Vodoca Monastery

The Vodoča Monastery with its Byzantine style church dedicated to Saint Leontius /Holy Martyr Leontius/ is situated at the exit from Vodoča village, only 4 km northwest of Strumica in southeast Macedonia. Vodoča Monastery was mentioned for the first time in 1018 in the charters of the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Second, at the time when Tzar Samuel’s state – the First Bulgarian Kingdon was destroyed. This shrine appears again in the historical archives of the Chilandary Monastery act from 1376, when the Vodoča Bishop Daniel and the Bansko Bishop Gregory settled their disputes with the local secular authorities over the borders of the Chilandary Monastery estates in the Strumica area. The oral tradition has it that this monastery was the first gathering place and the first religious place of the first Christians in the Strumica area.

The present outward appearance of Vodoča Monastery – the Saint Leontius church depicts the former splendor. Still, the interior setting, containing the multitude frescoes, the marble iconostasis, the large-scale throne icons, the opulent sacred vessels, the procession banners and precious adornments, the furniture and the liturgical utensils… have been lost for ever. There are no exact historical records on the construction of the Vodoča church. In fact, it is a complex of Vodoča churches with three construction phases. The oldest church is situated in the eastern side of the present day church containing only a small fragment of that remained in the altar space. The second phase is when the original Vodoča basilica was ruined and in the first half of the 11th century to the west side a church was built in the form of an inscribed cross, dedicated to the Entry into the Temple of the Most Holy Virgin. The only frescoes preserved until today are those of St. Euplus and St. Isaurius dating from that period, indicating analogies with the fresco painting in the Ohrid Holy Sophia Basilica and with the one in the Holy Healers’ church in Kostur /Greece/. In the 12th century an extension of the Vodoča Church was carried out, during which the large eastern cruciform church was built, which has monumental fresco painting. To the west part of the Vodoča church, in the second half of the 14th century, the narthex was built, fresco painted in that century. When the uncovered porch in the southern part was built, it is not known.

The Vodoca Monastery is far famous after a dreadful event and as a place where 14000 soldiers of Tzar Samuil were blinded, after their defeat in the Battle on Belasica Mountain by the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Second, after which the village was named. Vodoča Monastery is silent testimony to the magnificence of the ancient seat of Strumica metropolitan. At night this sight is yet more majestic. The whole Vodoča Monastery complex is lightened from various angles. Amid the surrounding darkness the chance traveler gets the feeling as if the monastery were pending, in descent from the heavens.

Taste of Macedonia