A facsimile edition of the legendary Slutsk Gospel has won the 2010 book art contest. The book issued by the publishing house of the Belarusian Orthodox Church has been chosen from hundreds of books published in the CIS countries and Baltic States.
For Belarusian nation the Slutsk Gospel is a sacred item. The book has 256 pages and its size 40 by 25 cm. The text is written in the old church Slavonic language and arranged in two columns, 20 lines each. The book is written with brown ink with the use of gold and cinnabar.
Legend has it that this manuscript book was written by Prince Yury Olelko, the father of Saint Sofia, the Princess of Slutsk, in the 16th century. The Prince used the first of four canonical Gospels – the Gospel of from Matthew as the core of the book. On completing his writing the Prince handed the book to the Svyato-Troitsky monastery in the Belarusian town of Slutsk where it was kept till 1917. After the October revolution of 1917 the Bolsheviks closed the monastery and the Gospel was given to the state museum of the republic. The history of the book is full of mysteries and secrets, says Vladimir Grozov, executive director of the publishing house of the Belarus Orthodox Church.
This Gospel mysteriously survived all the attacks and fires. Before 1941 the book moved from one museum to another. When the war broke out the spiritual treasure of the Belarusian nation was in the town of Mogilev. There it was kept together with another sacred thing of Belarus – the Cross of Saint Efrosinya, princess of Polotsk. During the war both the cross and the book vanished from the museum. The cross is still missing but the Gospel mysteriously emerged from nowhere in early 1990-s. A village priest received it from a woman, who tanked him for his service for her dead brother. She said that before he died her brother had given the book to her. He said that he had saved it taking it from the fire.
The priest handed the book to the exarchate of the Belarus Orthodox Church. While the book itself is kept in one of the cathedrals the publishing house of the Belarusian Orthodox Church decided to make it available for the public. It published not only a facsimile editions but also made an electronic version of the Slutsk Gospel. It was a hard work but we are happy that we did it, Vladimir Grozov says.
Belarusian restorers had recreated the book from cover to cover. We were told that we would not be able to restore the sacred book without the help of foreign experts but we proved that there are talented and skilled people in Belarus who are also familiar with the recent technologies.
Today there are only 500 facsimile editions of the Slutsk Gospel. One of them was given Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill when he visited Belarus last year. The Russian Patriarch noted that Slutsk Gospel was the most ancient sacred item in Slavonic Orthodox world which was put into mass circulation.