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Monument to Francis Skorin

In front of the building of the National Library in Minsk, there is a monument to the great Belarusian scientist and book printer of the Renaissance, Francysk Skaryna. The opening of the monument took place in 2006 – 15 years after the announcement of the competition for the design of the monument. The winner of the competition announced in 1990 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Francysk Skaryna was the Belarusian sculptor Ales Dranets.

Monument to Francysk Skaryna in Minsk
Monument to Francysk Skaryna in Minsk

He completed his work only in the late 90s. But the installation of the monument had to wait several more years, as the Academy of Sciences of Belarus decided that the monument would spoil the architectural ensemble of the National Library. The stumbling block was 3 bronze reliefs with images of Polotsk, Prague and Padua, which were supposed to be installed on three sides of the pedestal. Only after the construction of a new library building and thanks to the position of the authorities, the monument was finally installed in its intended place. Together with Drants, architects Viktor Kramarenko and Mikhail Vinogradov worked on the monument to Skaryna. This is a five-ton bronze sculpture 6 meters high, representing Francysk Skaryna in full growth. In one hand he holds a book, the other is raised in a gesture of blessing for printing.

Monument to Francis Skorin in Minsk

The founder of Belarusian and all East Slavic book printing, Francysk Skaryna, was born in Polotsk in 1470. At that time, Polotsk was one of the largest cities in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His parents sent him to the school of the Bernardine Order, where the boy became addicted to reading. Upon reaching adulthood, he graduated from the faculties of liberal arts and medicine at the University of Krakow, and later received a doctorate in medicine from the University of Padua.

Monument to Francis Skorin
Monument to Francis Skorin

In 1517, Francysk Skaryna opened a printing factory in Prague and began to print books in Cyrillic. The first work that came out of the walls of his printing house was the Psalter. In the next 2 years, Skaryna publishes 23 books of the Russian Bible in the Belarusian dialect of the Old Church Slavonic language. In 1520, the book printer moved to Vilna, where he opened the first printing house in the Principality of Lithuania. Here he publishes the “Small travel book” and “Apostle”.

In 1530 Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Albrecht of Brandenburg invites Skaryna to the capital of the Prussian Duchy of Konigsberg. The Duke was a big fan of printing. Their collaboration quickly ended due to conflict and the death of Skaryna’s brother. Francis returns to Vilna. Here he is pursued by his brother’s creditors. He ends up in prison, but soon the Polish king Sigismund I returns his freedom and gives him the privilege of further persecution for the debts of his deceased brother.

The last years of his life Francysk Skaryna spent in Prague, where he left with his family at the invitation of King Ferdinand.

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