Gradiste Monastery

The Gradište Monastery in Buljarice near Petrovac is one of the earliest Orthodox shrines in the most beautiful part of the southern Adriatic coast of Montenegro, between Budva and Canj-Sutomore area. Gradiste Monastery is one of the pearls of the Medieval Paštrovska sveta gora – the Pastrovici Holy Mountain. The Gradiste Monastery is positioned in Buljarica coastal settlement, some 7 kilometers east of tourist center of Petrovac, on a hill overlooking the highway that leads to Bar. The name of the Gradište Monastery is connected with the toponym of gradina which means remains of a settlement or a stronghold that might have existed here prior to the establishment of the monastery. Legend has it that the Gradiste Monastery was erected in 1116 on the remains of an ancient structure or graveyard. The Gradiste Monastery is first time mentioned in historical documents from 1305 in the founding charter of King Milutin which confirms that Queen Jelena, the king’s queen mother had gifted it to the Monastery of the Holy Virgin of Ratac – between Sutomore and Bar, now in ruins. The Gradiste Monastery was for long period of its history the metochion of the Visoki Dečani Monastery.

The monastic complex is encircled with the defensive walls with gun holes and contains three churches and a dormitory set on a plateau fully surrounded with the lush Mediterranean vegetation. The main monastic church of the Gradiste monastic complex is dedicated to Saint Nicholas and was fresco painted with compositions from the Old and the New Testament, as well as with the portraits of the rulers of the Nemanyic Dynasty – Stefan Nemanya, Stefan the First-crowned, Saint Sava, Stefan Uros, Helen, King Milutin, king Stefan of Decani and Stefan Dusan. The second Gradiste church is dedicated to Saint Sava Nemanjic, while in front of the church of the Ascension of the Holy Virgin there is the active local graveyard. During its history the Gradiste Monastery was several times destroyed and set aflame, and reconstructed afterwards. The Gradiste Monastery especially heavily suffered in the attack of Mahmud pasha Bushatli in 1785 but also during the Second World War when Italians burnt and plundered it. The Gradiste Monastery was last time fully reconstructed after devastating earthquake in 1979.

The Gradiste Monastery churches house valuable iconostasis built at the end of the 18th and in the half of the 19th centuries. In the church of Saint Nicholas of Gradiste monastic complex there is the rare icon of Saint Christopher who is depicted with the animal head, actually bearing the dog-monkey head. This unique icon is encircled with twelve quadruple fields where holy apostles are depicted.  In the lower zone of the icons are depicted six standing saints. In the same row of the iconostasis besides this icon, there is the icon with portrait of Saint Nicholas. There is also the depiction of Saint Christopher with the animal head – dog and donkey which usually represents the final victory of Christianity over the paganism, as it is painted in Sukovo Monastery in southeast Serbia. Above the throne icons, the second zone of the iconostasis creates the central Diesis composition. Here in the Gradiste Monastery was handwritten the first Serbian spelling Book, printed in Venice. This handbook was handwritten by monks Stefan of Pastrovici clan and by monk Sava of Visoki Decani Monastery, also from the Paštrović clan.

Buljarica got its name after the Buljarević clan which is first time mentioned in 1423 when its lord Joan Buljarevic with reputed locals of the Pastrovic tribe signed deal with the Venetian Republic. Locals of Buljarice were mostly engaged in cattle breeding and agriculture, especially in production of wine and olive oil. According to consensus of 2011 there were 800 inhabitants living in Buljarice, while today there are much more people living here. Tourism is the most developed economy branch, as the wonderful beach of Buljarica is known for its length of some 2200 meters and tiny sand, with fish restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as equipment for water sports.