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AGLONA (AGLOHN)

           Aglona is a small but well tended town 27 km southwest of Preiļi. Aglona’s houses and bountiful orchards are beautifully laid out between two lakes, Cirīši and Egle. It is world famous for the Aglona Basilica, the most popular Catholic pilgrimage site in Latvia.
          Aglona began developing as the centre of Catholicism in Latgale around 1700, when the Shostakovich family of local Polish nobles handed over Eva Shostakovich’s properties in Aglona (17 villages with 90 houses) to the Dominican Order, justifying this step as “In honour of God and to bless the Latvians". The Dominican monks first built a wooden cloister and church, and in 1768 they began work on a masonry house of worship. Thus Aglona received its grand twin-towered basilica (the structure was consecrated in 1800), which to this day attracts thousands of pilgrims from throughout Eastern Europe on August 15 of every year. They come to Aglona to participate in grandiose services and processions to mark the ascension of the Holy Virgin Mary into heaven, and to see the “Aglona Mother of God,” a church altar painting which is claimed to have miraculous powers.
          The architecturally distinct church which integrates very well with the picturesque surrounding landscape is very popular not only with pilgrims, but also with art lovers and tourists. Aglona Church attracts aesthetes with the high professional quality of the finishing of its grand interior (especially the many richly decorated altars).
 Abutting the basilica is the two-story masonry former Dominican cloister, which once also housed the cloister library and school.
          Several other interesting archaeological and cultural-historic objects are near Aglona, for example the Madalāni Hill Fortress, the former Aglona Boy’s High School and the Jaunaglona Girl’s High School. Nuns from Austria and Bavaria once worked as teachers at the latter institution.

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