Moraca River – Moraca Monastery

Morača River is one of most beautiful river canyons in Montenegro which separates the Moracke Planine range from the range of the Sinjajevina Mountain, on the territory of Kolasin Municipality. Moraca River originates in northern Montenegro under Rzača mountain, at the height of 975 meters and continues direction south. In the Kolašin region, the Morača’s tributaries are the Koštanica, Sjevernica, Trnovačka Rijeka /River/, Javorski Potok /Brook/, and the Slatina, on the Mrtvica, Ibrištica, Ratnja, and the Slatina, on the left, and the Mrtvica, Ibrištica, Ratnja and the Požanjski Potok on the right. Apart from the Platije Canyon of the Moraca River, its right-hand tributary Mrtvica River also flows for the most part of its length trough a lesser known high canyon of breathtaking beauty. The region of the Morača River Canyon features the steep slopes of the terrain intersected with deep gorges and canyons. Morača River generally flows southwards some 113 km before emptying into the Skadar Lake east of the Vranjina Island. In its northern part the Morača River is a fast mountainous river which has cut a beautiful canyon north of Podgorica. After merging with its largest tributary, the Zeta River just north of Podgorica, the Morača River enters the Zeta plain and flows through this flat area of Montenegro until it empties into the Skadar Lake. The Morača River is the biggest tributary of Skadarsko Lake.

Morača Monastery is a Serbian Orthodox monastery, located in the northern part of the Morača River Canyon in central Montenegro. Morača Monastery is one of the most beautiful Orthodox Medieval monasteries and monuments in Montenegro, whose church is over 24 meters long and about 20 meters high. Moraca Monastery was founded in 1252 by Prince Stefan Nemanjic, son of Vukan Nemanjić, king of Medieval Zeta, the grandson of Stefan Nemanja. This is written above the western portal entrance with fresco of the Holy Virgin holding the Christ and two angels, painted around 1260. The Moraca Monastery has been built on the important trading road, leading from the Adriatic coast, along Trebinje, Grahovo, Kolasin on the left bank of the Tara River at that time, Brskovo, Sjenica, Nis to Sofia and Constantinople. The complex of the Moraca Monastery consists of an assembly church dedicated to the Assumption of the Holy Virgin and a small church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and a lodgings for travelers. The main door of Moraca Monastery has a high wall which has two entrances. The Moraca Monastery was built according to style of the earlier built rulers endowments of Studenica, Zica and Mileseva Monasteries. The assembly church of Moraca Monastery is a large one-nave structure with the dome and  spacious narthex built in the style of Raška architecture which quite differs from the maritime churches built at that time. The main portal of Moraca Monastery is built in the Romanesque style.

Beside the architecture, paintings of Morača Monastery are of special importance. There is a painting preserved from the 13th century with 11 compositions from the life of the Saint prophet Elijah who has important role in the Greek-Orthodox church. According to the tradition and Biblical texts, Elijah gave his spirit and power to John the Baptist the forerunner of Jesus. Saint prophet Elijah is known in many Slavic countries as the supreme Slavic god of storms, thunder and lightning bolts – Elijah the Thunderer (Ilija Gromovnik), who drives the heavens in a chariot and administers rain and snow. The fresco of Saint Prophet Elijah whom approaches the black raven holding a piece of bread to feed the hermit, highly distinguishes itself among frescoes of the Moraca Monastery. This painting is in much better condition than all the others of Moraca Monastery dating from the 16th century. Other frescoes of Moraca Monastery were ruined at the beginning of the 16th century when the Ottomans attacked the monastery, destroyed it and set aflame. They also took away the lead roof when Moraca original frescoes from the 13th century were badly damaged. It was in 1574 when the Moraca Monastery was repaired and covered again, when the new layers of frescoes were painted. Icons aside the iconostasis of the Moraca Monastery were completed by the best icon painters of the 18th century. Especially beautiful icons are the icon of Saint Sava and Saint Luke which are considered among the most valuable examples of icon painting in the Balkans. The Moraca Monastery keeps the holy relics – the hand of holy-martyr Charalampos who is saint celebrated on 23 February.

In close proximity of the Morača Monastery there is spring which is used for drinking since always. From the nearby slope called the Svetigora falls water from the height of 40 meters making one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Montenegro.

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