August 30, 2009

Monastery Gomirje in Croatia

The first monastery we visited crossing Croatia (see explanations here) was Gomirje Monastery, also called „Manastir Sv. Jovana Pretece“.

I was quiet surprised to see that the monastery was in a relatively good shape and it didn't looked like it has been destroyed or devastated in the balkan wars. A inhabitant of the monastery who showed us around gave us the explanation for that: the monastery was in the "neutral" zone during the croatian war of independence 1991 -95 so it could not be attacked.

This is the most westward monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Europe and is located in Gorski kotar in the Primorsko-goranska County and is a significant parochial centre of the Serbian ethnic community whose most important feast is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Tourists of all kind of religions visit the monastery and the monastery makes efforts to encourage also the croatian catholic community to use their library.

The atmosphere in this monastery is pretty relaxed, as they don't feel any agressions or resentments from the local environment. The serbian ethnic community must simply not show of serbian national symbols.

The complex is in the ownership of the Serbian Orthodox church. After World War II it became a nunnery while in its previous history monks inhabited the monastery.

On the territory of the national state the monastery has a great parochial significance for the most populous, Serbian ethnic community, and has carried out its function continuously since the 17th century. The Serbian community that has settled in this region bought the estate from the Frankopan princes.

The monastery is particularly significant in the revolutionary year of 1848, when viceroy Jelačić recruited his army under its wing and prior Stavrofor of that time was a member of the Croatian Parliament and gave his priory for humanitarian purposes. The monastery played an important humanitarian role at that time, sheltering refugees and storing humanitarian aid.

The monastery has been renovated continually since 1999. The church roof has been repaired and the metal sheet roof covering replaced on the bell tower and church dome. The static consolidation of the apse was undertaken and the church facades and tower forms reconstructed. In addition, new drainage and rainwater canalisation systems have also been installed. A water supply system was brought to the complex and the semi-interred concrete cistern removed and a new one constructed.

The monastery church is oriented and located in the courtyard of the two storey lodging houses with a "U" shaped ground plan open to the South toward the river basin of the Dobra so that the mutual relationship of the construction directions are mildly slanting.
Today the complex is enclosed with a wall of façade brick and originally had a paling fence. The church and monastery were built from stone with arches, while the floors and roofing were made from wood. The roof covering is from sheet metal and grooved brick, originally shingle.
Until 1879 an adapted Frankopan tower with a square ground plan and an elaborately structured facade in the historicist form and with the same function and which crumbled from age stood in the place of the present day bell tower.
To the North, at the edge of the wood a group of stone and wooden outbuildings stood, including barns, hay-lofts storehouses and workshops and a walled-in monastery graveyard within which was the first church of which there is no trace today.

The monastery owns quite a lot of land, including woods, meadows, hayfields, plough-fields and on the northern side of the lodging house a large orchard. The present day church was consecrated in 1730. The monastery burned down in 1789 and again in 1812 and was renovated in 1842-46 and again in 1889. The complex was also damaged and burned in the First and Second world wars, repaired rather unprofessionally during the 50's of the 20th century.

The church is a typical Orthodox place of worship with an altar, iconostasis, a dome standing on four square columns and and tower at the entrance like those built in the baroque period throughout Lika, Kordun and Banija.

The interior was decorated with two layers of sign-paintings of which the baroque style one was preserved as the lower layer in the sanctuary and the upper one in the entire church which has two historicist phases. Because of the threat during World War II the baroque iconostasis with large-sized icons on canvas was dismantled and stored in Karlovac and Zagreb.

The monument is of national interest since it housed the main painting school, which supplied the surrounding Orthodox monasteries with iconostases in the manner of the Russian school. The monks were also engaged in bookbinding.

All the windows on the church and those that were in total disrepair in the hallway of the first floor of the lodging house have been replaced.
All the outbuildings also have to be renovated, primarily their roofs and wooden parts of superstructure on the stone foundations.

Here the website of the monastery and here the Council of Europe documentation to download.

August 26, 2009

Monastery Krupa in Republika Srpska Krajina

In the next few post, I will share here my travel experiences during this summer. I came back with lots of pictures, sketches in my diary and informations, and slowly I'll put everything online.

Basically I started from my hometown Lugano, crossing Italy from Milano to Venezia to head down to Montenegro to spend some time at the sea with my family. But who knows us, knows also that we can not just speed down directly by the fastest way to destination, and that we like to stop and see also what's in between two destinations.

We opted for driving away from the croatian tourist paths prepared for showing to international customers, and to choose a picturesque road throught
Republika Srpska Krajina where some serbian orthodox monasteries were to be visted. One of them is Monastery Krupa in the Velebit mountain park.

Otac (Father) Gavrilo, who runs the monastery now, received us warmly and told us about life in the monastery and the situation of serbian orthodox life in these days Croatia. It seems that as long as they don't show serbian flaggs or cyrillic writing they can go on with their peaceful life.
It was not always like that!

Beneath the rocky mountain Velebit, settled in the picturesque valley where the river Krupa springs, surrounded by the mountain and the hills, Krupa lives its peaceful life.
It was built in 1317 in the time of King Milutin. As it is known, the basement of the monastery was built by the monks from the nearby monastery Bosanska Krupa. The Krupa Monastery shares the destiny with the orthodox people in this region to whom it belonged. Many times the monastery walls laid in ruins due to different irruptions and had always to be renewed.

In the time of Emperor Dusan, in 1345, the monastery was rebuilt for the first time. King Milutin, his son Stefan of Decani and his grand son Stefan Dusan issued statements wich said that they gave the land to the monastery where the monks could lead their life. Turks also confirmed this by giving a special written confirmation directly frm their Emperor from Istanbul.

During the Venetian-Turkish war, the monastery was ruined sevral times, the worst in 1502 and 1620.
The same happened in the 20th century. In 1941 Pavelic's Ustaša - Croatian Revolutionary Movement desacrated the monastery.

In 1995 it was seroiusly devastated (even if the State of Croatia made "all efforts" to protect it) in Operation "Oluja" supported by former american president Bill Clinton who "believed the Serbs could only be brought to the negotiating table if they sustained major losses on the ground".

Despite of that, the monastery was always rebuilt like it is today.

In the 1960's frescoes where found in the monastery church, that were paited by the monk of Hilandar (he painted the dining room there) Georgije Mitrofanovic between 1617-1618.
Also icons from italo-cretan school painter Jovan Apaka were found.

The interior open court of the monastery.

For more information,
here is the official site of the monastery and here the wikipedia entry (still small in the english version).

Monastery Krupa honored many well known writers of Serbian literature. Dositej Obradovic , serbian author, poet and philosopher, lived here a significant period of his life and also his coeval and compatriot teacher Vasilije.

Gerasim Zelić (1752–1838) was a Serbian Orthodox archimandrite and writer.As early as 1784, Gerasim had argued the need for Slavic rather than Greek clerics, but it was not until the 1820s that action was taken in this regard. He also spent time in Krupa Monastery as a lot of other significant writers.

Great reconstruction were done in 1855 with help of Russia, Austria and Serbia. The Austrian government however stipulated the reconstruction demanding that all the monastery's windows have to be made as gothic style lanced windows.