Saint Nicholas Monastery Psaca

Saint Nicholas Monastery in Psaca village is located 14 km away from Kriva Palanka in north-eastern Macedonia. The Medieval Psaca Monastery is set in the western portion of the northern foothill of the Osogovo Mountains, in the beautiful forests by the tiny village of same name with population of 538 Macedonians as per the 2002 census.

The Saint Nicholas Monastery in Psaca village has been built as the joint endowment of the Serb noble and prominent family of Paskachic who were in service of the Serbian king and tsar Dusan Nemanyich. Those were sebastocrator Vlatko and his father Paskach whose name might have influenced the name of the village. The Paskach family was prominent and ruling Serb family of landlords in the area of Stratzin -Slavishte /between Kumanovo and Kriva Palanka where the village of Psaca is located/ during the reign of Tsar Dusan and his son Uros. The Paskachis family was in close relationship with the noble Mrnjavcevic family by the marriage of lord Vlatko with Vladislava from this co-ruling Mrnjavchevich royal family. There are not many historical records on the lord Vlatko’s life, but it is assumed that he got killed in the Maritza Battle in 1371, and left his juvenile son Ugljesa. Ugljesa was close associate of the Serbian despot Stefan Lazarevic and ruler of the area of Vranje, Inogost and Presevo, but his possessions were later taken by the Dejanovic Family members.

Although there are insufficient and rare historical evidences on the construction of the Psaca Monastery, it is assumed that the construction of the tiny monastery church of Saint Nicholas had been completed around 1354. The original church of the Psaca Monastery used to have the base in the form of elongated inscribed cross with a single dome above the central part, and the narthex which also had a dome and the stone roof. The dome was later removed, so that the present form of the Monastery church of Saint Nicholas reminds on the three-nave basilica, rather than the form of elongated cross church.

The original architectural appearance of the Psaca Monastery church has been preserved up to the present day, while the inscriptions around the picturesque portraits, painted between 1365 til 1371, which feature fine details of lively compositions, have been partially destroyed by Bulgarian schovinists, during the enemy occupation between 1916 and 1918, due to their intention to erase every clue of the Serbian origins.

Refined endowers portraits which adorn the walls of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Psaca are significant not only for their historical, but also for the ethnographic aspects. On the northern wall are depicted portraits of Tsar Uros (1355-1371) and King Vukašin Mrnjavčević who were simultaneous rulers on the Serb throne for some period of history (co-ruler king 1365-1369, independent ruler 1369-1371). Realistic depictions where the co-ruler King Vukašin stays right from Tsar Uros clearly testify on ruling hierarchy in the Serbian Medieval Kingdom. On the southern wall of the Saint Nicholas church in Psaca village are painted true depictions of the donor and his family – Prince Paskač holding a church model in his hands,  together with his son Vlatko – as the co-endower, Paskac’s wife princess Ozra, Vladislava – wife of Vlatko, and their three sons Stefan, Uroš and Uglješa.

There is little historical evidence about the Serbian nobleman Vlatko who dedicated this church to the Chilandari Monastery in 1358. However, the founding charter which attributes the Psaca Church to the Holy Virgin of the Chilandari Monastery, issued by the nobleman Vlatko is kept at the Chilandari Monastery. Significance of frescoes of the Saint Nicholas Monastery in Psaca is attested by historical data on its founders and their families. Nobleman Vlatko is here attributed sebastocrator which is the status entitled to the closes relatives to the rulers. The Charter from 1358 confirms that aristocrat Vlatko at the time of its issue was still considered the nobleman, which means that he got the sebastocrator status by his marriage with the girl from the ruler s house. His wire Vladislava most probably origins from the family of King Vukašin, who was at that time the co-ruler on the Serbian throne together with Tsar Uroš. As in the Middle Ages it was customs to name heirs with names of their ancestors, we may assume that Vladislava comes from the house of Despot Uglješa, brother of King Vukašin. That is how Vlatko, brother-in-law of the king got status of sebastocrator. Unfortunately there are not historical traces on the other member of the family, except for the youngest son Uglješa, who was mentioned during the reign of Despot Stefan Lazarevic in 1402 after glorious return from the Battle of Angora, then in 1410 on boats who carried Despot Stefan to the Prince Mirce of Wallachia and in 1412 during the campaign of ruler Musa to the Novo Brdo fortress. Later he got the title of kesar /ceasar/– the ruler of the particular area, when he become known as the ruler of the Vranje, Inogost and Presevo towns. One of his sons is buried in the Ljubostinja Monastery, in Central Serbia, where on the grave stone it is inscribed : ‘Stefan, son of the ćesar Uglješa’.

Portraits of the Church of Saint Nicholas Monastery in Psača belong to the most beautiful and best accomplished among the Serbian Medieval paintings of Macedonia. Along to the fact that the well-preserved frescoes of the Psaca Monastery truly depict members of the old Serbian noble family, they also provide important evidences for studying the lavish royal costumes of the Medieval Serbia. Besides the realistic depictions of historical personalities, frescoes of the Psaca Monastery also emanate scenes from live of Saint Nicholas, and compositions of the Ascension of the Holy Virgin and Communion of Apostles. Some additional frescoes were painted in the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century by the fresco painter Dimitrie Andonov Papradiski who used his recognizable talent to depict characters of several saints on the west facade of the church. The outer facade and walls of the Saint Nicholas Monastery in Psaca are richly decorated with stone ornaments and sculpture. On the western entrance to the church there was an inscription destroyed in 1876 as it mentioned Tsar Uroš and King Vukašin.