Cross of Saint Euphrosyne

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1889 reproduction of the Polatsk Cross

The Cross of Saint Euphrosyne was a revered relic of the Russian Orthodox Church and Belarus, which was made in 1161 by Lazar Bohsha for the order of Saint Euphrosyne of Polatsk and lost during World War II.

Euphrosyne, mother superior of Polatsk Convent, ordered the cross to decorate the new Transfiguration church; the simple cypress cross was decorated with gold, gemstones and enamel, depicting Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, Theotokos, the Four Evangelists, archangels Gabriel and Michael, and three patron saints of Euphrosyne and her parents. The work cost 120 hryvnas. Inside, the cross contained pieces of the Holy Cross and other relics.

In the 13th century, the cross was relocated to Smolensk and in 1514 to Moscow, it was returned to Polatsk by Ivan the Terrible in 1563; the cross was thoroughly photographed for the record in 1896. In 1928 the nationalized relic was taken to Minsk, then, in 1929, to Mahilyow, and was locked in a safe box of the regional communist party headquarters.


The cross disappeared during the swift occupation of Belarus by German forces (June–July 1941).

There are no reliable accounts of what happened to the cross in 1941. There are at least three different versions (other than destruction by fire or plunder):

  • The official Soviet version abruptly stated that the cross was looted by Germans.
  • In 1991, the minister of culture of Belarus asserted that the cross, together with other Belarusian treasures, had been evacuated to Moscow.
  • German paperwork of the Alfred Rosenberg organization recorded a Mahilyow treasure captured by Germans in Smolensk. However, there is no evidence of the Polatsk Cross itself.[1]

In 1997, Nikolay Kuzmich, a craftsman from Brest, completed an officially endorsed replica of the cross, now on display in the Polatsk cathedral.

Modern symbolic usage[edit]

The Cross of St. Euphrosyne is often used as a national symbol of Belarus; the 1991 version of the Belarusian coat of arms Pahonia features a cross resembling the Cross of St. Euphrosyne on the knight's shield.

The Cross is the subject of two postage stamps of Belarus, issued in 1992 and 2001, and a commemorative coin of Belarus issued in 2007.[2]

The national-democratic opposition movement Young Front has the cross as main element of its symbol.


  1. ^ (in Russian) Nikolay Petrovsky. Who stole the cross of St. Euphrosyne // Echo Planety, No. 11, 2000 [1] Archived February 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ (in Russian) Cross of Euphrosyne will appear on a Belarusian coin [2]