Budslav Mother of God icon is one of the most honoured catholic relics not only in Belarus but far beyond its borders. Nowadays the icon is in the church in village Budslav, Myadelsky district Minsk region.
In 2004 the church in Budslav celebrated its 500 year anniversary. The number of pilgrims who came to the celebration on July, 2 was according to different sources 20,000-50,000 people. The group of pilgrims from Pinsk, for instance, walked the distance of 500 km to take part in this festive event. The pilgrims from Minsk cycled to the village Budslav to give honours to the icon. It is considered a unique event in the history of Catholic world.
Prince Alexandr Jagelonchik presented a part of the forest to four monks in 1504. They built a small house there called “buda” in Belarusian language.
That is considered the origin of the name of the place Buda or Budslav, which was first mentioned in the chronicles on September, 7, 1783.
This is what the history tells us about the church, an architectural monument in late baroque. It is a magnificent building (50m in width, 62m in length) rich in stucco moulding with two towers and the cross-and-dome roof. Art and ornamental wooden altar is deep in the nave. Together with the organ decorated with gilt carving in rococo the altar attracts everybody’s attention. The paintings are made by Antishevsky.
Not far from the church is St. Barbara Chapel preserved from the original brick church. Every detail of the interior amazes the spectators however hand-carved wooden altar overshadows all of them. The unique altar “Ascension of Mother of God” was created by Pete Gramel in 1649. A sample of early baroque art of the XVII century, it is divided into several parts – the central double-level flat part and side ones descending to the centre and reminding Corinthian colonnades. They serve as side scenes to 20 sculptures in the arch alcoves on the corbels of frontispieces.
The contrast of gilted elements (grotesque interlacements in curls and drapery of angels, lions, acanthus leaves, shells) and black background, Renaissance clarity and steadiness of composition are combined with clear baroque features: theatricality and decorative richness of sculptural ensemble. Ceremonial portraits of the Popes (Sikst IV and V, Nicola IV, Alexander V) painted in XVII century add to the beauty of the altar. Each way from the altar stand very impressive sculptural figures of St. Peter and Paul with a high relief heart in the thorny wreath in between.
An unusual event happened in this village. It was described by Tomash Dygon in «Praesidentia Budensis» in 1588. After the christening people saw an unusual light from the sky which illuminated the Chapel and the house. After 2 day fasting and everyday sermon a cloud appeared in the sky that threw light upon the Chapel and monk’s house. The Holy Mother of God with Her Son in the arms appeared in the cloud. The Virgin surrounded by angels said: “From this time on, the grandeur of God and My Son and My protection be on you…”
Since that time, 1588, the place has become the source of God grace and wonders, states the chronicle.
According to the history of the church the first owner of the icon was Minsk voevode (commander of an army, governor of a province in ancient Russia) Yan Pats by name. On becoming a Catholic he made a pilgrimage to Rome and in 1598 received the icon from Pope Clement VIII. Yan Pats placed the icon to the chapel near his palace in Vilna. Later on the owner of Mother of God portrayal was a chaplain Isaac Sokolai. On Holy Saturday 1613 by request of monks he offered the icon to the church of Buda. During the war between Russia and Rzeczpospolita the monks took the icon to Sokulka in Belostochina (the territory of present-day Poland).
In his hand-written book “Zodiak on earth” (1650) Elevter Zeleevich tells about more than 30 wonderful recoveries and benefactions of the miracle-working portrayal. The following story was told to the prior of St. Simon and St. Helen Church Vladimir Zavalnyuk.
In 1941 Soviet troops wanted to blow up the church. The time was settled – on July, 1. When people learnt about the plan of atheists they gathered near the church and prayed for the whole night. In the morning the troops left the town. So believers and the icon saved the church.
What does miracle-working portrayal look like?
The icon of Mother of God is painted in oils, the size of the painting is 72х65 sm. There is an inscription on the other side of the icon. It dates back to the year 1649 and contains information about the origin of the painting.
Mother of God holds a baby in her left arm and pointing to Her Son with Her right hand. The baby faces the onlooker. Jesus has a pomegranate in His left hand. With His right hand He gives His blessing.
Silver icon setting repeats the drapery. It is smooth in the background and ribbed in the places of clothes and aureolas. The coat of the Virgin is decorated with gold lace. Some places of icon setting are also gilted to reproduce the color of the original. On their heads Mother of God and Her Son have convex crowns ornamented with precious stones. The whole painting is mounted into a carved frame decorated with gilted silver lace.
In July 1991 in Belostok during the fourth pilgrimage of the Papa John Pole II to Poland he was presented a duplicate of the Budslav Mother of God icon. The miracle-working icon that comes from Rome returned there after no less than a 400-year period.