Gothic Orthodox Churches in Lithuania - A Different Look
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Around the first half of the 16th century a group of Gothic Orthodox churches were erected in the Great Duchy of Lithuania. Some of them were given a typical defensive character (Suprasl, Malomozejków, Synkowicze). The author analyses this phenomenon in a broad historical and anthropological context. Disputing Robert Kunkel's views, he puts forward the following theses: 1) Neither the architecture of Teutonic Prussia nor the plan of rhe first Vilnius cathedral had influenced the appearance of the Orthodox churches; 2) The Orthodox churches were designed for defence against small Tartar detachments; 3) The angle towers were built for defensive purposes (at least as routes of communication), so their forms could not have been borrowed from Mazovian church architecture but, if anything, they would rather have inspired it; 4) The 0rthodox churches have nothing in common with the idea of the union of the Churches; 5) The question of stylistic adequacy was not of great importance to the founders, the choice of the Gothic being connected with the popularity of this style in Lithuania at that time. The author notes that researches devoted little attention to these monuments, usually situating them on the periphery of the art of the states and nations which they represented. Therefore, he calls for a new approach to this architecture which should be viewed as an independent creative emanation of the well-defined politico-cultural community formed in the 16th century by the Lithuanian members of the Orthodox Church.
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