Piva River – Piva Monastery

Piva River is one of few spectacular rivers in Montenegro. Piva River flows in north-western part of the Montenegro finding its way through high Montenegrin mountains, close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Between those gigantic mountains, the emerald Piva River carved spectacular canyon over 1000 meters deep. Piva River makes western border of the wider Durmitor Mt /2522m/ area that includes the Pivska Planina mountain /which is east of river/ and also takes water from one of Durmitor’s rivers, Komarnica, on the south. West of the Piva River are equally high Golija Mountain /1942m/, Bioc Mountain /2397m/ and Maglic Mountain /2388 meters/. From its source of Sinjac, Piva River used to flow 33 km towards north up to Scepan Polje where it joins with the Tara River to form Drina River.

The Piva Regional Park of Nature makes the natural connection between the national parks of Durmitor” and “Sutjeska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so its foundation was recognized and followed with numerous national and international documents and initiatives. Within the Piva Park of Nature there are over 1500 floral species, of which numerous – more than 80 registered until now – are rare and endangered. The Piva Park is habitat of more than 2000 types of mushrooms and abundance of herbs and well-preserved forests of white and black pine, fir, beech, maple, spruce, that provide rich flora of the park. Forests of the Piva Park make natural habitat of wild game – bears, wild boars and roe deer.

Between 1967-1975, the huge 220 meters-high Mratinje dam was constructed 10 km upstream from Scepan Polje which makes it one of the highest arch dams in the world. Then spectacular 180 meters deep and 45 km long Pivsko Jezero – Piva Lake lake was created but sadly river was killed and lot of canyon submerged. The Plužine Municipality spreads on the territory of 852 sq km. Surrounded with high mountains of Durmitor, Vojnik, Golija, Volujak and Maglić, the Plužine and Piva region makes an extensive Montenegrin mountainous area. Besides the municipality center of Plužine, there are some 60 villages in the region of  Piva. The Savnik Municipality belongs to the high Dinaride Mountains of Montenegro and borders to the south with Niksic, to the east with Kolasin and Mojkovac, and to the west with Pluzine, while on its northern side is Zabljak. All those natural features make this area an impressive tourist destination for various outdoor activities – mountaineering, rafting, canyoning, climbing… The Piva Lake extends even into part of the Komarnica river canyon. Well, not only canyon was submerged but also source of Piva River and Pluzine town found themselves under water. All streams, rivers and waters of the Piva area join the Bukovica and Komarnica rivers and further to Piva River, which continues to the Mratinje HE.

The Piva region provided row of prominent personalities, among them those originating from the Piva who especially distinguish themselves, are Bajo Pivljanin, Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic and four Serbian patriarchs – Makarije, Gerasim, Antonije and Savatije, all from the Sokolovic Family. Along the course of the rivers of Komarnica, Piva and Tara, between Durmitor, Maglic, Vlasulja, Golija and Vojnik, surrounded with Gacko, Golija, Šipačna and Drobnjaci, spreads the old Herzegovina tribe of Piva.

However, on the 7th of June 1943 when  Saint John the Baptist is celebrated, in the village of Dola of the Piva area happened one of the most horrible crimes. As official history claims, members of the Nazi SS Volks Deutsche forces of the Prince Eugen Division /which was comprised of Nazis and Ustase/ brutally killed 522 locals of this area, among them also 109 children. Death spread along the whole Piva tribe, so there were more than 1250 innocent people burnt alive in villages and katuns, or thrown down from the steep mountain sides. The Dola Memorial complex near Pluzine commemorates over 500 innocent victims executed by Nazi soldiers. In 2017, the new-martyrs – innocent victims of the Dola massacre and other mass killings in the Piva River Valley during June of 1943 were canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Historically very important Pivski Manastir – Piva Monastery was moved in 1982 from Piva River source some 2 km to the higher location in Goransko village, near the Mratinje Lake when the new town of Pluzine has been built. Piva Monastery houses several holy and miraculous relics. Pivski Manastir – Piva Monastery dates from 1573 as endowment of Herzegovina Mitropolitan Savatije – later the Serbian Patriarch. The Piva Monastery features around 1260 square meters of highly valuable and well preserved frescoes which were painted in 1604 and 1605 by Greek painters. Frescoes of the upper zone of the narthex of the Piva Monastery were painted by painter Strahinja from Budimlja with the specially wonderful scene of the Holy Virgin. The lower part of the narthex was painted in 1626 by painter Jovan – known locally until recently as Kosma. The same painter completed the gilded icons of the unique richly wood-carved iconostasis.

Piva Monastery is dedicated to Assumption of the Holy Mother of God. The Piva Monastery features three-part church, with the elevated central part-nave, without a dome. Its careful deconstruction stone by stone and transfer to higher location and reconstruction of frescoes, lasted over a decade during 80-ies of the 20th century when the Mratinje Lake and the Hydro-power Plant have been built. It is believed that Piva Monastery was built by the order of the Grand Vizier Mehmed-paša Sokolović and his cousin – the Serbian Patriarch Savatije Sokolovic, who was the next Patriarch of the restored Pec Patriarchate in the time when the Piva Monastery was constructed. The church of the Piva Monastery is three-nave basilica, with trefoil altar apses and the narthex, without the belfry and the dome, built of gray and rose stone blocks. Treasury of the Piva Monastery is considered as one of the richest and best researched among Serbs and keep number of precious manuscripts and relics. The throne icons of the Mother of God, Christ and Assumption of the Mother of God were painted by the art painter Longin.

“The academic painter – conservation scientist Dušan Nonin conducted from 1968 till 1981 works on relocation of frescoes of the Piva Monastery, the unique project in Europe that successfully moved 1300 sq meters of frescoes to the new location, as one of the largest endeavors of the conservation in general…… Total of 1300 sq meters of frescoes were moved and transferred into the reconstructed structure of the Monastery, nearly without any damage of some 90% of the surface, with only some 10% slightly destroyed that was repaired to the original state in later restoration process, and that exceeded even the most daring and the most optimistic predictions of experts. Numerous national and foreign experts in conservation were consulted at the beginning of works, many of them visited and left the spot, when Nonin himself took over the full responsibility for the outcome, aware of the fact that such engagement demands the full personality, so after 13 years of arduous job he achieved true exploit unparalleled in the world, that gained admiration of national and international cultural audience”. Mile Ignjatović, art historian, 1987.”When Paul Philip, one of the world and UNESCO experts for protection of monuments of culture in 1969 visited the Piva canyon, he said: „I have not seen any similar achievement so far“. 1300 sq meters of fresco paintings from the Piva Monastery dedicated to the Assumption of the Holy Virgin was moved under conduct of Dušan Nonin, which was accomplishment that led the Novi Sad artist to the circle of the leading European conservators”. Prof. dr Bogdan Brukner, 1973. “The painter copyist of the fresco paintings and portraits of the Piva Monastery, Dušan Nonin introduce us to the complex world of fresco painting, to the theological iconography and artistic beauty. By discerning in the essence of beauty and the universal artistic and aesthetic values, and generated by the energy of his artistic temper, Nonin provided us to learn on this monument of culture in the way which proposes its authenticity. Those are the fragments of the frescoes painted by known and unknown artists, among whom are the priest Strahinja from Budimplja and painter Kozma. All those painters are successors of the Byzantine traditions who created the Serbian culture. Given that Nonin was aware of totality of elements that create a composition encircled with a number of other, distract attention from the details, he copied fragments of the frescoes to obtain often anticipated artistic values of the modern artistic tendencies. By revealing to the slightest points the essence and logic of this painting and its plastic values, he designed the cultural-historical legacy of the artistic heritage. When copying the iconography of another artist, Nonin used his manner of extraordinary master copyist and by selection of details he managed to create his own iconography and the new composition, by using original stylistic feelings. In separation of depictions in the narthex and the naos of the Piva Monastery, adding his original and easily recognizable sign of the painting interpretation, Nonin created a whole which describes him as a painter copyist who elevated this relatively young artistic discipline to the level of artistic creativity”. Mile Ignjatović, art historian, 1992.

Piva River is characterized by its extreme, untouched natural beauty. The landscape near Piva River is marked by dense stands of trees, and limestone plateaus cut by canyons formed by the Tara, Piva, Komarnica and Susica rivers, forming a system of rivers and deep canyons unlike any other in the world. The Piva Plateau is very lightly populated by shepherds and a small smattering of local settlements, and the region is mostly devoted to stock breeding, especially sheep. The oldest settlements are mentioned in the Middle ages, in written documents and oral epics, such are Mratinje, Pluzine, Stabna, Stubica, Seljani and Rudinice, while in the mountain area settlements are Donje Crkvice, Zagradje and Scepan Polje. By oral tradition, those settlements existed in the 15th century, but by some old cemeteries and traces of vineyards and orchards, they might have existed even much earlier. Meat, milk, yoghurt, cheese, leather and sheep wool are products of Piva area with recognizable quality.

During their visit to the Piva River/Piva Lake visitors are invited to various outdoor activities: rafting on Tara River, cruising along the Piva Lake, mountaineering, free climbing, mountain bike ride, kayak ride adventure on Piva Lake, ZIP line across the Piva Lake, Jeep photo safari – Durmitor Mountain ring, quad ride, visit to the observation points of the Piva National Park, horse ride, visit to numeour ethno villages and camps, touring the monuments of culture….

Stabanska jezera (Veliko i Malo – Large and Small Staban Lakes) are located at the foot of the south slopes of the Volujak Mountain, above the Piva Lake, and make true nature jewels ! Name of Staban lakes comes from the Staban village, some 4,5 km away. Veliko Stabansko jezero – Large Staban Lake lies at the elevation of 1.325 meters above sea level, and covers surface of 42.000 sq m, depth up to 9 meters, and length 300 meters. Malo jezero – Small Staban Lake is set at the altitude of 1.194 meters, covers some 10.500 sq m, depth about 4 meters, and length 160 meters. During high water level, the water from the Large Staban Lake flows into the Small Staban Lake. Color of water of the Large Staban Lake is emerald-greenish with high transparency (even to 8 meters), while water of the Small Staban Lake is yellowish due to the muddy bottom, with water transparency up to 2 meters. Summer temperature of water of the Staban Lakes vary from 16-20 C, while in winter it is frozen. Lakes are rich in trout, and the easiest approach is from Pluzine direction, along the trail following the Vrbnica river and the Staban stream. The present town of Plužine is new, since the old center that used to be lower in the valley of the Vbnica River was flooded in the past. After entering the town of Pluzine, take road leading to the Staban Lakes, by turning left in the center. Local road goes for some 10 km from Pluzine to the villages of Vrbnica, Stabna and Zupa Pivska along the Piva lake shore and across the bridge over the Vrbnica River. Above the Piva Lake one can observe slopes of the Bioc Mountain (2.396 mnm) which belongs to the highest mountains close to the Piva Lake. Predrag Popovic – Vrhovi Crne Gore-Peaks of Montenegro