Ponisavlje Museum Pirot

Ponisavlje Museum Pirot

Hristo Jovanovic Family Memorial House – The Manor of little Risto

The birth-house of Hrista Jovanovic, known also as Mali Rista /Small Rista/or Čučuk Rista, the renown and the wealthiest Pirot merchant of the 19th century, of the famous Jovanovic Family whom the Turkish pasha from Vidin allowed to built an impressive dwellings, houses nowadays the Ponisavlje Museum in Pirot. Ponisavlje Museum structure represents the best preserved and most impressive cultural monument of Pirot traditional architecture from the middle of the 19th century. It has been built in 1848 by the honorable Pirot trader, Mr Hristo Jovanovic, as the most prestige building in the town. Hrista Jovanović and his family lived in this house, as later his successors did, who changed the family name Jovanovic into Hristic family name /along the name of Hristo/. This beautiful edifice of the Ponisavlje Museum in Pirot itself at present, by its original architecture and details features all characteristics of the Balkan-oriental style.

Ponisavlje Museum in Pirot contains rich collections of traditional costumes, famous Pirot hand-woven rugs, unique Pirot ceramics and pottery, furniture, copies of frescoes of nearby Medieval Monasteries and other original items of total about 6500 items. The main activity of the Ponisavlje Museum, as the regional museum institution, which by concept belongs to the category of the Memorial museum institution of the complex type, is research, preservation and presentation of cultural and artistic and historical finds, movable cultural items found on the territories of Pirot, Dimitrovgrad, Babušnica and Bela Palanka Municipalities.

On the place of the Roman fortification located on the important trans-balcanic road Via Militaris, at the very edge of the large Roman provinces of Moesia and Thracia, on the territory where the ancient – old and indigenous Balkan peoples and tribes left their traces, together with the Byzantine cultural foundations and the ancient Balkan heritage, Pirot, one of the most significant and important towns has been created. Pirot was in the first half of the 19th century one of trading centers in the Balkans, the town of Shehirkey, Shehirkoy or Sharkoy where merchants from various parts of the Ottoman Empire settled. Merchants from Belgrade used to come to Pirot to buy textile, mostly rugs, clothes, canvas, socks and tailors’ staff. Bosniaks also used to come to Pirot, mostly for buying rugs and carpets. Cattle merchants from Old Serbia, Arbania and Epirus used to come to the famous Pirot cattle trading fair – panagyr. The cattle fair in Pirot was followed by the regular trading activities, where well known merchants – Greeks, Jews and Armenians brought their goods for trade : tobacco, leather, steel, coffee, wool, rice, clothes and various goods and produces. This fair enjoyed the reputation in the Balkans. In 1868 there was a famous Pirot trade fair held, with the total amount for sold staff over 5.000.000 groshes. Then there were abundance of Pirot rugs sold, for the amount over 250,000 groshes. More than 60.000 people visited then the Pirot trade Fair.
Pirot was one of the examples of the urban Balkan civilization, with developed urban lifestyle and the urban culture, where lived the urban population with characteristics of the Balkan civilization. Diligent and respected Pirot locals coped with numerous crafts and developed them during centuries, contributing to their features by own commitments, which are today recognizable worldwide. In the time when there was lack of industrial products, Pirot masters, craftsmen and artisans were able to make anything necessary for life by their hands and proper tools.

Today within the premises of the Ponisavlje Museum there are the Gallery, the Souvenir shop and the authentic restaurant with beautiful garden where is served amazing traditional food, prepared by exceptional food masters. This uniquely pleasant Pirot space is often used in film shooting, but also in our packages, for representation of well-preserved cultural heritage to our customers who gladly taste the exciting and delicious Pirot delicacies – kackavalj matured cheese, Pirot pressed sausage, produced exclusively of highest quality sheep meat and beef, but also of donkey, horse and goat meat …

Pirot rug weawing

The beginning of Pirot rug weaving tradition dates back to the 16th century, followed by the sheep-breeding expansion and farming development in Stara Planina Mountain. Ornaments, their shape and colors make Pirot’s rug recognizable throughout the world. They are full of symbolism and have Byzantine, Greek, Chinese and Turkish elements modified by Pirot’s spinners’ imagination and skills. On Pirot’s rug geometric motifs most often dominates a rhombus – ornament with prehistoric tradition that also appears on ceramics, metal and bronze. Stylized form of branched tree in many varieties could be found on all oriental rugs and it is familiar to all Eastern nations.

Weaving in Pirot has been done mostly between Djurdjevdan (May 6th) and Mitrovdan (November 8th). Pirot weavin has been done outdoor, and weaved rugs have had different dimensions. The beginning and the end of handmade rug weaving were followed by some customs. Yarn preparing should have started on Monday as well as weaving itself, and the one who rugs were made for used to bring “zatkavalnik” – plentiful breakfast or lunch. After the Pirot rug is done a girl from ordering party’s house or the bride, whose wedding preparations a rug was for, would bring a round bread, cheese and onions.

If you ask any of the remaining women spinners of Pirot  what is the most important thing for rug quality you’d always get the same answer – wool. It is considered that only wool of the Stara Planina Mountain sheep is appropriate for Pirot’s rug manufacture. There are two kinds of wool: fleece wool – sheared once in a year from living sheep, and sheet wool – taken off from leather of slaughtered sheep. Sheared wool classifies by its quality is washed in hot water, rinsed in cold and dried. After that, wool is manually combed and categorized: wool of fine quality is for weaving and the rest is for making woolen clothes.

Pirot kilim – Pirot rug is traditional produce of textile crafts in the area of Stara Planina Mountain, primarily of the Pirot county. The main feature is that the Pirot rug has no back side, but completely identical two faces, the case recorded and found nowhere in the world. The hand-weaving of Pirot was developed in the town of Pirot and out of the city in surrounding places of Ciprovtsi, Samokov, Lom and Berkovtsi. In the 19th century the weavers from Pirot used to get merried in Knjazevac and Dimitrovgrad where they have conveyed their skills of hand weaving of the Pirot rugs. That expertize later contributed to development of rug hand weaving in Sjenica and Novi Pazar, likewise in numerous places in Bosnia, as Gacko, Foca and Sarajevo. 

The Pirot rug has been since 2002 protected as product with clearly determined geographicak origin. Total of 122 patterns and 96 ornaments of the Pirot rug are recorded in the catalogue of the Pirot rugs. The Pirot Rug is winner in the International Festival of crafts in Siberia in Russia that was held from 9th till 16th June 2012 when it was awarded by the official prize as the best, national, craft and artistic product.  Damsko srce Pirot, Slavica Ćirić

Our highly reputed partner Slavica Ciric – the President of the Damsko srce Association Pirot always provides visitors unique experiences of discovering and learning on the ancient skills, research and application of the art of hand-woven rugs that she successfully practices for decades. During visit to the Damsko srce Association in Pirot, Slavica Ćirić tells visitors about meaning and energy of the patterns of hand-woven rugs: “the Sovra Pattern is ancient symbol of the ancient civilizations among which are the Serbs, that we here carefully maintain and preserve. I designed and creted this pattern and such a pattern was never seen before. The red color is not usual, but designates the color on caps of the Guard of the Military of Republic of Serbia, it is Divine color. The interior black color was not additionally colored, but it is natural, and comes from black sheep that is called „sura“ color which has some hints of white threads, and only in the central part there is the original red color. This rug pattern needs to be places horizontally on the wall or beneath the ceiling, or wherever you want, only it must be allocatad horizontally to the floor.”…..

Spinning is done by a spindle and a distaff. Thicker fibers are used for Pirot rug base and they are not colored, unlike the thinner ones which are used for woof. Spun wool from the spindle is rewound on winder for straightening and after that it is winded into spools, which are later painted and whitened. Women from villages of Pirot and Stara Planina Mountain used to paint wool by themselves in nut’s and ash’s barks, as well as in onion scales. It’s been painted with natural colors for a long time, but recently appeared aniline – final colors. Old herbal colors were bright red (cinnabar), livid (indigo), bright blue and dark green, green, black, coffee-brown and yellow. After painting yarn is being carried to the Nisava River or a brook for fine washing and after that it is strained and dried. /quoted from ACE Adventure/

Pirot ceramics Pirot Pottery

Pirot was the center of ceramics manufacture in the 19th century with more than 40 pottery manufacturers and ceramics workshops that used to produce over 70 different ceramics products. The uniquely colorful hand-made pottery – Pirot ceramics was used as the kids’ playing toys as well as the every-day pottery and brandy and wine cups.

The Pirot jewellery

The authentic „Pirot style” jewellery is strongly influenced by the Serbian Middle Ages creations. In 1896 there were 33 gold-smiths manufacturers in Pirot, who used variety of techniques for their masterpieces of jewellery work : moulding, ticking, filigree, gilding …in silver, gold, bronze, copper with addition of variery of precious stones. Dressing design and decoration in „Pirot style” had been significantly recognized among classes and in their social status and thanks to its magic features it greatly contributed to the strong belief of population of Serbia.