Serbian Orthodox Relics


Relics of Angelina, Maksim, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

This week I visited the church in the Krušedol Monestary in the Fruška Gora National Park. A kind priest showed our group the relics of the saints that founded the monastery, over 500 years ago. Krušedol, after Studenica and Hilander, is the third most important monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Above are the remains of Mother Angelina and her sons, Maksim and Jovan. Relics in Eastern Orthodox Churches are often displayed on Sundays and the priest nice to show us the relics on a Thursday.

It is very interesting this concept of having relics and all of the major religions have this tradition. I would like to see a DNA test of these to trace the genetic heritage of the Serbian people.

The Church at the Novo Hopovo Monastery

I visited three monasteries of Fruška Gora and they always give me a sense of calm and awe. The combination of the ancient and dark mosaics, the beards and black dresses of the monks, and the beautiful natural surroundings of them make for a good visit. It is one of the things people do in Serbia.

I will have to visit Studenica sometime this year.

Interior Chapel of Novo Hopovo

Visit to the Krušedol Monastery and Mother Angelina

Monasticism is an important part of the Orthodox religion. Serbia is full of monasteries and they are popular with tourists to visit. This is the first one I visited and I wanted to see the appeal of them. Monasteries usually are put in relatively remote places to protect them from outside invaders. I guess that is what makes them appealing to me.

This particular monastery is located just outside the Fruska Gora National Park. “Frankish Hill”, is a hilly region located just outside of Novi Sad, in the heart of Vojvodina. Vojvodina is the northern part of Serbia that once was the Pananonian Sea in geological times. It is a flat area except for Fruska Gora, which is a large area of hills. The Serbs put many monasteries in this area, I guess the hills offered protection. This monastery is for women and there are no orders in the Orthodox church like the Catholic Church. Above is a photo of the gate house.

On the wall of the gatehouse were two mosaic icons. The one below is of Mother Angelina Branković. She is a saint in the Serbian Orthodox Church and she is buried at the monastery. She died in 1520 and had a tough life due the times.

She was the daughter of Orthodox Christian Prince of Albania, Scanderberg. At this time, the Ottoman Turks invaded and took over Serbia. The leader of the Serbs, Stefan Brankovic, was blinded by the Turkish Sultan (ouch) for an alleged offense. Stefan sought refuge with the Prince Scanderberg and fell in love with Angelina. They eventually married and had two sons. The oppression of the Ottomans continued and they later fled to Italy for their safety. They lived peaceful lives there but not much is known. Angelina’s husband died and the family was in deep poverty.  She went to the Hungarian ruler for help and he set her up with her two sons back in Vojvodina, the Austro-Hungarian controlled part of Serbia. The eldest son, George, was the hereditary ruler of Serbia. He chose to become a monk and live a celibate life and took the name Maxim. He abdicated in favor of his younger brother John. The Hungarian Emperor gave John a calvary to manage to help protect the Austro-Hungarian Empire. John didn’t have much power. He had only a daughter who married into Croatian royalty. John died and thus ended the dynasty.  Mother Angelina outlived both of her sons. After the death of John, she devoted herself to the monastery and was buried there. Her son Maxim, is also pictured next to her on the gate house.

A few questions come of this. Why did Maxim not want marriage and heirs? Especially if he was the Serbian ruler? What crime was Stefan accused of to get the punishment of having his eyes gouged out? Why did John’s daughter marry outside the Serbs and not have anything to do with the dynasty? These are questions that are difficult to answer 500 years after the events happened. That is a bad thing about the lives of older saints, how much do we truly know about their lives?

Venerable Mother Angelina

Also note the cross in her hand has three bars across it. This is common in the Orthodox Church. The top crossbar signifies Pontius Pilate’s inscription, “King of the Jews” he put mockingly on the crucifix of Jesus. The bottom bar goes way back. When people were crucified, if they were only nailed to the cross by the hands and feet, it would not support the body. They therefore needed an extra support for the legs, hence the third crossbar. Early depictions of the crucifixion show this. Only later did the nail in the crossed feet of Jesus appear and the lower support disappear. I read on wikipedia that the lowest bar is usually slanted, but this one is not. The slant signifies the agony of suffering on the cross as well as the right side raised in allusion to the thief on Jesus’s right side seeking salvation at the end.

Another side note about the place, the Ustase, the Quisling Nazi regime during WWII Yugoslavia, converted the monastery into a concentration camp. Many Serbian and Yugoslavia Partisans were tortured and murdered there.

We were visiting the area to buy some wine. There are lots of wineries in Fruska Gora and the prices are much cheaper at the cellar. For example, a Kovacevic wine is 500 RSD cheaper than in Belgrade. I’ll give a review of some of the wines we purchased in a later blog post.