Jovan Bigorski Monastery (Св. Јован Бигорски)

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History of the architecture

Because the monastery through the past was repeatedly ruined, there is nothing left of the first buildings from the days of John from Debar. The only thing that remains from that period is the miraculous icon of St. John the Baptist. Today’s monastery temple dates back to the late eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. Its construction is associated with the name of abbot Mitrofan (Metrophanes – 1796-1807). However, perhaps most significant for the present look of the monastery is the abbot Arsenij (Arsenius – 1807-1839), which called the famous Miak masters for the making of the famous iconostasis and renewal of the old mansion.

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At that time the monastery quarters consisted of few buildings. The Monastic quarters, next to the church, known as the “Upper Mansions”, were built in the year 1814.

“Upper Mansion” was unique for its picturesque architecture. Most striking part, which gives the spirit of the entire building, which was skillfully worked loggia, outdoor issued stairs connecting the two floors of the residential quarters. First of all the ground floor consisted of rooms that were used for the economy of the monastery (the production of cheese, etc.). Later, before the fire, there were in the monastery kitchen and storages. Monastic cells were deployed on the balcony two floors. Besides them, there are bishop’s rooms, common room for the monks who until recently served the same purpose, office premises with archive and library with richly carved wardrobe books and stitching place, which was later remodeled in a cell for monks.

Special and memorable mark on the third floor of the quartes, was the former abbot room and bishop’s chambers, because of their protrusion from the inn. Thus the quarters thanks to its architecture, unique in this region, plundered its archaic charm, which cherishes the heart of the pilgrim, to awaken nostalgia for the past.

North-west of the church was in the inn with dining rooms, which was built from 1820 to 1825. Here housed were a male dining room and later a small dining room, and just below them were a female dining room and archondaric room. Former women’s dining room, which was located just below the male become a rich gallery, where was located the monastery treasury. Here were deployed rare icons from the XVII, XVIII and XIX century, ancient religious objects, fragments of carvings, old liturgical vestments, old crosses and other items of historical value.

Of special beauty excelled male dining room, the room “sinodikon” and the “archondaric” room. The Male dining impressed with its size and internal fresco written walls and ceilings decorated with impressive carving. Dining room until the fire was in its original state when it fulfilled its purpose. Archondaric chambers, however, are characterized by beautifully carved ceilings – rosettes and embedded carved details on the walls. Later one room served as the guest reception room and was enriched with a collection of portraits of old abbot of the monastery. This collection was made by order of the current abbot, Archimandrite Partenij (Parthenius), as a token of love and gratitude to his predecessors wished to preserve their images for future generations, paying tribute to those that his life was incorporated into the foundations of this Monastery.

Among the inn with dining and “Upper Mansions” was located the former monastery kitchen, with auxiliary oven. The kitchen with its large domed fireplace and a small built-in oven, until its end, it had maintained its authentic look and purpose, and under it was the big oven and the storages.
On the west of the church was located “Momochki konak (inn)” which was built in 1870 at the time of Abbot Archimandrite Michael (1870-1894), and was intended for living of the monastery assistants (momoci). Ground floor of the inn served as a laundry, because of its proximity to the taps and floor were living rooms. The appearance of the residential quarters, was characterized with striking between floor wooden construction which ended with many issued a shed, making the inn perfectly fitted in the monastic setting. However, in the 60-ies of the last century, for unknown reasons, the inn was demolished and today here is spacious concrete plateau, which the visitor opens the view to the picturesque mountain hamlets. Right behind “Momochki inn” located is the “Sejmen Tower”, where the guards (sejmens) lived. Today the tower is reallocated a small chapel dedicated to St. George from Kratovo.

Another impressive building which is located south of the church is the monastery ossuary made from green formed stone in 1827. In it were the skulls of dead monks, who at the time of Communism were hidden in the foundations of the ossuary. With the renewal of monastic life, the monastery brotherhood miraculously discovered the skulls, exactly opposite the day of the dead. On some of the skulls is a registered name and location from where came the monk.

Just above the entrance of the monastery, there was an inn called “Dolni Palat”, which unfortunately burned down in 1912. The old inn, along with other shelters and buildings accounted for a closed whole, typical for monastery living quarters from the type of the monasteries in Sveta Gora. The inn was distinguished by special artistic forming of doors and ceilings, which were different in each room so that the interior rooms with richly arranged used for receiving guests. Inn was the work of masters from the village Lukovo – Struga Drimkol known for crafty stone processing. Quarters formed the entrance to the monastery in the form of a semicircular arcade monastery fountain in the entrance, with special ornament around the inn. The monastic brotherhood tried, to restore the authentic appearance of the monastery, with full restoration of this lavish guest quarters. The inside of the “Lower Mansions” is completely authentic and is enriched with one more floor and chapel dedicated to the feast “Annunciation”.

sv-jovan-bigorski-old-photo-02Right from the entrance to the monastery, as well as before the church porch, are fountains with cold drinking mountain water.

On September 30, 2009, in the monastery fire, completely were burnt the dormitories, dining room, guest room, kitchen, library, monastic houses and gallery icons. The fire which broke out in the kitchen luckily has not embarked on the monastery, where were invaluable assets, as icons, iconostasis and the famous miraculous icon of “St. John the Baptist.”

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