Moraca Monastery: the gem in the Montenegrin Mountains.
Moraca Monastery (serb. Manastir Morača)
is a Serbian orthodox monastery, located in the mountainous Moraca
river-valley in the central part of Montenegro. It is one of the most monumental and the most significant monuments of medieval Serbian Orthodox not only in Montenegro, but also on the Balkans. The monastery belongs to the Serbian Orthodox Church and is an active monastery of Montenegro and the Seaside diocese. Located in a picturesque setting on the banks of mountain canyon of Moraca river
(in some places the canyon reaches the height of 1000 meters) in the municipality of Kolasin
, the monastery is popular with pilgrims, numerous tourists who come here every day. And because of its close location near the highway, the visit of it includes in almost all the program of tourist routes and excursions
. Monks do not mind all that - they generously share the beauty, tranquility and spirituality of this place, and even try to help the pilgrims as one as able. For example, in the territory of the monastery, you can find a free toilet, buy the monastery honey and rakija
(Montenegrin brandy). History. Moraca monastery is one of the most unusual medieval monuments in Montenegro.
Moraca monastery was founded in 1252 on the right bank of the river Moraca by Prince Stefan,
the son of the great Serbian King Vukan II Nemanjic, who was later buried in the local church of the Assumption of the mother of God. According to legend, the complex was built with a special yellow stone, which was quarried far away from this place. Residents of the region lined up in the column of tens of kilometers long and passed stones from hand to hand to the construction site. Lifehack: still on the front, above the western portal there is an inscription indicating the year of construction - 1252.
In the XVI century, with the invasion of the Ottoman soldiers who sought to wipe out reminders of other religions, the monastery was ruined and destructed: for military purposes, a lead roof was demolished, which resulted in the damage and loss of many original frescoes. In this regard, the monks had to leave the friary for a while. In 1574, the main church of the monastery was restored by a village chief Vukic Vuchetich, internal frescoes were re-painted in the 1577-78, and the outer temple painting was executed in 1616, by the artist George Mitrofanovich. Small church of St. Nicholas was rebuilt in 1639 and painted by renowned Kozma master. At the beginning of the XVIII century master Dimitriy painted the church of Our Lady of Assumption, and his son finished a large icon depicting the life of St. John the Baptist. The last layer of frescoes was completed by Kotor masters from Gylf school at the beginning of the XVIII century.
In the XVIII century the monastery once again was attacked by the Turks and the monks were forced to fight with weapons in their hands. It is known that Archimandrite Mitrofan led the battle against the Turks and successfully repelled their attack, for which a gold medal for bravery was awarded. Later Mitrofan became a Metropolitan. From then onwards, the complex of Moraca continued to be restored, subjected to change, and its current copper roof, it got only in 1935.
During its centuries-old existence Moraca monastery played a significant role in people's lives. It witnessed important historical events, like the recent, as well as the distant past. Here sentences were handed down, important decisions were made, books were copied and reading and writing were taught.
The architecture of the monastery complex Moraca.
The architectural complex of the Monastery Moraca includes:
- A large cathedral church of the Assumption of Our Lady (the Assembly);
- A Small church of St. Nicholas;
- Several buildings with monks' cells;
- Accommodations for travelers;
- Rich gardens and farms.
Here you will see an apiary, and sheep herds, turkeys and ducks - and all this against the background of beautiful nature and relaxing murmur of a mountain river, which rushes its emerald water somewhere below. The church is a typical example of religious architecture of the ancient Serbian state Rashka (the so-called "Raska style") with a noticeable influence of the Romanesque tradition. Both churches are made of stone and has a large hall, crowned by a single dome - nave. The external simplicity is offset by rich interior - frescoes and icons of the monastery is considered one of the finest examples of Serbian and Byzantine wall painting.1. The Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God - the Assembly.
Church of the Assumption
, which is one of the oldest buildings, built in the style of "Raska school" and modeled on the so-called "Zadužbina" - structures built on bequests for the salvation of souls bequeathed ("Zadužbina" - that is, "for the soul"). It is a large building with one room, a barrel vault, a semicircular gallery, choir and dome. Unlike churches of seaside style, the main temple of monastery Moraca is plastered. The main entrance is built of gray marble in the Romanesque style. The gray marble tiled the Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God itself
. The large ambo in front of the Holy Doors is made of multi-colored stone. In the dome over the ambo hangs a large Chandelier "Bogorodicino kolo", under which once people vowed during the trial, when it was impossible to gather evidence in another way. In the middle part of the church there is a stone sarcophagus - the tomb, where the churchwarden (headman) of the monastery - Prince Stefan is buried. The gem of the church is a double door at the entrance to the middle temple, decorated with ivory. A chair, a table and a cane, which, according to legend, belonged to the St. Sava were also decorated with it. These items are considered to be the most beautiful and the most complex and original samples of marquetry.
In addition to architecture, paintings have particular importance – on one of the pictures you can see 11 scenes illustrating the life of the prophet Elijah, having preserved since the 13th century. It is interesting to note that these 11 murals are preserved only in fragments, and present the only known example of this cycle in a monumental medieval painting.
The church is famous not only for its unique paintings, but the icons. The most important relics stored here, considered an icon of Saint Simeon and Saint Sava, works by the painter Cosmas, Cetinje Oktoikh (the first printed book of the South Slavs) and handwritten gospels of XV and XVI centuries. The church was partially destroyed in the XV century - fought with Orthodoxy Turks removed the roof and banned local residents to protect the icons and frescoes. For many years the Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God stood without a roof, rain and snow got inside. This has caused catastrophic damage to many frescoes, paintings and icons, and now preserved, unfortunately, not as much as we would like. 2. The Church of St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas Church was built in 1635 and also may boast a rich interior painting. It is much less than the Church of the Assumption of Mother of God and its architecture is not very similar to the actual church building: the length and width of it is 5 m and height about 8 m. It is said that during the Ottoman rule, it was very popular to build churches, which exterior were almost impossible to distinguish from ordinary houses. In such way Montenegrins tried to preserve their faith. Lifehack: There is another interesting story. During the Turkish yoke, the Lords of Montenegro, who were both rulers of the country, and its spiritual leaders personally went from one house to another, trying to persuade people not to renounce the faith. 3. Monastic buildings and cells.
Monastic buildings and cells fit perfectly into the monastery and as if to form the outer wall. Unfortunately, tourists cannot get inside, but even outside they look very nice.
On the territory of the monastery, you can also see:
- A small source of holy water. The water is very tasty and is considered curative. We recommend to take it on a bit for the future.
- the Monastery apiary, where the bees are working peacefully. The collected honey can be tasted and buught in a nearby shop on site.
- the Monastery belfry. It looks quite modest in reality, despite the fact that on the Internet you can find many beautiful pictures of the belfry, made from some particular perspective.
The monastery complex also has a well-tended garden and a courtyard decorated with flowers and shrubs, where visitors can sit on a bench, enjoying the view of old buildings. Behind the walls of the monastery, a small café runs, where you can quench your thirst and take a breath in the shade of a canopy during hot summer days. Subsistence farming of the monastery is quite interesting - not in every zoo cite dweller can see rare species of feathered fowl, turkeys, ducks, geese, chickens, etc. Obviously, the monastery is self-contained and completely done without the benefits of modern civilization - the monks have a vegetable garden, pasture, apiary, breed chickens and sheep, growing grapes.
The churchyard is surrounded by a high wall with two gates, which during the Balkan wars of the late XIX century was used as a fortification in the battles with the Turkish army. In honor of the defenders of the monastery, killed in its defense, there is a memorial plaque. Relics of the Moraca monastery.
Moraca Monastery is one of the most famous medieval monuments of Montenegro, which has unique murals and icons, which are among the best examples of wall painting in the Balkans.
As we have said, there are no special shrines in Moraca, but we will try to list some of them, that we know of:
- Hand of Holy Martyr Harlampy - the main shrine of the monastery. Consecrated by it olive oil take home the pilgrims from around the world.
- Oktoikh (vosmiglasnik) - the first printed book of the South Slavs. It was printed in Cyrillic in 1493. Apostle, printed by Ivan Fedorov (the first printed book in Russia), released only 70 years later.
- Manuscript Gospel and other unique documents are stored in the library of the monastery;
- Baptistery of marble;
- Nail, which according to legend, belonged to the St. Sava;
- Cross in altar made of walnut in the XVI century.
In addition to the shrine in the monastery there are especially beautiful icons that are located next to the iconostasis. They are made by the greatest masters of the XVIII century, and an icon of St. Sava and the icon of St. Luke are considered the most valuable in the Balkans.Sightseeing near the Moraca monastery.
Moraca Monastery is quite popular destination among tourists and pilgrims. The necessary minimal infrastructure is set up here for visitors: a small camping and a café.
Near the monastery there are the objects that are worth a visit as you get to this region. On Mrtvitsa river near the area of Green vir (Green whirlpool) is preserved an old stone bridge built by Prince Danilo in memory of his mother. Near Kolasin the ruins of the Turkish powder depot have remained, protected by law. According to legend, on the orders of the Turkish, the architect, being an orthodox, built it... in the form of a cross. When the Turks found cheating, he was immediately killed. The building survived, but was never used for its intended purpose.
Under the walls of the Moraca, the river of the same name rages fast, and on the east side of the monastery in its marvelous waters flows the Svetigora waterfall. In the immediate vicinity there is an attractive river canyon Mrtvitsa
, the length of which is 9 km. Its depth sometimes reaches 1,100 meters, and the entire length of the canyon is carved with the wall path. Harsh, but at the same time wonderful nature - the perfect background for a significant cultural and historical monument.
Moraca Church is one of the most important medieval Orthodox monuments in the Balkans.How to get to the Moraca monastery?
In Montenegro, there are several options to get to the monastery:
- To buy a tour
in the city where you are resting. For example, at a travel agency or on the promenade of Budva
, Herceg Novi
, etc... You will be picked up early in the morning by a comfortable bus, and after the completion of the tour will be brought back.
- To take a regular bus
. During the season regular buses from different cities in Montenegro go to or by the Moraca monastery daily: from Podgorica
(6 times a day), from Herceg Novi and Budva (3 times a day), from Bar
(2 times a day) from Pljevlja (5 times a day). In addition, once a day to the Moraca monastery buses from Berane, Plav, Gusinje and Bijelo Polje go. You can also take any bus going along the route Podgorica - Kolasin, and ask the driver to stop at the Monastery ("Stanite kod Manastir Moraca, molim te").View the every-day schedule of buses in Montenegro here
- To drive your own or a renting car
. The landmart of the monastery is a small town Kolasin (in winter a popular ski resort
), from which the monastery is only 28 kilometers away on the E80 highway. If you are coming from the coast, your route will lie through the capital of Montenegro - Podgorica, and from it follow about 60 km by signs for Kolasin along the Moraca River. The road runs along the beautiful canyon Moraca, and along the way you will definitely make more than one stop to capture the breathtaking, panoramic views on camera or phone. On the way there are also brown signs "to Manastir Moraca". Soon, on the right you can easily see the black dome of the Church of the Assumption of Our Mother of God - the central structure within the monastery complex. Moraca Monastery is well visible from the road, and having come closer, you will see the mass of tourist buses, meaning that you have come to the right place.
Mountain Monastery Moraca is one of the most beautiful churches in Montenegro. Yes, it is not stored such important Orthodox shrine as relics of St. Basil of Ostrog (Ostrog Monastery - Manastir Ostrog
), or the Hand of St. John the Baptist
); the monastery is not visited by thousands of pilgrims of all faiths; Yes, it is not included in the list of the most important religious monuments in the world - but with all the above mentioned it is really worth coming, because it is here you can find spiritual peace, appeasement from pleasant silence and enjoy the genuine beauty of the surrounding nature.