Patriarchate of Peć

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September, 2019

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Whilst on a five-day visit to Kosovo, where we based ourselves at the “Hotel Kaçinari”:, we had a ‘monastery day’. Having visited the “Visoki Dečani Monastery”: in the morning, we drove 30 minutes north, for an afternoon at the “Patriarchate of Peć”:, a medieval Serbian Orthodox Monastery. It is said to be one of the most important sacral monuments of spirituality, culture and Serbian history and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006.

The Monastery is located in the Rugova Gorge with the sound of the Bistrica River in the background. It was certainly a stunning setting.

Having parked up on the roadside and walked across to the entrance on the opposite side, the security guard told our driver that we could drive down the 500m road to the monastery, but we decided to walk. As with visits to the “Gazimestan Memorial Tower”: and “Visoki Dečani Monastery”:, passports were handed over but returned having had the details written down. The pavement was good walking, but we were intrigued by a small stream at the side which appeared to flow uphill.

We were greeted at the entrance by a nun, who having checked our nationality offered either a handout in English or audio guide in German: with only one, very ancient German O level between us, we went for the former. Even with the handout it took us a while to work out where we were, but eventually we fathomed there was a main area or Narthex in front of three churches and an adjoining church of St. Nicholas on the south side. The red ochre painted exterior had elaborate designs around the windows and arches and was topped by a single roof with three domes.

Narthex – this is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Serbian church architecture, but little has survived on the frescoes painted in 1565.

The Church of Saint Demetrius – was built between 1317 and 1324 and contained a sarcophagus with the relics of various Patriarchs.

Church of the Holy Apostles – was the central church and built between 1233 and 1263. Here we found the relics of its founder, Archbishop Arsenje I.

Church of the Mother of God – was built around 1330 and contained the richly carved and gilded Throne of the Mother of God adorned with the noted icon which many people pray before.

The Church of Saint Nicholas – built by Archbishop Danilo II between 1330 and 1337, it appeared to be ‘bolted’ on the side of the Church of the Mother of God as though it was an afterthought.

The frescoes were in good condition, but the written guide wasn’t particularly informative, and we missed having an actual guide. Instead, a one-legged nun on crutches stalked us on the pretext of replenishing water in the flower vases but was really keeping her eye on us. There were no other visitors until the end of our visit, when we went into the final Church where a devoted couple were praying.

We then walked around the outside, some of which looked as though it had been covered with frescos and then to a cemetery with around 20 graves with colourful plants on. Here stood a branchy mulberry tree, planted according to tradition by Saint Sava, which still bears fruit despite it being having to be heavily propped up. There was also a row of colourful boxes painted yellow and blue which were bee hives.

The actual monastery, with modern residential quarters for the nuns, was surrounded by a high wall, with the bell tower being from the 1970s.

Photos were only allowed outside, but there were decent toilets.

Helen Jackson

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