Churches of the Golubichi Deanery of ‘Polish Polatsk’ Ruthenian Uniate Archdiocese According to the Visitation of 1789 (Summary)

Paweł Sygowski (PDF)

The culture formed in the environment of the Ruthenian Uniate Church was an important part of the historical cultural landscape of the eastern lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the eighteenth century. The Metropolitanate of Kyiv of the Ruthenian Uniate Church was divided into eight eparchies (dioceses). The Archeparchy of Polatsk was the most distant to the northeast and the second largest. It consisted of 27 deaneries, about 600 parishes and 250 filial churches.

In 1772, after the first Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russia occupied the eastern part of the Archeparchy. Only the western part, with ten deaneries, 179 parishes and 141 filial churches, described as the Archeparchy of ‘Polish Polatsk’, was left with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Between 1789 and 1790, it was visited, most likely by order of the Metropolitan and Bishop of Chelm, Theodosius Rostocki.

Golubichi was one of the ten deaneries of the ‘Polish Polatsk’ Archeparchy, located in the northern part of it. The Uniate church in Germanovichi was new and one of only two masonry churches in the Archeparchy. The remaining churches were wooden, of various layouts and shapes. The church in Kublichi had a pediment on the façade that was decorated with two towers. Undoubtedly, it is the assimilation of Catholic church forms into the tradition of Uniate church buildings and the influence of ‘Vilnius Baroque’ on the architecture of Uniate churches. The assimilation of elements from Catholic churches is even more evident in the interior decoration of the Uniate churches. First, it is evident in the iconostasis design according to examples of Catholic churches.

Icons are dominated by traditional representations. Icons of saints of the Catholic Church were present in the Ruthenian Uniate churches: St Anthony of Padua in Plisa and Bogushevichi, St Francis in Psuya Staraya and Kovali and St Apollonia in Golubichi. This type of representation is even more common in rural churches. The tradition of the Catholic Church is reflected in the frequent mention of the altar and processional crosses with the Crucifix. The benches and a pulpit were elements of the western interior of the Uniate church in Dzisna. A pulpit is also mentioned in Kovali.

The visitation of 1789 was the last opportunity to experience the Uniate tradition in these lands before the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795. The Russian occupation of its eastern lands led to the persecution of the Uniates that culminated in the dissolution of the Ruthenian Uniate Church in the Empire in 1839. Later in the twentieth century, history brought such further losses of Uniate churches that the Uniate tradition in these lands was almost completely destroyed. This tradition has been part of the cultural landscape of the region for almost two centuries and is therefore worth remembering and exploring.

Keywords: Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth, partitions, visitation, Catholic tradition, Russia