Praskvica Monastery

The Praskvica Monastery is one of the most beautiful among the Orthodox Medieval monasteries in Montenegro. Praskvica Monastery is Serbian Orthodox monastery in picturesque fishermen Čelobrdo village of the Adriatic coast of Montenegro, in the wonderfully green area of the present prominent Sveti Stefan, Milocer and Przno tourist centers of Montenegro. Nearby, fully surrounded with fruitful olive trees and lush fragrant Mediterranean vegetation was the summer residence of Her Royalty Serbian Queen Marija Karadjordjevic – Queen Maria of Romania, who was Queen of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later Queen of Yugoslavia, as the wife of King Alexander from 1922 until his assassination in 1934. The Praskvica Monastery is set in the Pastrovska Gora – Pastrovici area in the outskirts of Milocer tourist center by Przno, on the famous Sveti Stefan tourist resort in Budva municipality in the gorgeous Adriatic coast of Montenegro. The Pastrovici area includes the narrow coastal belt between Budva and Bar, precisely from Kufin to Babin Dol near Bečići and makes one of the most attractive ambient compound of the Adriatic maritime region which was ruled by the noble Pastrovic Family. The Pastrovici area – the Pastrovska gora was important and autonomous county of the Serbian state during the reign of the Nemanjic Dynasty when numerous monasteries and shrines were erected. The medieval Vojnici Monastery with the recently reconstructed church dedicated to Saint Demetrius is located in the Vojnici village, on the slopes of the Pastrovska Gora above the Praskvica Monastery. The legend has it that the church of Saint Nicholas of the Vojnici Monastery dates from the end of the 10th century, while the Church of the Saint Demetrius dates from the 13th century.

Since its foundation the Praskvica Monastery was a spiritual and political center of the renowned Paštrovići clan. The name of the Praskvica Monastery probably comes from the natural phenomenon of the peach-scented water of the nearby spring and the air full of the peach smell, especially in spring when plenty of waters come from the surrounding mountains. The local dialect of the area features the word praska which means peach. Locals say – “drink the water from this spring and you will taste the memorable flavor of a peach”.

The legend has it that the Praskvica Monastery was founded in 1050, while the first document which records it dates from 1307. This document is the founding charter of king Stephen Uroš II Milutin of Serbia issued during his visit to Kotor in which he confirms to the Holy Trinity church the ownership over villages granted to the church by his mother Helen of Anjou.

The present complex of the Praskvica Monastery includes two inland churches with monastic cells in dormitory with a museum and four churches on the Island of Sveti Stefan. The Saint Nicholas church is the main church of the Praskvica Monastery complex, built in 1413 which was dedicated to the patron protector of the Pastrovic clan. The founding charter issued by the ruler Balsha III of the Zeta Serbian state testifies on its foundation. The Saint Nicholas church of Praskvica Monastery was erected in the Raška architectural style and used to be a single nave structure with semi-circular apse, and the shallow transept that were used as choir and tripartite belfry. The Saint Nicholas church was built of regular ashlar stone blocks and was some 20 meters long and 11 meters wide. Simultaneously when the church was completed, a small dormitory with monastic cells was built nearby. Unfortunately the original Saint Nicholas church did not survive until the present time, as it was heavily damaged by fire and plundering of French soldiers in 1812 during the Napoleon campaign. French soldiers destroyed it almost to the ground because the Serbian people sided with Russia in the war at that time which France was waging with. The Saint Nicholas church of the Praskvica monastic complex was extended in comprehensive reconstruction in 1847, when only fragments of original frescoes and a part of one wall remained. It nowadays features a lovely rosette in the middle of the western façade. This is the only church in Pastrovic area with the dome decorated with shallow relief and narrow windows.

The second church of the Praskvica monastic complex was built in the 17th century on the hill and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It is tiny church, with an adjoining graveyard around it. Frescoes of great artistic value of the Holy Trinity church of the Praskvica Monastery were painted by master painter Radul in 1681. The gilded iconostasis of the Holy Trinity church of Praskvica is artwork of the famous painter Dmitrije Daskal. The fresco in the dome differs from the usual depiction of Jesus Christ. Here there are painted scenes of the Holy Trinity with the Christ on the throne in the middle, where Christ is depicted as an old man with gray hair and beard who represents the Lord, and in between them is pigeon, which represents the Holy Spirit.

The Museum of the Praskvica Monastery contains rich library and collection of valuable icons, precious liturgical vessels and and artistic items, old manuscripts and documents, such are parts of the iconostasis of the original Saint Nicholas church and the icon of the Holy Virgin with Christ that belongs to the Italian-Crete school from the 17th century and shines with unknown beauty. A handwritten Gospel manuscript with silver sides is kept here and legend has it that it was gifted in 1600 by the Montenegrin Prince Danilo to the Pastrovic clan.

The large stone table called “bankada” that was used for centuries in Pastrovic tribe judgement tradition highly attracts visitors of Praskvica Monastery. It was once in a month that important local issues were discussed here, like economic questions or introduction of new laws. There was a company of four judges, two dukes and 12 local noblemen who represented each member of the Pastrovic clan. It was in 1929 when the bankada justice court of the Pastrovic tribe was last time held here when the last Pastrovic lord was the Holy Stefan Stiljanovic.

There are four churches on the Sveti Stefan Island/resort that also belong to Praskvica Monastery complex. One of them was destroyed by the communists during World War II, and was later in 1960 turned into a casino and a terrace of the famous and world-known luxury hotel resort. The remaining churches on the island of Sveti Stefan are the Church of the birth of the Holy Virgin, the church of Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Protomartyr Stephen, and the Church of Christ Transfiguration and the Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky.

If you want to take a wonderful and memorable walk through the nature, you can use the trail called the Yegor road which climbs the Celobrdo hill, right above the Saint Trinity church of the Praskvica Monastery. There is tiny path leading from the old graveyard passing by two high cypresses, reaching the new graveyard. There is a large stone gate through which you should continue to starts the trail through the forest up to the peak from where your breath stops.

This lovely tiny trail with stone stairs leads from the Praskvica Monastery to the Celobrdo Hill and down towards the Przno beach reminding us of a touching legend on its construction. This tiny road climbing to the top of one of the best peaks of Sveti Stefan was tirelessly and persistently built out of stone with his one hand by monk Yegor Stroganov. Locals used to call him “Rus”/a Russian/ although he probably was of the Polish origin. However, when Yegor left his homeland to become a monk after a duel in honor of her daughter when he lost his hand, he left his wife and beautiful daughter Yekaterina. After death of her mother Yegor s daughter Yekaterina regretted for her behavior and decided to find her father. The young woman run away from home to find her father set off to faraway Montenegro who dedicated his life to prayers and hard labor. After many years of searching, Yekaterina found him in the Praskvica Monastery. For her great wish to stay close to her beloved father and God, she dressed up as a monk and so disguised settled in the Praskvica monastery. She devoted her life to prayers and vow of silence, and revealed her secret only right before her premature death. Yekaterina was buried on the Celobrdo hill. Since then local monks have been taking care of a modest tomb with only one inscription that reads ‘Yegor and Yekaterina Stroganovy’.

The Jegor Road is stone road built by a monk Yegor Stroganov, a one-handed hermit who lost his hand in a duel with a Russian captain whom he rivaled and killed for seducing his beautiful daughter Yekaterina. Due to this murder, monk Yegor spent 10 years in crashing the stone with his one hand in order to build a road from the Praskvica monastery high up to the village of Celobrdo in the coast of Montenegro. The name of Yegor Stroganov entered the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and locals of the Celobrdo village put a memorial marble plaque with the following words: Russian monk Jegor Stroganov built a road from the sea up to this place in 10 years, in the beginning of the 19th century.