Rača Monastery

  • District: Zlatibor
  • Municipality: Bajina Bašta
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Rača MonasteryRača Monastery ( pronounced as ‘ racha ‘ ) is the most visited site in Tara Nationa Park , with tens thousands of visitors every year.

The story about the Monastery usually begins when we mention that it is 6km from Bajina Bašta. However, we won’ t make a mistake if we say that Bajina Bašta was established in the vicinity of this mediaeval temple itself.

Rača is said to be built in the 13th century as the foundation of the Serbian king Dragutin Nemanjić, who later became the monk named Teokist.

It is also believed that, after the Turkish invasion in the 15th century, there only remained the foundations of his ” imperial laura Raca by the River Drina ” , where the Church of Christ’ s Ascension can be seen today.

Historians admit that this place belongs to the most amazing secrets of Serbian spiritual, cultural, historical and architectural past. First notes about Raca were found in the church manuscripts and the Turkish notes written in the 16th century. The oldest trace was left in the the Holy Trinity monastery in Montenegro: „ this is where I, monk Teodor from Rača, have started writing. . . ” , were the words noted by an anonymous monk in 1516. Among fifty known manuscripts, the most interesting is for sure the chronicle from Sophia finished in 1675:  ” . . . Dragutin built the church dedicated to the Ascension of the Lord and named it Raca. . . ” .

The history of Raca has been a puzzle with keys in hands of archeologists, until the well – known copying workshop was built in the 17th century. The first decades of that ” Raca copying school ” , where old Serbian liturgical books and manuscripts were copied, have not been studied enough, although it is an outstanding landmark in the history of the Serbian literature. There are few testimonies about the Monastery church at Lanište and its smaller unit called ” St. George’ s skit ” at Banja, where the liturgical books were copied. After the Monastery was destroyed in the Wienna war and  during the Great Migration of the Serbs in 1690, the Racans established a base of  the Serbian alphabet and literature in Sent Andrea in the century to come.

A century later, the fraternity of Tronoša Monastery were interested in Raca Monastery, so the monks named Hadzi Melentius, Josif and Isaiah moved there and built it again from its ruins. The Monastery church was reconstructed in less than five months, which was an outstanding work lasting from August 1795 to Christmas 1796, when the temple was sanctified. Hower, the reconstructed monastery of the Archimandrite Hadzi Melentius Stefanovic, who also was known as the Duke of Soko Parish, hadn’ t survived the storm of Serbian uprising and was burnt down again in 1813 by Memish – aga, a mighty landowner and military commander from Srebrenica.

In 1818 during the second reconstruction of the Monastery, with Hadži Melentius in charge again, a sustainable financial support was given by the Serbian Duke Miloš Obrenović. The building of the Church of Christ’ s Ascension was finished in 1826 and other parts of the monastery ten years later. In a thank – you – letter sent to the Duke there was written:  ” Our kind Master, the Monastery was quite well built. We are of the same opinion as numerous visitors who come here, that it hadn’ t been built better even the first time by the Nemanjics.  ” The look of the Church hadn’ t changed since 1836, except that in the middle of the 19th century its interior was painted.

In the 20th century the enemy conquering armies passed through Raca. One of the first to stand against the Austria – Hungary occupation was Zaharije Milekić, a prior of the Monastery. During the World War II, the Gospel Book of Prince Miroslav’ s ( a manuscript of priceless value and the greatest and most significant written monument of the Serbian literature from the 12th century )  was hidden and saved from destruction under the altar. The Bulgarian soldiers burnt the guest – house of the Monastery, but fortunately, the orthodox Church itself wasn’ t damaged. Thanks to his Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Pavle who once used to be a monk in Raca, a part of the holy relics belonging to king Dragutin, now can be seen in Raca where they really belong.

MONASTERY CHURCH AND THE TREASURY

Raca MonasteryThe temple dedicated to the Ascension of Jesus Christ was built by Janja Mihailović Mali and Nikola Đorđević Cincarin, having St. Achilius’ Church in the town of Arilje as a model.

The other well – known works by those respectful constructors are the Duchess Ljubica’ s residence in Belgrade, then the Duke Miloš’ residence and the church at Topčider Park. The Monastery church at Rača, made of limestone, makes an impression of accurate craftwork due to traditional church construction pattern of the old Serbian Raška construction school.

The basis of the Church in the shape of a free cross with a spacious semicircular apsida is 22m long, while the transversal with two places for the choir is 13, 7m wide. Including its dome, the church is about 20 meters high.

The iconostasis and fresco paintings help to make a whole impression of harmony and tranquility in Rača. They have got all features of church paintings which had their roots in the post Byzantine tradition, but also influenced by western art schools, especially late province baroque. The iconostasis, painted in 1840 by Georgije Bakalović, is quite large and impressive ( 6, 5m x 3, 5m ) with 38 icons painted in oil and the frames carved in lindenwood. The original, damaged over the years, was skilfully restored in 2005 by painters Duško Jovanović and Dragan Tomanović. The painting which was completed in 1854, is a perfectly preserved work by a Slavonian painter Dimitrije Postniković, who painted it in dry plaster and who covered the inner walls of the Church with more than a hundred smaller and bigger paintings showing numerous standing human figures and portraits.

Next to the emperors gate there is a part of the Holy relics of monk Teoktist, which is a right upper arm of the King Dragutin Nemanjić. In a new guest – house there is the Monastery treasury collection, where visitors can admire the manuscripts copies dating from 17th and 18th century. However, the most important exhibit is a model of the Gospel Book of Prince Miroslav’ s ( a manuscript of priceless value and the most significant monument of the Serbian literature in the 12th century ) , whose original was saved from destruction and oblivion in the World War II by the prior Platon Milojević, who dag it under the stone plates in the Church altar. The most important place is reserved for the holy dining table where in 1813 the Turks from Srebrenica beheaded the abbot Isaiah and deacon Ignjatie. There is also the duke’ s banner of the Soko Parish, which Hadzi Melentije Stefanovic carried in the First Serbian uprising.

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