The Monastery of Ostrog - the most visited Orthodox shrine in Europe

Katarina Kalicanin | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The Monastery of Ostrog is the most significant religious place in Montenegro, built in 1665. It is dedicated to St Basil of Ostrog (Sveti Vasilije Ostroški), who was buried here, and whose relics are considered to heal miraculously. Even though it is an Orthodox monastery, it is a place where people of all religions are welcomed and hosted. Only during summer months, the monastery** hosts more than 100 000 visitors, which makes Ostrog the most visited Orthodox shrine, not just in Montenegro and the Balkans, but in Europe** as well.

Located close to the main road that connects Podgorica and Nikšić, the Monastery of Ostrog was built in a very unusual place - against an almost vertical rock. The Monastery overlooks Bjelopavlići plain, and from the main road, it looks like a real architectural wonder. It was named after Ostroška greda, the cliff inside which the monastery is situated.

The monastery foundation and the life of St Basil

St Basil of Ostrog (Sveti Vasilije Ostroški) was the Metropolitan Bishop of Herzegovina in the Tvrdoš Monastery. In the first half of the 17th century, when the Ottomans destroyed that monastery, he moved from Trebinje (Bosnia & Herzegovina) to Nikšić (Montenegro) - where he was searching for a place to build a monastery. A small church was located at the site where the Monastery of Ostrog is now, and probably that inspired Vasilije to restore the object he found, to buy more land and link it all together.

St Basil was personally involved in the construction of the churches. He dedicated his whole life to the Orthodox faith, and he influenced his followers to fight for the preservation of the Orthodoxy. He passed away in 1671, and was glorified a few years after. His body, although it was moved several times, is nowadays kept in the upper part of the monastery. It is believed that praying by his body can heal health issues and diminish difficulties in one’s life. There is an incredible number of documented pieces of evidence and pilgrims that claim to be healed after they have visited this monastery and prayed to St Basil.

Main sites to visit

The monastery has two parts - the upper and the lower. The most impressive is the Upper Monastery. It is indented in a natural dent of a cave, that is closed with the white facade of the monastery toghether with a prominent bell tower, and thus, seen from far, it looks different from anything else seen before. There are two cave churches located high in the rock: the Church of the Presentation where the miraculous relics of St Basil are kept, and the Church of the Holy Cross - painted with frescoes made by Serbian master artist Radul. These frescoes Radul painted directly on the walls of the cave, and they are still very well preserved.

The lower monastery is built on a plane terrain. Here are the Church of the Holy Trinity and a monk’s residence with dorm rooms for pilgrims. The tradition is that pilgrims barefoot walk from the lower to the upper monastery: it is a 3 km long walk, and before entering the Church of the Presentation they make a donation of clothing, blankets or soaps to the monks.

When to visit?

You can reach Ostrog almost every day, as the excursions are organized on a daily bases, from Podgorica, Nikšić as well as from the cities on the coast. A special day for Ostrog** is 12th of May, the feast day when the monastery commemorates St Basil**. According to the Orthodox (Julian) calendar, St Basil passed away on 29th of April, which is 12th of May according to the Gregorian calendar. On this date, the monastery hosts thousands of pilgrims who come from nearby countries as well as from abroad.

Throughout the history, for Montenegrins, the Monastery of Ostrog was always the central place to preserve the Orthodox faith and protect their national identity. It is a site where you can feel inner peace and pray for the loved ones. The monastery is honored by each and everyone, and you will hardly find a family in Montenegro that doesn't have a feature of Ostrog in their house. The great respect for St Basil made this monastery the most visited Orthodox shrine in Europe, and the most popular pilgrimage site in Montenegro.

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