Holy Trinity Monastery Pljevlja

Holy Trinity Monastery in important Medieval Orthodox shrine of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 1,5 km north of center of Pljevlja in north Montenegro, surrounded with green Gornja Vrhobreznica area above the Breznica River. The Holy Trinity monastic complex in Pljevlja contains the main church, large dormitories of wonderfully carved wood, the small dormitory, the bell tower, small residential structure above the church, tiny sacral structure dig below the ground, and nicely erected fountain of carved stone, which collects the water of the Biserka River coming from the surrounding hills into the monastery yard. Paraklesion – the chapel dedicated to the Shroud of the Holy Virgin is located in the large dormitory of the Holy Trinity Monastery where services are held in winter. Today the area of the Holy Trinity Monatery in Pljevlja is surrounded with nicely arranged Vodice city park of Pljevlja adorned with walking trails, artificial lakes, fishpond, sport grounds and catering and tourist facilities that attract numerous visitors.

The original settlement from the 9th century on the spot of the present town of Pljevlja was named Breznik or Gornja Vrhobreznica, after the river of Breznica, and belonged to the Nemanic Dynasty landlords during the time of the Serbian Medieval State. Since the middle of the 10th century this settlement was within the center of the Serbian Raska Medieval State. In the 13th century, the Serbian Medieval State experienced huge economic growth, when the mining was established here in Pljevlja area, performed by the skillful Saxons – miners of the German origin. The present name of the mining settlement of Sula is rightfully connected with the German term determining the Saxon mining school. Traces of mining are preserved in Kozica where by the legend was the Jerina stronghold, whose remains are visible today. After the death of Tsar Dusan in 1355, the Serbian state declined and this area became under the reign of Vojislav Vojinovic, and after his death in 1368 the rule took over the duke Nikola Altomanovic. In 1465 Turks conquered town of Pljevlja previously ruled by lord herzeg Stefan Vukčić Kosača and his sons. At the end of the 14th century the area of Pljevlja came under rule of the Bosnian king Tvrtko I and after his death, at the beginning of the 15th century, Pljevlja area was within the rule of the lord Sandalj Hranic. This area was named Herzegovina after his successor Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca who crowned himself as the Herzeg of Saint Sava. During reign of Herzeg Stjepan trading connections with Dubrovnik Republic were improved that continued in the period of the Turkish administration. Merchants from Dubrovnik used to buy in Pljevlja lead-zinc ore, the iron ore, wax, and wool, various decorative and other products manufactured by the skillful masters of Pljevlja. It is not strange that many documents are kept in Dubrovnik archive thanks to excellent trading relationship between the Pljevlja masters and Dubrovnik traders.

In the 16th century the Turks named the town of Pljevlja Tasludhe or Taslidhe – after tas – stone and lidza – spa, which means a stone spa, or the a healthy place, which was the administrative center of the Herzegovina sandjak from 1576 til 1833. In 1912 Pljevlja was liberated from the Turks, after several centuries of slavery and yoke, and at the end of the First WW ceased occupation of the Austria-Hungary Empire.

The first records on the Holy Trinity Monastery dates from 1537, by the annals of Priest Sava, the first copyist of the monastery. In 1537 donors of the Holy Trinity Monastery erected the earliest part of the church – the naos /central part/ and the large altar space. In 1592 the inner narthex with the dome was added. The final and present appearance of the church of Holy Trinity Monastery dates from reconstruction carried out in 1875/76, when a large outer narthex was added. The church was several times reconstructed and rebuilt, starting from the 16th century when the original church of small dimensions, that pretty resembled the Orthodox churches of the Raska style of the 13th century, was built during the service of the Abbott Visarion.

The narthex and the main part of the church was fresco painted until the end of the 16th century. The fresco painting was performed by the painter Priest Strahinja from Budimlja, the reputed fresco painter who decorated numerous churches and monasteries of the area at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. In the first zone are painted saints, and the donors composition and the Nemanic Family Dynasty, while in the upper zone are depicted scenes of the Great religious feasts and the Christ Passion. The Dormitories were burnt to the ground in the big fire in 1859, and soon were carefully reconstructed to make today a uniquely harmonious complex. During the whole period of the Turkish reign the Holy Trinity Monastery was one of the most significant religious, educational and cultural and national gathering spot of the Orthodox population of the Pljevlja area and the population of Montenegro and Raska and so-called Herzegovina Sanjak of that time.

The Christian population of Pljevlja took great care about the monastery and preserved their settlement during the four and the half centuries of the Turkish rule. In the 16th and the 17th and the 18th century the Holy Trinity Monastery in Pljevlja was renowned as the important copying and literacy center. Several dozens of hand written manuscripts and books were created in the Holy Trinity Monastery by the monastic diaks – copyists. Monks used to copy here numerous religious books, that made the monastic Library extremely rich, and contains today some 150 hand-written books, more than a hundred of charters, by which monks were addressing the Porte and the Royal Russia for protection and help, from the continuous attacks and plundering of the local Turkish representatives. In the Library of the Holy Trinity Monastery are kept rarely fine and precious sheepskin books from the 12th and the 14th century. Besides the numerous precious silver, gold and wooden liturgical items, the Treasury of the Holy Trinity Monastery contains significant fine textile and the church embroidery, book covers, the large gold-plated cup of the Abbott Stefan, the very famous and perfectly manufactured coffin from 1576, the silver-plated stick of Saint Sava…. Here are kept items manufactured in the workshop of the famous 16th century goldsmith Jovan Hocanin /Focanin/. The Holy Trinity Monastery houses royal doors and two choirs that are executed in the rare and extraordinary expensive technique of bone marquetry. ‘The Treasury of the Holy Trinity Monastery is regarded as the third richest of the Serbian Orthodox Church, after the treasuries of the Chilandary Monastery and the Decani Monastery with more than 1700 items kept here.

In the church of the Holy Trinity Monastery are kept numerous holy relics of the highly venerated and unknown saints, and various decorated liturgical vessels. However the special attention attracts the coffin where were kept the holy relics of Saint Sava Nemanjic – the first Serbian Archbishop. Here in the Monastery were the Saint Sava holy relics until they were in 1594 taken to Vracar in Belgrade and burnt. Today there is located the famous Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava, the second largest Orthodox shrine in the world. The Holy Trinity Monastery is highly respected sacral place by the Orthodox Christians, but also visitors of the Moslem religion.