The mysteries of Polog monastery

10 April, 21:52
The mysteries of Polog monastery

Who was the man buried in the church of the Polog monastery and why did Tsar Dushan issue a special charter in 1340? Who painted the fresco depicting Joseph approaching Virgin Mary and holding a stick in his hand, mad because of her infidelity? Will the Polog monastery come to life again with the arrival of the first nuns in the new hospice?

According to Dr. Dimitar Kjornakov, who lead the team that explored and reconstructed the church and the whole complex during the 1980s, the Polog monastery has always been a challenge for science because of the mystery that surrounds it, but also because of the building itself and the painting. Today, the only way to get to the Polog monastery of “Saint George” is by water. There is no other way except the Tikvesh Lake. It takes about two hours to get there if you are travelling by an ordinary fishing boat, or an improvised tourist boat. Speed boats need less than 15 minutes.

Encrypted frescos!

After all the researches and repairs of the church made twenty years ago when the 14th century frescos and other contents were discovered in and around the monastery, one of the hospices has finally been restored few years ago so now there are couple of nuns and novices staying there after almost two centuries. Even though none of them wanted to speak in public or to get photographed, they all believe that soon this monastery will be part of the “living” Macedonian monasteries, sanctuaries that were left on their own or used for other, bizarre purposes for decades.





According to Dr. Dimitar Kjornakov, who lead the team that explored and reconstructed the church and the whole complex during the 1980s, the Polog monastery has always been a challenge for science because of the mystery that surrounds it, but also because of the building itself and the painting. Part of those mysteries were unfolded during the research from the beginning of the 1980s when extensive archaeological researches were made, as well as conservation of the architecture, dismounting of the frescos, etc.

That was the time when the historic portrait of Dragushin and his wife Ana were found, as well as the portraits of the founder Maria, Dragushin’s mother; and Dragushin and Ana’s son; and two inscriptions at Dragushin’s, and at Maria’s frescos. Also discovered were actual size portraits of King Stefan Dushan, his wife Elena, and their son Urosh; and an inscription referring to Stefan Dushan. The discovery and the excavation of Dragushin’s grave and the discovery of the portrait of Saint George, the church protector, were of great importance.  




Kjornakov’s interest in this exceptionally mystical Macedonian monastery began sixty years ago, immediately after Macedonia’s liberation. “Because I was already familiar with the mystery surrounding the monastery from the literature that was available to me as a student, I finally went there during the 1950s. There were two paths to the monastery back then: the first was through the village of Vozarci and the flow of river Crna; it was a narrow, curvy horse track that penetrated the river’s canyon. The second path was through the village of Begnishte, down to the region of Kamenica where the river Kamenica flowed into river Crna. It was a long and difficult trip to the monastery in any case. Whenever I thought I had gotten somewhere near the monastery, I was actually still down in the canyon. The monastery was high above the river. It was steep path that lead to the hardly accessible monastery, like a nest under the mountain tops of Visheshnica. 

A very sad image welcomed whoever reached it: ruins from what once were monastery hospices, overgrown with grass, thorns, blackberries and weed. The two shallow carved folding doors of the church, made in early 17th century were opened, but there were so many overgrown bushes in front of them that you could easily conclude that no one entered nor was interested in the monastery at least for the last couple of decades. That image was everywhere to be seen in the church. The remains of the southern and eastern hospices were peeking, as well as parts of the main gate.

Fortunately, inside the church there was a great treasure miraculously preserved: 14th century frescos, a big carved cross standing in the upper part of the iconostasis, and two big icons of Holy Godmother with Christ; and Jesus Christ.

It was June 1957 when I left the Polog monastery of “Saint George” with a heavy heart. In my mind I never left it because the hidden treasures of the monastery that unfortunately were left at the mercy of time, were constantly in front of me. Anyway, ten years later I visited the monastery again, but that was in official service, to record and document the icons and sacred objects. Actually that was an action of the National Conservation Centre. I remember that we started the trip from the village of Rozhden, descending down the river of Blashnica, which also flowed into river Crna. The path down the canyon of river Crna was difficult and hardly passable, and the access to the monastery was risky.

Unfortunately, this time the 17th century frescos were cracked but luckily there were older frescos peeking underneath them. I left this mystical monastery riddled by what could there be under the cracks, and whether the whole eastern wall of the western façade of the church was full of frescos, dating from the time when it was built. I had that thought until 1980, when, as an historian of art I recommended the National Conservation Centre to include the Polog monastery of “Saint George” in the program. Fortunately, my proposal was accepted and the following year a scientific research team was formed to work on the project of preserving this exceptionally valuable medieval Macedonian monastery” – says Dr. Kjornakov. Beside him as a leader, his team also included Zhivoin Vinchich, Milan Ivanovski, Mitko Prendjov, Gjorgji Gjeorgievski, Tepi Stanisheva, Sokole Shutinovski and Tome Grkov.

source: МИА

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