Velika Hoca Village – The Pearl of Metohija

Velika Hoca Village – The Pearl of Metohija

The village of Velika Hoca is situated 5-6 km south-east of Orahovac and 25 km of Prizren, in one of the Metohija Valley, hidden on the road which connects Orahovac and Suva Reka. Velika Hoca village is one of the oldest settlements in the gentle Metohija valley of Kosovo and Metohija. In the earliest records which can be found, the Velika Hoca settlement was granted, together with eight surrounding villages, and first mentioned in the founding charter of King Stefan Nemanja in 1198/99 as the “Hotacka Metohija”, the metochion of the Chilandar Monastery. The Velika Hoca settlement was established along the line of Hoca River around the main medieval road, but no detailed archaeological recognition of the whole area have been completed to provide data about borders of the inhabited place in the Middle Ages. The whole area of Velika Hoca village at the average altitude of 400 meters is traditionally rich in wine-growing and wineries, thanks to great number of sunny days and well exposition of vineyards to the sun. Wine production in Velika Hoca village generated through its long history a rich collection of buildings of historical and cultural interest. Velika Hoca village is surrounded by the mountain chain of Milanovac Mountain /893m/ from the eastern side, Gradiste Mountain with medieval ruins of Zatric fortification /1039 meters/ and more than 30 km long Koznik Mountain range, protecting the village and the whole Podrimlje region from the north-east cold winter winds. Since the river and streams valleys open towards the south and west, the region of Velika Hoca is very exposed to the impact of the Mediterranean climate. Warm air current spreading over the valley of Beli Drim River has beneficial effect upon agriculture – wine-growing in particular.

All historical and written documents on the Velika Hoca village and the surrounding area indicate the traditional wine-growing and production of delicious wine and brandy for centuries. The Roman clay jar with cubic capacity between 300 and 400 liters, accidentally found in digging the foundation for a wine-cellar near Vrelo in Velika Hoca and Orahovac, prove that Velika Hoca was populated in the time of the Roman Empire and that its inhabitants were engaged in wine-growing and agriculture. Historic centers of the settlement are related to the churches and wineries and it is evident that the present square between the Decani Winery and the Church of St. Stephen used to be the main public structure and the most developed urban point in the 15th century. The winery /vinica/ is the particular part of the house built for wine production and keeping of wine.

Velika Hoca village in Kosovo and Metohija is an extraordinary entity comprising thirteen Christian preserved churches and objects of vernacular architecture, forming an extremely valuable complex of cultural and historical interest. One of the oldest is the Church of St. Nicholas built in the 13th century within the village graveyard, besides the stream, and reconstructed in the 16th century. It used to be the administrative center of the Metochy of Hoca. The Saint Nicholas Church is single-nave structure without dome, rectangular in plan and barrel-vaulted, built of dressed stone. The Saint Nicholas Church in Velika Hoca is covered with stone labs. A few meter to the west of the Saint Nicholas Church, a rustic belfry built of dressed stone is seen. The original frescoes of Saint Nicholas Church covering about 150 sq m are preserved in fragments : the best preserved frescoes represent the extraordinary composition of the portrays of Saint Sava and Simeon in the adoration of the icon of the Holy Virgin with the Child. The iconostasis of Saint Nicholas Church is made by famous medieval painter Longin, around 1557, after the reinstatement of the Patriarchate of Pec./Source MNEMOSYNE/

The former Church, today the Saint John the Baptist Monastery in Velika Hoca, recognized as the cultural value of exceptional importance dating back to the 14th century, is situated on a spacious plateau on the top of the hill dominating the whole area, on the north-eastern border of the Velika Hoca village, besides the strong Vrelo stream. The Hocka River, along the course of which several water mills used to be, begins from this stream, featuring the healing powers, most probably due to the immediate vicinity of the monastery. The ground plan of the church of Saint John the Baptist Monastery is extraordinary, making the quatro-foil – tetraconchos form. It is the only preserved example of this type of church in Kosovo and Metohija. In the interior of the church, eastern and western apses are somewhat higher and deeper, semicircular, while the northern and southern apses are three-sided in the exterior. Both the nave and the narthex of St John Monastery are barrel-vaulted. The walls are built of dressed stone and limestone, with thick mortar joints. The church of Saint John Monastery has never been domed. The entrance to the church is on the west front. A well-proportioned belfry, built of ashlars and bricks, was built in the northwest part of the monastery yard. Fresco decoration of the church of Saint John Monastery dates back to the eight decade of the 16th century, but the restoration works recognized the older fresco lays dating back to the 14th century. Its major part is either destroyed or coated with mortar and whitewashed. The condition of preserved fresco paintings, covering over 70 sq meters testify to great skills of old unknown painters. The image of St. Simeon Mirotocivi is portrayed in the first zone of the western wall and next to him there is the depiction of Saint Sava. It is not known who and when painted the frescoes in the Church. The iconostasis is contemporary to the mural decoration, proved by its original position. Two big icons of the Christ Pantocrator and the Holy Virgin Hodegetria as well as the centrally positioned figure of the enthroned Christ were painted by famous medieval fresco-painter Longin. /Source MNEMOSYNE/
Church of St. Stephen, dedicated to the Holy Archdeacon Stephen, is located in the center of the Velika Hoca village and date back to the 14th century. Church of Saint Stephen is the main church in the Velika Hoca village where church service is regularly held. The St Stephen church is single nave, rectangular in plan, with an apse semicircular inside and three-sided in the exterior, without dome, surrounded by wall encompassing the spacious court-yard with the well and the dormitory. The walls of the Saint Stephen Church were built of bigger pieces of stone and they are rather precisely dressed. In 1853 the church of St Stephen was entirely restored when the new narthex and the tripartite belfry were built.
Besides those churches, there are other Christian shrines preserved in Velika Hoca village: The Church of St. Elias, the prophet, The Church of St. Cyriaca /dedicated to one of the Christ’s brides/, The Church of St. Paraskeve, The Church of St. Anne, The Church of the Holy Archangel Gabriel, The Church of the Holy Apostle Peter, The Church of the Holy Virgin, nameless Church in Dugi Rid, The Church of St. Blase, The Church of the St. Savior, little Church of St. Tryphon /inside the Decani Monastery wine cellar, the patron of vineyards and wine/. /Source MEMOSYNE/

Since the rule of Tzar Dusan, the vineyards of Velika Hoca belong to Decani Monastery, whose monks are nowadays particularly engaged in the wine-growing and wine production using the existing traditional wine cellars. Vineyards in the surroundings of the village, in private possession, occupied an area of 160 ha. Owing to favorable ecologic conditions, the wine-growers could plant between 10.000 to 12.000 vines on an area of 1 ha, from which major production was produced and sold to the Winery “Orvin”, as the export product of exceptional quality and highly prized in the domestic and international market. “Prokupac”, “Vranac” and “Game” among the red wines and “Smederevka” and “Riesling” among whites, were the most often cultivated and thriving sorts. The wine production in Velika Hoca is traditionally followed by the exquisite brandy production.
Until the NATO attacks to Kosovo and Metohija in 1999 in Velika Hoča there was not any house settled by Albanian inhabitants.

In spite of tragic times for Serb population living in this small village, the comprehensive Strategy on long-term protection, preservation and revitalization of the Heritage in Velika Hoca is prepared by MNEMOSYNE, the Center for protection of Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija, defining the acceptable and sustainable concept for the well-being of existing inhabitants. Production of wines with the protected geographic region is one of the major developing part of this economic strategy and should be funded and supported by both Serbian and international institutions.
Nowadays there are about 700 Serbs living in Velika Hoca in extreme difficult conditions, badly suffering from the tragic misfortune, out of basic human rights, experiencing the constant torture, retribution and violence, but irregular electricity and water supply, facing the constant fear for pure life, completely isolated in the hostile surroundings of the armed Albanian population. The cruel fact happens that locals of Velika Hoca are literally cut from their own estates and vineyards, so “Albanian neighbors” take advantage of the grapes grown and wine produced on their estates, taking all means of pressure for more than eight years to persuade the existing Serb minority, without the basic economy existence, unbearable life conditions and confidence in police or UN protection, to flee “quietly” from their homes.