Sukovo Monastery

Sukovo Monastery

Sukovo Monastery is Medieval Orthodox Monastery located 18 km east of Pirot in south-east Serbia, on the road to Zvonacka Banja Spa. The Sukovo Monastery is set at the right bank of the Jerma River in the close vicinity of the village of Sukovo, at the foothill of woody Carev Kamen Hill. The Sukovo Monastery is dedicated to the Ascension of the Holy Virgin and it is also known as the Monastery of Sukovo village.

There are many legends on the existence of the shrine on this place in the Roman period. Greek records document the seat of Sukovo Bishopric here. Should we count the Turkish records on the taxes paid to the Sultan commenting the appearance of the Monastery which was painted in 1606, it is clear that the present day Sukovo Monastery was erected on the foundations of the previous church. Myths and legends on Sukovo Monastery date back as late as to the 4th century that testify on the construction of the nowadays church on the place of the smaller old temple. Construction of the present day Sukovo Monastery lasted from 1857 until 1859 that is evidenced by carved inscription above the window on the western facade. Sukovo Monastery features trefoil base with three semi-circle apses. The church of Sukovo Monastery was built out of stone and covered by bricks. Eight-sided dome with the pyramid on its top sits above the Sukovo church roof. The first narthex of Sukovo Monastery turned down during the Second World War most probably because of in-solid building material. The new narthex of Sukovo Monastery was erected in 1947 and recently it has been switched with the new and much spacious one, that better fits to the church size.

The valuable iconostasis of Sukovo Monastery with gold-plated woodcarvings is often mentioned. Its third row of icons was damaged during the Second World War. The most significant icons of Sukovo Monastery are those depicting the Holy Virgin with wings which is the gift from the Monasteries of the Holy Virgin from Visočka Ražana and the Saint John of Rila-hermit of the Rila Monastery who was specially respected in the region having been the Hermit of the Balkans.

Russian brethren from Holy Mount Atos served in Sukovo Monastery in the twenties of the 20th century. They contributed much to the appearance of the Sukovo Monastery when erected the new chapel and the bell-tower and the dormitory after collecting donations. Monks from the Russian holly brotherhood spent some time in Sukovo Monastery in the twenties of the 20th century. They bear a share in the Sukovo monastery’s prosperity while completed donation from the Russian emigrants used for construction of the new chapel, belfry and residences. Still there is the nice memory of the Arch-Monk Lukijan who served in the Monastery of Sukovo during the occupation.

The church of Sukovo Monastery was fresco painted in 1869 which we see by inscription of the master painter Vasil from Samokov : “Obrazopisec Vasil pop Hristov od Samokov od 1869 leto”. Wall decoration represents chronological overview of the history of the Old Testament, the Christian and the Serbian churches and is special because of the unique Icon of the Holy Virgin with wings that is painted here. Rules on who can be depicted with wings in the Christian iconography are very strict – those can be only angels and Saint John the Baptist, the one who announced Christ arrival. That it is very strange that in this monastery there is fresco of the Holy Virgin with wings. However, above the fresco there is a pale inscription that maybe throws light to this mystery, saying “Let the Holy Virgin care about us with her wings and protects us from all attacks of the Evil who tries to falter us in our faith”. /Milan Jovovic/. The east wall in front of the entrance to Sukovo Monastery naos is painted with large composition ‘Battle between good and evil’. Another unique fresco is the one depicting Saint Christopher with the animal head which represents the final victory of Christianity over paganism, as this saint which is rarely painted on icons and frescoes is depicted on the throne icon of the Gradiste Monastery in Buljarica. The icons of Sukovo Monastery are painted in baroque style with magnificent engraving.

Interesting national story with characteristic folklore note reports about the Sukovo monastery foundation. At the entrance to the narthex on the left side there is the joint grave of the founders of the renewed monastery, monk Vinijamin and priest Jovan Mandic /afterwards monk/. Priest Jovan was first buried in the church yard and his grave spot was marked with the marble cross. In Sukovo Monastery there are several valuable icons of large dimensions kept as well as some very significant old books.

According to the saved stock from 1912 it is obvious that the treasury of Sukovo Monastery was very rich. When the reconstruction of the church roof started in 1974, hundreds of clay objects of a different shape and preservation stage were found in the church surroundings. Mostly they are ceramic pots with beautiful painted decoration. Ceramic objects found in Sukovo Monastery were tight fitted in two rows with the hole pointed down. Almost all of them are kept in the Ponisavlje Museum in Pirot. According to decision of the Bishop Jovan of Nis area Sukovo Monastery was turned into the nunnery in 1945. The Serbian Orthodox church celebrates the feast of the Holy Virgin – “Mala Gospojina” on the 21st September. The monastery of Ascension of the Holly Virgin in Sukovo is under the government protection since 1968. The Sukovo monastery brotherhood came here more than two years ago from the Monastery of Sveti Prohor Pcinjski. At the beginning of the 21st century part of the old dormitory was reconstructed and few extra rooms were added for monks residences. Besides the new monastic cells there are several economic objects which provide sustainable life of the monastery /artistic and candle workshop, heating pot, souvenir shop, organic gardens, stables for cows and other domestic animals/. Sukovo Monastery regained again its highly spiritual and liturgical life and monks are involved in production of medicinal herbal products from the surrounding healthy environment of Stara Planina Mountain – delicious natural honey, tinctures, balms, various natural juices, rakija /brandies/ with herbs, cheese, ayvar /paprika relish/ and other.