Blacksmith’s Shop: The Pounding Heart of Our Rehabilitation Centre

People used to say that a village couldn’t live without a blacksmith’s shop. Indeed, while the parish church was the soul of the village, the blacksmith’s shop was its heart. The craft of a blacksmith was a family business, passed on from one generation to the next. Blacksmiths were reluctant to let outsiders learn that craft. You could consider yourself lucky if you became a blacksmith’s apprentice: this craft could always feed you and your family no matter what. That’s easy to explain: a blacksmith’s shop used to be the main place for forging weapons, tools, and instruments.

As time went by, manual labour was largely replaced by mass production. In spite of that, the blacksmiths’ craftsmanship remains in demand: the BLACKSMITH’S SHOP of St Elisabeth Convent (Minsk) uses manual forging to make unique masterpieces. The Blacksmith’s Shop is located in the picturesque Rehabilitation Centre of St Elisabeth Convent in v. Lysaja Hara. Despite modern equipment, our blacksmiths still use ancient methods and techniques. They forge items by hand and use rivets and clamps instead of welding. This workshop is staffed by certified and highly skilled blacksmiths.

the BLACKSMITH'S SHOP of St Elisabeth Convent

There is a coal furnace in the centre of the spacious Blacksmith’s Shop and another, gas-powered, furnace, which is used only for small details. The stationary coal furnace is used for heating up the iron. There are tools for manual forging — a hammer, forceps, and anvils — beside the furnace. The furnace has electrical air supply — we decided we had to give in to modernity in this case: in the past, blacksmiths used manual bellows.

the BLACKSMITH'S SHOP of St Elisabeth Convent

Our blacksmiths use methods like cold forging, when an item is hammered into the desired shape at room temperature. Cold forging strengthens the metal and reduces its plasticity. This method is often used to make big and complex items such as stairs, canopies, gates, alcoves, grills, and handrails. Cold forging makes items more durable and increases their lifespan.

The skill of our blacksmiths allows them to fulfil orders of any difficulty, from small pieces to a forged chapel. They make forged gates, grills, and stairs regularly. Our workshop manufactures a lot of church supplies, e.g., church chandeliers, candle holders, and crosses.

 

Our blacksmiths invent individual designs and drafts for each project—an approach that makes all their items unique. They pay close attention to details: for instance, they forged and combined over two hundred details to make just one candle holder for a church in honour of the Surety of Sinners icon of the Mother of God in Slonim.

The Blacksmith’s Workshop of St Elisabeth Convent addresses each project on a case-by-case basis. The blacksmiths have the prospective designs approved by the clients before considering which decorations, metals, and methods to use.

Today, the items forged by our blacksmiths are in high demand not only in Belarus but also in Italy, Israel, and Serbia.

Our Blacksmith’s Shop started making handmade knives a while ago, thanks to our new blacksmith Vladimir Zabrotsky, who had been making knives for two decades. There is a remarkable story related to his coming to the workshop. One of our blacksmiths happens to own a knife with Vladimir’s personal brand. It turned out that Vladimir had made this knife 20 years ago. Our blacksmiths found this accident to be providential and regarded it as a blessing for their collaboration.

the Blacksmith's Shop in St Elisabeth Convent

Making knives is a labour-consuming process that calls for patience and skill. “A high-quality knife is impossible to make in industrial conditions. It can only be handmade. There are few craftspeople who make knives,” a contact in the workshop told us.

Vladimir makes ten knives a month on average. It takes a week or more to make the most delicate ones. Blades are made of alloy steel or Damascus steel. Handles are made of strong and first-class wood or other reliable materials including African rosewood, fumed oak, and reindeer horns.

With the new skilled blacksmith, the Workshop has begun to make big and small spears for the Sacrament of Eucharist. A small spear is used to cut pieces out of a prosphora during the proskomedia; a big spear is used to cut and slice the Lamb. Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok, the spiritual father of St Elisabeth Convent, was the first to try the new product of our Blacksmith’s Shop and was favourably impressed by the spears.

Each spear is made by hand from alloy steel or Damascus steel, and its handle is made of hardwood. Sheaths for these spears are made of natural leather in our Leather Workshop. We invite you to check out and order the products of our Blacksmith’s Shop. Our craftspeople can even make a custom personalised item just for you. Contact us at st.elisabeth.expo@gmail.com.