Rakovac Monastery

Rakovac Monastery

The Rakovac monastery church is dedicated to SS Cosmas and Damian and lies on the northern slopes of Fruska Gora Mountain, besides the Rakovac stream. The church of Rakovac Monastery is one nave structure of inscribed cross basis, with the semi-circular apse, covered with the dome which sits on the arches, supported on four square pillars. There is similarity between the churches of the Rakovac and Krusedol Monasteries and the Church of Saint Nicholas in Slankamen, as all of them have been built according to the principles of the Serbian Morava school of architecture.

The church of Rakovac Monastery has probably been built in 1533, when it was regarded as one of the most beautiful churches built in the 16th century. According to a legend written in 1704, Rakovac is the heritage of a certain man, Raka, courtier of despot Jovan Brankovic. The legend states that Raka erected the monastery in 1498 on a place where he had killed a deer. The monastery got its name after him. The monastery was mentioned in the first Turkish census of Srem in 1546. As per written documents, the Ottomans burnt to the ground the Monastery and hospice in 1687. This was time when the Turkish army withdrew across the Srem area, after the failure of the Siege of Vienna in 1683 and defeat in the Battle of Mohach in 1686 when they plundered and burnt all they found on their way. Then the Rakovac Monastery was probably deserted and first documents mention it in 1692-93 when the Abbott Teofan received a ferman /permition/ from Sultan to rebuilt the Monastery. The church of Rakovac Monastery was covered with shingle, and dormitories were restored. The enterprising Abbott Teofan brought from Russia financial support, gospels and various liturgy vessels. After the Ottoman army had withdrew from the Srem district, the Rakovac Monastery flourished, and in 1715 a new dining room and cellar were built. The baroque bell-tower was added on to the west church facade, in 1735, which entailed certain changes in the trefoil shape of the church and the whole monastery complex. Within the belfry a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas was built, and fresco painted in 1743. The church was covered with copper roof, and significant funding supported the decoration, and in 1763 the marble floor of the church was completed. The monks’ quarters acquired their final appearance in 1771, surrounding the church on three sides. In the canon visit in 1846 the Rakovac Monastery is described as the poorest Monastery in Fruska Gora. Only three years later, thanks to efforts of Mitropolitan Josif Rajačić and the Rakovac Archbishop Lavrentije Grešić, the coat of arms of Serbia and the Patriarchate were painted on the dome. Significant reconstruction was carried out in 1913. In the dawn of the First World War frescoes in the church were repainted, when dome appearance was changed. The soldiers of Austria-Hungary took away coat or arms from the dome, and used bells for military purposes. Rakovac Monastery was severely plundered, when numerous items were taken away from the treasury, icons, oil paintings and liturgical vessels and part of the archive. In autumn of 1943 the church and the belfry were detonated, due to the partisan printing house which was hidden in the Monastery. Roof of the Dormitories were set aflame, and the library and rest of the archives were destroyed.
The church of Rakovac Monastery was supposed to be painted at the beginning of the 16th century. The only preserved parts of the frescoes until the present are those in the tambour of the dome, preserved in fragments. The icons on the baroque iconostasis were done by Vasilije Ostojic in 1763. The single-nave chapel in the monastery graveyard dedicated to the Shroud of the Mother of God, built in 1751, houses the iconostasis painted by Janko Halkozovic and Vasilije Ostojic, in 1755. The Rakovac Monastery was severely damaged in World War II and a lot of cultural, historical, and artistic valuables were irretrievably lost. The church has been reconstructed and is under protection of the Institute for preservation of the cultural heritage of Vojvodina. Reconstruction started in 1953, since the new church covered with dome was completed. In the seventies of the 20th century the partial reconstruction of the northern wing of the Dormitory was carried out. The foundations of the original church have been excavated in 1986-89, the roof was recovered, and frescoes in the tambour of the dome were excavated and conserved. Frescoes on the pillars were also conserved, while the church floor was again covered with marble blocks.

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