Pinsk is a small ancient town on the left bank of the river Pina in Polessye, the southern region of Belarus.
Among all the Pinsk sights the Assumption Cathedral of the former monastery of the Franciscans is the most prominent one. Its high-pitched tiled roof and skyward campanile becomes a solid landmark and the symbol of Pinsk clearly seen from different points of the town historical center. It is always being painted and photographed.
The Franciscan Order was the first Catholic order to appear in Polessye more than 6 centuries ago. Many dukes and kings gave Pinsk Franciscans lots of vouchsafements, but the Cathedral remained wooden till the end of the 17th century. The new Assumption Cathedral built of stone was sanctified in 1730 and its frontage decoration was finished in 1766.
Medieval might and Baroque elegance joined in the outlook of the Cathedral. High gothic-like nave is overarched, flank fronts are gentle and laconic. Over the three-tiered frontage ornated with exedras and pilasters, belted with wrought-iron lattice there is a pediment and two small towers on sides. The skyward sculpture of Madonna surrounded by Angels is above the main entrance.
In 1817 a campanile designed by A. K. Kamensky, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna, was built in the Cathedral yard. The campanile was lower than the Cathedral and looked massive and dumpy. It remained standing until 1921 when a great fire destroyed its dome and interior together with the famous Pinsk clock. In course of reconstruction in 1930 the fourth tier and the dome designed by I. W. Zholtovsky, the famous Russian architect and academician were built. The campanile became the dominant part of the Cathedral ensemble. Sharp-eyed Pinsk citizens called it “the tower of Pisa” as the campanile is a bit deflected from its vertical axis.
In the 1920s the monastery was rebuilt.In 1925 the seminary headed by the bishop Zygmunt Loziński was founded here.
Kazimir Sviontak who became the Cardinal long time later graduated from the seminary in 1939. His life was closely connected with Pinsk.
After release from Stalin's concentration camps in 1954 Kazimir Sviontak became the custodier of Franciscans heritage. He had been serving the God, the Cathedral and people for more than 70 years. Due to his efforts the Cathedral was reconstructed in 1981-1986 and the whole ensemble became the pearl not only of Pinsk but of the whole Belarus. Kazimir Sviontak himself became the first Belarusian Cardinal since 1798. In 2006 the President of France Jacques Chirac awarded the Cardinal, Apostolic Administrator of Pinsk the title of the Commander of Legion of Honour for fightfor for personal and religious freedom .On July 21, 2011, aged 96, the famous Cardinal Kazimir Sviontak died. He was buried in marble sarcophagus in the Assumption Cathedral crypt - in accordance with the Cardinal’s last will. He had chosen Pinsk - the most important town of his life - as his final resting place.
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