The first all-wooden church since the Great Fire of 1666 has been consecrated in London.
The church of the Holy Hierarch Cyril, Bishop of Turaŭ and All the Patron Saints of the Belarusian People was consecrated in December on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
It is dedicated to the victims and survivors of that tragedy. The explosion at Chernobyl forced thousands of Belarusians to leave the area; many settled in other countries including Britain.
The church, which is also the only purpose-built Belarusian Catholic church outside Belarus, is in the grounds of Marian House, a cultural community for the Belarusian community in Belsize Park, north London. The cornerstone of the church, brought from the Holy Trinity Church in Druya, Belarus, was laid last February.
Present at the consecration were Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio to Britain, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic eparchy of the Holy Family in London, Sergey Nuts, apostolic visitor for Greek Catholics in Belarus, and Bishop John Sherrington, auxiliary bishop of Westminster.
The design of the church, which can hold 40 people, was inspired by the traditional rural wooden churches in Belarus.
Tszwai So, director of Spheron Architects, said: “We have sought to achieve a thoughtful blend of traditional Belarusian and contemporary design, and hope that our chapel will be loved and well-used by the Belarusian community in the UK.” He spent time in Belarus researching the design of traditional churches there, including those abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster.
The church “is saturated in Belarusian historical and cultural symbolism, while also firmly embedded in UK architectural innovation,” said Mikalaj Packajeu, chair of the Association of Belarusians in Great Britain.
The Belarusian Catholic Mission in London was founded in 1947, with the approval of Cardinal Bernard Griffin, then Archbishop of Westminster. It is part of the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church.