it had 12 (15?) quadripartite glass windows and three exterior doors with iron hinges. It was made of pine bars, upholstered with clapboard and covered with shingle. There was a huge dome and four small ones with crosses on the top. The cross on the big central dome was painted gold. The interior of the temple was covered with boards and altaries with bricks. There was an iconostas with pictures of the crowned Saviour and Holy Mother with baby Jesus on her hands, both of them crowned as well. There was a throne with antimins from 1743 upholstered with baize. Islanded on the right side, there was a section of Ilija the Prophet with God's throne and antimins from 1746. Relatively sparing equipage of the temple included three Gospels, upholstered with canvas and silver, tin and silver temple dishes and a collection of books. Rectangular bell tower was made of oak bars, covered with wooden planks and shingle. There were five bells in the tower and three small bells in the temple itself. Other buildings included in the monastery complex were: two monastery cells with box rooms, kitchen chamber, three barns, a sty for livestock and a garner. The walls of the chambers were made of pine bars and the roof was covered with straw. Inside, there was a cold threshing floor. Simple furnaces, seven doors with iron hinges in total and seven windows. The grain garner made-up of pine bars was covered with straw. It had a wooden door on wooden hinges. A large part of paling that surrounded the buildings was already destroyed by the river back then.

The building became the object of dispute in religious fights. It was not until 1636 when it was solved by king Władysław IV, who yielded Spas monastery over to orthodox believers. From that moment on, the orthodox church was also called Preobrazenska. In 1653 the monastery and the temple burnt down. After 1657, during Swedish army invasion on Drohiczyn, monastery documents were lost. Two years later privileges for Transfiguration of Christ Monastery were confirmed by king John Casimir and in the following years John III Sobieski granted consecutive privileges that enabled its extension and development. The monastery ceased to exist in 1813 when flood destroyed its buildings.

Nowadays this area, called Russian Site, is merely a hamlet to Góra village that is located in Korczew commune. Buildings are gone and a trace of orthodox church complex is a place called "Cerekwisko". Archeological survey, led by K. Bieńkowska in years 1987-1988, revealed the existence of another Slavic Christian cemetery in the vicinity; 22 skeletal burials dating back to Middle Ages. Among the bones of the destroyed burials a cross made of owrucki slate was found along with a substantial amount of Early Medieval pottery. Archaeological findings seem to confirm the existence of a temple on the left side of Bug river which was far older than 16th century Saviour's orthodox church.


Sources

  1. Lech Pawlata "Budowle sakralne Drohiczyna w świetle źródeł archeologicznych i historycznych", Biuletyn konserwatorski 2011
  2. Józef Jaroszewicz "Drohiczyn - Opis historyczny", Athenaeum 1847