Holy Virgin of Hvosno Church

Holy Virgin of Hvosno Church

The Monastery of Hvostno Virgin was in Middle Ages located at the foot of Mokra Gora Mountain near the village of Vrelo, 20km north-east of town of Peć in West Kosovo and Metohija – actually Metohija.

From the Medieval times this area, the part around Decani Monastery and Peć Patriarchate is also known as Old Hvosno /4.684 sq km/. Hvosno /encompassed major part of present day Metohija/ was covered with a network of large and rich monasteries built by Serbian kings and significant number of late medieval churches erected by local Serbian noblemen /Velika Hoca, Orahovac, Crkolez, Vaganes, Zociste, Dolac…/. Hvosno is registered in the historical biography of Stefan Nemanja, while the Hvosno Diocese was mentioned in the charters of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II who determined the borders of the Ohrid Arch-bishopric.

Nowadays there is nothing left of the Holy Virgin of Hvosno Monastery. This is until now the only known monastery from the 6th century in the northern Illyric that testifies of the great care by the Emperor Justinian, obviously for some special reason. The earliest structure on this location date from the mid 6th century. Within the Byzantine fortification there were two three-nave basilicas with narthex belonging to the early Byzantine period. The semi-circle ape of the main church of this monastery relates to the early reign of the Emperor Justinian and the first decades of the 6th century, as later churches were built with outer three-sided apses, under the influence of Tzarigrad construction style.

It became part of the independent Serbian Archdiocese in 1219 and the Hvosno region came under special Hvosno Diocese with its seat in the Monastery. With the Serb Orthodox Church being elevated to the level of the Patriarchate, the Prizren Diocese acquired the status of a Metropolitanate and the old Hvosno and Lipljan Dioceses, i. e. that of Gracanica /Novo brdo/ were added to the Prizren Diocese after 1766. Many new churches were built when the region of Hvosno became part of the newly established Serbian Kingdom in the 12th century. The Holy Virgin of Hvosno became one of the first Serbian Bishoprics. The ruins of two large Early-Byzantine basilicas were reconstructed in the third decade of the 13th century and the new cathedral of the Holy Virgin was constructed with adjoining monastery buildings. The church base was shaped as a three-nave basilica with a transept, dome and the altar space which was semi-circular from the inside and rectangular from the outside. The exo narthex was on the west as well as the rectangular vestibule. The Holy Virgin of Hvosno church was built in the tradition of the Medieval Serbian architectural school of Raska with characteristic influences of the Romanesque architecture which flourished in the nearby Zeta /Montenegro/. The church was called Mala Studenica /Small Studenica/ or Studenica Hvostanska /Studenica of Hvosno/ with association to the famous Serb Orthodox Monastery of Studenica in central Serbia built in the similar architectural tradition. The cathedral was also painted with frescoes after the architectural works had been completed. A smaller church of a single-nave design, with a semi-circular apse and semi-spherical arch ceiling was constructed on the south of the main church in the middle of the 14th century. It was promoted to the Metropolitanate in 1381.

From 1221 when Prochorus, the first Bishop of Hvosno is mentioned until 1635, when the Monastery is last mentioned in written documents, the names of 17 Bishops who resided in this Monastery are mentioned in the Church records. The second part of the 16th century was the period of the spiritual and artistic activities flourishing in the monastery and the last Bishop Victor was mentioned in 1635. The monastery of the Holy Virgin of Hvosno was deserted and began to decay most probably at the time of Velika Seoba Srba /Great Migration of Serbs/ in 1690 when large number of Serbs led by their Patriarch Arsenios fled from Kosovo and the southern parts of Serbia before Turkish retaliations which ensued after an unsuccessful Christian uprising. Ever since the Monastery was deserted, local Albanians of the Vrelo village began using the stone from this church which made the entire complex deteriorate rapidly, similarly to the Monastery of Holy Archangels near Prizren.

The ruins of the Monastery complex were explored in 1930 and from 1966 to 1970 when conservation works are carried out on the remains of the church. Beside the church, living quarters and Monastery refectory and other facilities have been found and only fragments of frescoes. The most significant among them was the church bell whose ringing could have been heard all along Metohija area which was gift from the well-known nobleman Rodop. The bell was buried by local Serbs deep in the ground for long time in order to be preserved from Turkish destruction.

Just before the Kosovo war 1998-1999 Bishop Artemije planned reconstruction of this holy site and foundation of the new monastery. Entire complex of the Holy Virgin of Hvosno is now without any protection and there are reasons for fear that the local Albanians will destroy even existing ruins of this Monastery. The entire complex of the Holy Virgin of Hvosno Church is since 1990 under protection of Republic of Serbia as the monument of culture of exceptional importance.