The town of Volozhyn sprang at the border of Naliboki Forest and vast cultivated fields. It has always been an important crossroads, a convergence of the key trade routes. The town used to be a bustling trade hub and a melting pot for different nationalities and faiths. So, who was attracted here in search of answers to the main questions? The Belarusians, the Jews, the Poles – as was the case with other Belarusian small towns – all flocked to Volozhyn... The motley crowd of citizens somehow managed to coexist peacefully despite the language and religious differences.
The St. Joseph Catholic Church deserves special credit. It was built in 1816 with funds coming from the Tyszkiewicz family. The first wooden cathedral was constructed on that site in 1690, side by side with the buildings of the Bernardine monastery which survived until the 1860s. Close to the St. Joseph Catholic Church, there is the elegant belfry built in 1830. There is also the monument to Pope John Paul II that was erected not long ago near the church.
Your next stop will be the Tyszkiewicz residence, a monumental palace built in the Classicism style. The palace ensemble had a wing, a greenhouse and household buildings. As unbelievable as it may sound, in the 19th century there grew orange trees, palm trees and even pineapples.
Volozhin Yeshiva was the first Jewish higher education institution to be established in Eastern Europe, with around 400 students from all over the Russian Empire. Many of them later grew to be Chief Rabbis in different countries. One of the alumni was Abraham Isaac Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel.
Our next stop will be the St. Constantine and Elena Church, the oldest Orthodox church in town built in 1866. It was once the largest wooden building in Belarus.
Walking through the streets of Volozhin, you will surely feel the peace and quiet of this Belarusian town that is steeped in history.