Trebinje for faith seekers – Orthodox shrines in the hinterlands

Ljiljana Krejic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

After a couple of adrenaline-raising discoveries around Trebinje, where you have tried some hiking, cycling or caving options, you will probably try to refresh yourself by plunging into Trebinje rivers, lakes and waterfalls. When your body is satisfied, it is the time to please your soul as well. During your stay in this beautiful place, you should discover at least some of the spiritual centres of Trebinje, but also the Orthodox shrines in the hinterlands of the city are worth every visit. In brief, the best way to find the inner peace, and to understand why this region is called the Holy Land of Herzegovina, is to embark on Trebinje for faith seekers tour.

Birthplace of St. Basil of Tvrdoš & Ostrog, the Miracle-worker

Picture © Credits to Tourism organisation of Trebinje

The most significant of all enlightened and holy people from Herzegovina was St. Basil of Tvrdoš & Ostrog, a saint venerated in the Serbian Orthodox Church. By far the most respected saint in the Balkans was born at the beginning of the 17th century in the village Mrkonjići, near the city of Trebinje. Four centuries later, we can visit the birthplace of St. Basil of Tvrdoš & Ostrog, the Miracle-worked, nowadays an Orthodox church.

Picture © Credits to Tourism organisation of Trebinje

The small village of Mrkonjići is located on the eastern side of the valley Popovo Polje, on the roadway that connects Trebinje and Ljubinje. Although centuries ago it was a rather populated village, today it barely counts 15 inhabitants. In spite of its size, this village attracts many believers and admirers of St. Basil. Only 30 kilometres on the northwest from Trebinje, on the right side of the road, one can find the church dedicated to St. Basil. This worship place was erected in 1998, on the foundations of St. Basil’s birth house, where he was born in 1610 as Stojan Jovanović. On the left side of the same road, there is another little church devoted to St. Nicolas, where St. Basil was baptised. In the proximity of this church is a graveyard, where his mother St. Ana rests.

Zavala Monastery, a fascinating Orthodox gem

Picture © Credits to Tourism organisation of Trebinje

If you take the road towards the west, somewhere on the southwestern edge of the Popovo Polje, you will find Zavala Monastery, a fascinating Orthodox gem. Hidden in the picturesque setting of a steep cliff, stands still an architectural wonder – Zavala Monastery. Dedicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the original sanctuary was founded by the Roman Emperor St. Constantin and his mother St. Helen, which makes it one of the oldest monasteries in Bosnia & Herzegovina. However, the oldest remnant of Zavala Monastery is an ancient seal, on which the year 1271 is indicated, while the first written documents mentioned Zavala Monastery only in 1514.

Picture © Credits to Tourism organisation of Trebinje

A fascinating position is what makes this monastery looking impressive. Nested below the Ostrog Hill, its northern wall and altar are almost carved into a rock. If you observe carefully, you might notice how the constructors respected the natural shape of a cliff and how perfectly the church is attached to it. One would say that it is a supreme example of architectural symbiosis between a rock and a sanctuary. After being fascinated by its exterior look, I invite you to explore the interior of the church that dates back to 1619. As you will notice, all the walls of the temple are covered with frescoes done by the greatest Serbian painter from the 17th century - Gregorije Mitrofanović. His work in Zavala Monastery is considered the finest example of medieval frescoes in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Before this monastery, he painted the walls of Hilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos (Greece), but also Dobrićevo Monastery near Bileća Lake.

Dobrićevo, a salvaged 13th-century Orthodox monastery

Picture © Credits to Tourism Organization of Bileća

Around 20 minutes of a drive on the north from Trebinje, you will find Dobrićevo, a salvaged 13th-century Orthodox monastery. This shrine is for the last 50 years situated in the village Orah, almost on the shore of Bileća Lake. However, the original location of this spiritual centre was near the Trebišnjica River in the village Dobrićevo. Due to the construction of the hydropower plant on the Trebišnjica River in 1964, this location was flooded. Since the monastery, together with other edifices, was in danger to finish under the water, the salvation plan was developed. Eventually, by a delicate procedure, the whole complex was relocated.

Pictures © Credits to Dobrićevo Monastery

Today’s church, dedicated to the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary, was constructed on the foundations of the old Roman basilica, as per monastery’s seal from 1232. Nevertheless, the history of this place dates back to the times of Early Christianity. Similar to Tvrdoš Monastery and Zavala Monastery, both in the range of 50 km, Dobrićevo was on the list of worship places of the first Christian Roman Emperor. The legend has it that the sanctuary was created by the St. Constantin and his mother St. Helen upon their return from Rome. During their rest here, they commented how “it was good” (good=dobar), and that’s how Dobrićevo Monastery got its lovely name. When it comes to the architecture, its cross-shaped church was built in the Byzantine style, and it belongs to the group of the most significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries from the times of Nemanjić Dynasty.

So, if you happen to be in Trebinje and if you are a religious person, keep in mind that in the range of less than 50 km you can reach three extraordinary spiritual centres. Trebinje for faith seekers and its Orthodox shrines in the hinterlands will offer you an otherworldly journey for your soul, that can be perfectly complemented with a tour of Orthodox monasteries nearby the city of Trebinje.

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