I really enjoy hiking to the many Serbian Orthodox monasteries in the country. Most of them were built in wild, difficult access areas for protection from the Turks (Ottomans) and Austrians. Serbian rulers, instead of building castles and palaces, built monasteries and churches. The monasteries were bastions of Serbian religion, culture, and language. I am not religious, but the quiet, natural surroundings, and architecture have a calming effect on my soul. There are between 50 and 100 monasteries and I recommend a visit to any of them. They are great for hiking, holding a picnic, or admiring the architecture, mosaics, and history that these places hold.
The Tronošo Monastery is located in western Serbia near the Bosnian border. I was on a school trip this week and we took the students first to the home village of the Serbian language reformer, Vuk Karađić. I’ll blog more on him later. We then hiked from the ethno village through a steep ravine up to the monastery. The walk took about an hour.The church was completed in 1559 (over 400+ years ago) and it always amazes me, an American who is used to less ancient history. At the time, Serbian was dominated by the Turks, so the Serbs built the church with permission of the Ottoman authorities. Surrounding the church are the buildings and grounds of a cenobitic monastery. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, this is similar to the Catholic Orders. Cenobitic means a focus on community. The “nuns” (what are they called in Orthodox????) were quite friendly to us and the community of 10 up keeps the grounds and they have a small gift shop. They served us Turkish coffee.
In reading a bit about the history of the place, during the Austro-Turkish War (1788-1791), the Tronošo Monastery, served as a center for organizing soldiers to fight with the Austrian army against the Turks. At that time as well, Vuk Karađić studied in the monastery school. During the Serbian uprisings in the 1800′s, once again it was a staging point for the Serbian army. The Turks set fire to the place in 1814 and it was rebuilt 3 years later. As you can see, the area has seen a lot of history.
Finally, I learned the story of Jug Bogdan. Jug was a heroic, medieval warrior featured in Serbian epic poetry. Just north of the Tronošo Monastery, a spring has a monument with the mosaic above. Legend has is that Jug (real name Vratko Nemanjić) and his nine sons were all killed at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. Jug is pictured in the middle of the mosaic.