Poganovo Monastery – Saint John Theologian

Poganovo Monastery – St John Theologian Monastery

The Monastery of Poganovo with its Church dedicated to Saint John the Theologian is one of the most precious and most significant among the Medieval monuments of culture of Serbia. The Poganovo Monastery is located between the Vlasko and Odorovacko zdrelo /Wallachian and Odorovac craters/ of the majestic Jerma River Canyon, in East Serbia. The Poganovo Monastery was built in the last decade of the 14th century, in 1390 most possibly by the mighty Serbian nobleman, Master Konstantin Dejanović Dragaš, the nephew of King Dusan and one of the last Serbian rulers after fall of the Serbian Medieval State to the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Konstantin Dejanović, known in history as Konstantin Dragaš, was the ruler of the whole East Serbia, and the part of Kosovo – that is how the Dragas area in Kosovo got its name, as well as the north of Macedonia, where also ruled the noble Mrnjavchevic Family. After the Ottoman sultan Bayazed conquered this part of Serbia, in his conquest of Thessaly, Morea, the Trnovo Bulgaria and Tzarigrad, Serbian ruler Konstantin Dragaš, as well as other Balkan rulers, became Turkish vassals, but got killed in the Battle of Rovine against Hungarian army, in 1395.

However, although until now there was no written data on the founder of the Poganovo Monastery, we find some fact that the construction of the Monastery, after the death of Konstantin Dragas, continued his daughter Helen, wife of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and mother of the last Byzantine emperors, John the 8th and Constantine the 12th. The relatively small, but well-preserved and wonderful Poganovo Monastery Church features the one-nave form with two side apses which is similar to three-leaf clove and follows some of the patterns of the Morava school of architecture. The Poganovo Monastery Church was built of layers of stone and bricks. The seven-sided dome of the Poganovo Monastery sits above the central part of the naos while the belfry is located on the western side. The fresco paintings of Poganovo Monastery were completed in 1499 by masters from North Greece and rank among the real Balkans masterpieces of that time. Frescoes of the Poganovo Monastery depict scenes and compositions of Great feasts, and Saint Fathers preaching, scenes of the Holy Virgin life, Christ Passion, Serbian saints, Balkan anchorites and apostles ascertaining the identity of the saint’s cults.

There are several economic structures around the church of the Poganovo Monastery that perfectly and harmoniously fit to the entire spiritual, graceful and secluded monastic complex. The so-called “twin icon” – double-sided icon, depicting the Holy Virgin and Saint John the Theologian is one of the most beautiful 15th century work of art. This icon was the gift from the Empress Jelena Dragas, the wife of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (1391–1425) to commemorate the death of her father, Constantine Dejanovic in 1395, has been hidden in the monastery until the First World War. Nowadays this unique icon is exhibited in the Icon Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria, as well as the excellent example of iconostasis from the 17th century, which is wonderful work of Debar master woodcarvers, taken from the Poganovo Monastery during the First World War.

Poganovo Monastery is located 25 km southeast of Pirot, at the very entrance to the wild, picturesque and tranquil Jerma River Canyon, between the Odorovac and Vlach streams, one of the most impressive scenery in Serbia. Visitors of the Poganovo Monastery enjoy in outstanding environment of the Jerma River Canyon, wonderful surrounding, unique hospitality and well preserved customs of local population and picking up medicinal herbs and forest fruits…. For comfortable stay of visitors there are traditionally appointed rural tourist households of the area of the Jerma River Canyon, or nicely appointed rooms of the Poganovo Motel, just next to the Monastery. Poganovo Monastery largely owes its tranquility and outstanding spiritual atmosphere to the breathtaking surrounding landscape which makes anyone who visit it – to come back and enlighten and spiritually invigorates…..