Zrze Monastery Zrze village

The Zrze monastery complex is located at an elevation of 1000 meters, near and actually above the Zrze village, approximately 30 km north-west of Prilep, on slopes of the gorgeous Dautica Mountain, dominating the Pelagonija Plain in Central-western Macedonia. The Zrze Monastery complex, called and known as the Zrze Monastery consists of several Medieval churches under the same roof – the Holy Transfiguration Church, Saint Peter and Paul Church, the Chapel of St. George and St. Nicholas, that with remnants of an early Christian basilica from the 5th or the 6th century, testify of the rich cultural tradition of the Prilep area. There are the numerous monk cells beneath the Zrze monastic complex, and their large number indicates the monastic complex as the substantial religious center and the rich spiritual life of the monks, who belonged to the highest monastical order.

The main church of the Transfiguration of the Zrze monastic complex is a single nave building, with a semicircular apse on the eastern side. Zrze Monastery was built by monk German in the mid-14th century, during the reign of Serbian King Dusan. Before 1368/1369 the western porch was added. At that time the Orthodox Metropolitan seat was in Prilep with the Archbishop Jovan as appointed Metropolitan. Archbishop Jovan and his brother Makarios were distinguished monks-painters who devoted their lives to fresco-decoration of the Medieval Orthodox monasteries and found their final rest in Zrze Monastery. They both, accompanied with the monk Gregory took care about the Zrze Monastery and in the 14th century painted it with frescoes. Their frescoes are preserved in fragments and feature precious drawing and skillful composition with the old style of modulation – harmonized and distant coloring that is related to the possible Byzantine experienced teachers of painting of the traditional discourse. Monumental feature of those Zrze frescoes is not persuasive. Intentions of painters were clear – to express the broadness and festivity of the old style by large forms and epic clear compositions, often borrowed from the 13th century. However meticulousness attributed to the new era took away the inner strengths from the painting. The fresco of the Holy Virgin with Christ depicted in niche above the entrance to the Transfiguration church is surely the unsigned work of Makarios. Two large precious and highly venerated icons of Zrze Monastery distinguish themselves from the others by their beauty and status of preservation : the Christ-Life giver painted by Archbishop Jovan in 1394 and The Holy Virgin Pelagonitsa with Christ, a which is work of his brother Makarios from 1422.

Brothers painters /zographs/ Archbishop Jovan and his brother Makarios painted also numerous monasteries of the time built in the region. When Turks occupied the Balkans, brothers ceded the maintenance of the Zrze Monastery to the mayor Konstantin and sons. Zrze Monastery was abandoned during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Bayazed I to be seriously damaged at the beginning of the 16th century. It was reconstructed in 1535 and in the 17th century its construction was completed by adding a porch and extension. The church of St. Peter and Paul had been built on the northern side of the Zrze monastic complex, later known as the Shepherds’ church. According to a legend, both Kings Vukasin and his son, Prince Marko, got married in the Zrze Monastery.

Today, Zrze Monastery complex consists of the several churches and chapels, the dormitory and some accessory rooms. The Zrze Monastery itself and the village below it, feature archaic and authentic architecture : houses with balconies decorated with flowers, wrapped up with peacefulness and deep tranquility and spirituality.

Sacred Legacy of the Balkans – Balkan Pilgrimage