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Aglona Basilica

Location: N56° 7` 35.87", E27° 0` 53.65" | Website: aglonasbazilika.lv/

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One of the best known examples of Latgale sacral baroque architecture is Aglona Catholic church. Aglona basilica is located in Preiļi district, Aglona parish. After the fire destroyed wooden church and monastery, Dominican monks started to construct a new stone church in 1768. Main construction works were completed by 1780, but the main consecration was held in 1800 after the final constructionworks – exactly hundred years after its foundation.  

The construction of Aglona church and monastery complex becomes real after donation from local landlords – Dadzibogs Shostovickis and Eva Justina Shostovicka from Selicki family with their donation act in 1700 provides the settlement and activity of Dominican fathers on their property in Viškova by the Egle lake, and they also are giving their confirmation for construction of the new Dominican convent and church at the same year. Dominicans arrived in Aglona already in 1699, and in 1700 a wooden monastery building and a church were standing on this very same place.

The building is a three nave basilica with an explicit central nave; altar is closed type with polygonal apse. Corners of the main façade are decorated with two frontal step-like towers. Comparing with simple addressed side façades, the main façade excels with its luxury: three entrance portals are distinctly baroque. The central anteroom is separated from the main nave with two massive columns, which are basing the chorus balcony with organ. The interior and equipment of the church was made during the 18th and 19th century. The central altar (1799.) belongs to Loreto type. There is a painting “Our Miraculous Lady Aglona” (17th century). Church interior items – pulpit, organ prospect, organ, stools, and confession bench – were created in 18th century. Side altars are made at the beginning of the 19th century and in 1827. A wide painting collection is being kept in the church.

It is proved that the church had the entire inventory needed for the divine service, because there are news that in 1715 and 1716 Aglona church silver liturgical vessels and other precious metal items were mortgaged so that it could be possible to pay for the law proceeding works. Livonian and Kurzeme bishop Jozef Dominik Puzyna consecrated this Aglona church in 1751. Aglona church is also included in bishops’ report in 1758, where he reports on the status of diocese churches. In general visit documents of 1761 it is mentioned that there are two more buildings connected with this church branch – wooden public prayer chapels in Kastire and Rušona.

In 1766 Aglona church suffers from fire, and new stone outline is put in 1768. The painting of Our Miraculous Lady Aglona has been preserved from the old wooden church, which can be dated back to 17th and 18th century, and it is the copy of Our Lady painting from the oldest Trakai church.

While the new church was under construction, congregation used a temporary church. The church was a small building with a tile roof.

The construction of the new church went for 12 years, and the building was fully completed in 1780, but its finish and interior decoration was done to the end of the 18th century. Central altar was made only at the end of the 18th century – a temporary altar was used until then. Crypts were made in the basements under the church.

In 1800 when Aglona church was consecrated by bishop Janis Benislavskis, church interior was gradually replenished. Two new altars were made in 1827, in 1833 there were six altars already, but in 1856 – 10 altars.  

A spiritual workshop was established in 1820 under the roof of Aglona monastery, and was active until 1833.

After closing the spiritual order in Vitebsk province in 1864, Aglona monastery was the only one which was working. It received another function – the monastery serves as a place of punishment for priests who were disliked by secular authorities.

Russian administration repressions against the Catholic Church in 19th century, encouraged also by rebellion of the Poles, touched Aglona as well. The number of the Dominican fathers was reducing in monastery, and the most part of the monastery’s land was also confiscated.