The find of a unique bone cross of the Russian archer Ivan the Terrible, who died during the defense of a fortress in Belarus
The find of a unique bone cross of the Russian archer Ivan the Terrible, who died during the defense of a fortress in Belarus

In 2017, archaeologists made a unique find on the remains of the Sokol fortress near the village of Kulnevo, Rossony district, Vitebsk region. During the excavations, a bone cross with the image of Nikita Besogon was found next to the remains of the body of the deceased warrior.

Bone cross of the 16th century

In the middle of the cross and on the lateral blades of the front side of the cross, there are images of the Great Martyr Nikita slaying the demon, with half-length figures of the forthcoming Mother of God and John the Theologian in a three-quarter turn to the center, and on the lower blade there is a frontal image of St. Basil the Great. There are explanatory inscriptions on the upper blade - мрѳ иwi | nikte, and over the head of the saint - basilei… The middle cross and the lower blade of the reverse side are occupied by the full-length frontal image of Nicholas the Wonderworker, and on the lateral blades are the waist figures of the Monks Sergius and Nikon. The upper blade is filled with explanatory inscriptions - nikola | earrings | nikon.

Battle for the Sokol fortress

The day of the death of the soldier, who most likely belonged to the cross, is known - September 25, 1579, the day of the storming of the fortress by the troops of Stephen Batory. As you know, in the summer of this year, Tsar Ivan IV Vasilyevich sent a military unit under the command of voivode Boris Vasilyevich Shein to help the besieged Polotsk. However, it was not possible to break through to Polotsk, and B.V. Shein with the troops entrusted to him was entrenched in the Sokol fortress, carrying out military operations against individual units of the enemy.

Sokol Fortress

After the capture of Polotsk, the troops of the Commonwealth laid siege to Sokol, and on September 25, as a result of shelling with red-hot cannonballs, the fortress wall caught fire. B.V. Shein and the people attempted a breakthrough, but “ran into the Germans. And they all, together with Shein, hacked to death. " In the course of an unequal selfless battle, almost the entire garrison of the fortress was killed. According to the testimony of R. Heydenstein,.

Cross Nikita Besogon of the times of Ivan the Terrible

Archaeologists discovered the skeleton of a man, judging by the well-preserved teeth, at the age of 40 years. Both of the man's legs were broken. Considering that a bullet was also found near the remains, it can be assumed that the Russian soldier was either killed by a shot or committed suicide. Given the presence of a bone cross and a relatively young age, it is likely that he could have been a centurion or even a colonel of archers, but not a commander.

Bronze cross of the 16th century Bronze cross of the 16th century

Returning to the monument of Christian plastics of small forms, a silent witness of those tragic events, it should be noted that there are known specimens cast from prints of crosses, iconographically and paleographically close to the find on the former fortress. It is curious that one of them comes from the territory of the former village. Kurov, the ancestral estate of the Sheins (now - the territory of the Pushkin district of the Moscow region).

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